Syd Weiler’s Illustration Workshop

By Syd Weiler

In preparation for leading a workshop at the ICON illustration conference, Adobe Creative Resident Syd Weiler dived deep into using Adobe mobile apps—and created a set of 87 brushes (based on items in a box of her childhood art supplies). In this article, she shares her story and the brushes, which can be used in Adobe Photoshop Sketch, with us:

I’m pretty new to the world of illustration and don’t have a clear view of how things work outside of my pocket of Twitter and Pinterest. After attending PAX East in April and meeting hundreds of creatives making games, I wondered if there was something similar out there for illustrators. A quick Google search turned up ICON

I’d already gotten a ticket to attend ICON when a hosting spot opened up at a workshop focused on using mobile Adobe’s mobile apps. That spot was offered to me. And although I had very little experience running this sort of workshop, and very little experience using Adobe’s mobile apps, I said yes. 

During her ICON workshop, Weiler used brushes she had created to draw these charming potted plants.


I had about a month and a half to learn the mobile apps, create a project, and build a workflow. I wasn’t interested in making my workshop especially commercial, so I had to approach the apps thoughtfully. I spent a few weeks playing with the apps, and I built a project that highlighted their strengths.

As further preparation, I sent a survey to the attendees to learn more about how they were using digital tools and what they wanted to learn. The group of attendees was composed of illustrators and designers, and helping them learn how to use the tools in real-world ways made sense.

Weiler used Adobe Capture CC to turn a box of childhood art supplies into 87 digital brushes.

I wanted people to not only learn the tools but also have a unique set of digital assets to play with. Being a digital painter, I’m very interested in brushes, so I decided to make a set for the attendees. While preparing for the workshop, I was spending time at home, where I found a box containing many of my childhood art supplies (stored by my mother but likely headed eventually for the trash). Using Adobe Capture CC, I turned those dried markers, old pastels, and mucky glitter paints into a package of 87 digital brushes—some useful, some wacky—that can be used in Adobe Photoshop Sketch. I shared the brushes with attendees before the event. (And now you can get the brushes from this Creative Cloud Library.)

Click to watch a 90-second video that shows how Weiler created her digital brushes with Adobe Capture CC.


Since this workshop was early in the morning and, for most attendees, the first official thing at ICON, I wanted to get people drawing as quickly as possible. Before everyone arrived, I laid butcher paper down on the tables and set out Sharpies. When everyone came in, I shared the theme for the day, “what gets me out of bed in the morning,” and immediately put them to creative work.

After everyone had time to sketch, they used Adobe Capture on their iPads to grab and vectorize their drawings (learn more in this tutorial). I then passed out the analog brushstrokes I had made with my kiddie art supplies, and they used Capture to practice making a brush. The final step took everyone over to Adobe Illustrator Draw and Adobe Photoshop Sketch to finish their drawings, using my brushes. 

In addition to her brushes, Weiler gave workshop attendees a calendar template that could hold the image they’d created. If you’d like to put your Syd Weiler–inspired creation into a six-month calendar, Download the template for yourself! (Remember, it will require 11-by-17-inch paper.)

At the end of the workshop, they placed their creations onto 11-by-17-inch one-page calendar templates (which featured hand-lettering by my fellow 2016 Creative Resident Christine Herrin). I wanted everyone to leave with something nice they could hang in a workspace, to remind them of the good memories they’d made at the conference, and to inspire them to think about how and why they make work every day.

I'd like to give a huge thank you to my co-host, Brian Wood, and our expert helpers, Becky Simpson, Wren Sauer, and Erica Larson.

I had a fantastic time preparing and co-hosting this workshop, and I hope everyone who attended had fun. Thank you all for getting out of bed to spend your morning with me!


Syd Weiler was one of many creative luminaries who spoke at 2016’s Adobe MAX. Visit the MAX website to watch recorded keynote presentations and conference sessions.

August 12, 2016