In this tutorial, German artist Andreas Preis explains some of the techniques he used in his
Life series of illustrations, which combine beautifully hand-drawn illustrations and digital techniques.
The aim of this personal project was to allow Andreas to experiment with ornaments and a little bit of typography in a poster design. “I’ve always been a big fan of the work of Shepard Fairey,” he enthuses. “I really love his style, but also the messages he gives within his works. The idea was to do something similar, without just copying his style.”
Here Andreas looks at the development of the composition, the drawings and especially the colouring process. There’s also a handy tip on how to isolate your drawings to make colouring easier.
Time to complete
First off, sketch an owl. Search for reference images of them on Google, stock libraries or in books, combining parts of photos and drawings to get the look you want. Your sketch should be quite symmetrical. After you’re finished, scan it into Photoshop.
To make sure that your sketch is symmetrical in Photoshop, erase one half, then copy and mirror the other. Look for any elements that don’t quite work when mirrored, fix them on the original half and then make a new reflection. At this point you should start to create your composition, using some geometric forms as placeholders as shown.
When I started this project, I already had an idea of how I wanted it to look – an animal on top, in some kind of box, and below this a big, fat message, surrounded by some ornaments. Mock-up your composition as you want it laid out.
It’s time to create the ‘real’ drawing. Save a new version of your document, then crop your composition so that just the ‘fixed’ half of the drawing and surrounding compositional items are visible. Print and trace this using technical pens.
In the beginning, I created patterns, swings and little ornaments. This is the part you really have to practise. It’s easy to create something that looks like a tribal ornament, but it’s hard to create a good one. Over the years I have developed my own style for this. Look out for ornaments you like for inspiration, but don’t just copy.
When you’ve finished the outline linework, you can start hatching. I use two techniques – classical crosshatching and more free shapes. Sometimes I use almost vectorised styles and brushes (real ones). I start with the outlines, erase all the pencil lines and then hatch.
It’s now time to create the type. Here I’ve used a font called LOT, which can be downloaded for free from
. As with many free fonts, I’ve had to manually kern it. I wanted a really thick and dominant font, but on the other hand I didn’t want it to look like a clichéd example of a ‘propaganda’ font. Print out your type using only the outlines. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 to create a similarly textured version to the main part of the image. fontfabric.com/lot-free-font
Draw the ornaments for the type, using the rectangle from the sketch to get the correct proportions.
Here you’ll need your scanner again. Scan all your elements at a quite high resolution and compose them in Photoshop. Double and mirror wherever you need to. Use a Curves adjustment (
Cmd/Ctrl + M) to get better contrast between black and white.
It’s now time to isolate your linework. The basic procedure is detailed in ‘How to cut out linework’ (
), which is a technique you’ll use repeatedly. right
For the type, it’s a little more complicated. Select all, then hit Copy. Add a layer mask,
Alt + click on the mask in the Layer panel and select Paste. Now paint the whole area surrounding the letters black, as shown here.
Go back to your layer by clicking on it and fill the whole layer with whatever background colour you want to use. I used white for greater contrast.
It’s a good idea to accentuate some parts of the patterns in the writing. For example, here I filled in some of the areas to give them the appearance of brickwork.
To draw further attention to the type in the overall composition and aid its legibility, double-click on the layer thumbnail in the Layers panel and add a Drop Shadow. Select a Distance of 0 and a Noise of 0. Play around with Opacity, Spread and Size until you are happy with the result.
Now it’s time to start colouring. Create a new layer below your linework. Use the Polygonal Lasso tool to select the part of the drawing you want to colour, and fill each selection with the Paint Bucket tool. I wanted the owl’s orange eyes to stand out, so I decided to have the body in a green/turquoise tonal range.
Keep each of your coloured elements – the eyes, body and ornaments – in separate layers. Doing so allows you to easily change colours of specific parts without touching the rest if you end up with an uncomfortable and unpalatable combination.
You can add texture to the background using a combination of real-world art materials. I experiment all the time with spray paints, acrylics, markers, brushes, scrapers and the like on paper and board – but work with what you’ve got. When you’re finished, scan it and put it in the background of your drawing.
Here I used a Hue/Saturation adjustment and inverted the image (
Cmd/Ctrl + I) to change the colour of my scanned piece on the left to look like the right-hand image.
If your image needs textures from outside the studio, use photos of real-world textures for authenticity. I have a library of useful images that I’ve collected, but you can download real-world textures from sites such as
In this particular piece I’ve used three different textures. Shown above these are paper, wall and pavement (from top to bottom). For the type, I opted for the pavement texture. I used the Curves tool to make it brighter, positioned it above the type in the layer stack and then switched its blending mode to Multiply.
To give the whole piece a slightly older look, I designed a vignette. To do this, create a new layer at the top of the layer stack and fill it with white. Change that layer’s blending mode to Multiply. Double-click on the layer in your Layers panel to add an Inner Shadow layer style. Choose Distance 0, Choke 0 and Noise 0. Play around with Size and Opacity until you like the result. And you’re finished.
German artist Andreas Preis studied communications design in Nuremberg. Following an advertising internship with Springer and Jacoby he turned his attention towards freelance design and illustration. Andreas’ style mixes digital and traditional art, combining hand-drawn illustrations, crosshatching and colour, with digital media. He lives and works in Berlin. Contact