A Beginner’s Love Letter to Procreate

6 minute read

I’ve always hit a bit of a wall with drawing digitally. It’s mainly been the disconnect between drawing on a tablet and that translating onto the screen in front of me. Whilst I use Adobe software everyday (and not for a lack of trying), i’ve never really taken to it for illustration. Regardless of how much easier it could be if I knew how, I’d go for pen and paper over Photoshop every time.

Then came the Apple event where they released the new iPad pro and Apple pencil 2.0. Fell for it hook, line and sinker.

I’d found the one.

Whether the pressure of an expensive purchase was the real kick up the ass to start using it I’m not entirely sure, but it’s started a love affair with Procreate.

I’ve been using Procreate for a few months now and I really can’t recommend it enough, so for any other fellow beginners, whether a digital skeptic or a just looking to try out the software - here’s some reasons to give it a go.

This is by no means a deep dive into Procreate and for the more competent will seem trivial, but these are some very top level features of the iPad app that have been the real turning point for me to drawing digitally.

Original photo and sketch of Pepper

Brushes

There is something slightly frustrating about the relearning process of using a digital version of a medium you’re familiar with. For example gouache - the brush that comes with the procreate software is by no means a dead ringer for the traditional medium. I know how to paint in gouache - there’s a part of me that resents having to relearn doing it digitally.

However, with other brushes, such as the pencil - I honestly prefer it’s digital counterpart. I can achieve the same effect far more easily than i can with an actual pencil. Specifically smudging and tonal shading - which previously if I’d got wrong would be a nightmare to rework.

In addition to a decent selection of brushes that come with the software - as you can with photoshop, there’s an abundance of brush packs that can be purchased and downloaded. My recent favourite is an engraver brush pack from Creative Market. I’ve been using to produce heraldic style illustrations for an upcoming project.

 

Undo

This is undoubtedly the best thing about digital artwork - that and the close contender of layers. Procreate has lovely touch gestures that become really intuitive during your drawing process (all of which are definitely worth learning). Undo is two fingers tapped on the screen, and two fingers + hold if there’s a larger series of mistakes to remove.

Details

Reference Images

If I’m needing to use photos or picture references, I either have to have a screen up with them on or work from something printed. Procreate gives me the ability to drop them straight onto the canvas as it’s own layer. I can scale the image easily with the transform tools, move it around the canvas as and when needed, change the opacity if i need to sketch out a rough guide over the top and pick out key colours with the eyedropper tool - which brings me on to...

 

Colour palette

The worst things about colour palettes for painting is either that you accidentally mix over the colour you needed or the paint dries out, making it useless. Procreate allows you to create custom palettes which is perfect if you’ve got multiple projects on the go. Additionally if I’ve used a colour and forgotten about it, I can eyedrop it from the canvas and save it to my palette.

Colour palette

Minimal mess

Half of the time I don’t end up painting is purely down the laziness of not wanting to set up materials and a workstation. Additionally anyone that’s used a pencil knows the curse of having graphite smudges all down the back of your hand, forgetting, and then touching anything e.g. face, light clothing, walls, light switches. Etc and leaving black marks on everything.

 

Paperlike

If the feel of drawing on paper is the best thing for you, as admittedly drawing on a rougher surface does give more control, this is already covered. Whilst I haven’t personally felt the need to, there are screen covers that you can buy for the ipad that gives the illusion of writing, sketching or drawing on what feels like paper. Although I could do with purchasing them just to reduce the constant presence of finger and hand marks all over my screen.