November 16th, 2013

Tutorial – Getting Started with Procreate iPad Painting App

Procreate painting

Procreate is my favorite digital painting app. The basic tools are easy to use, but if you want to delve into sophisticated, complex digital work, you can with Procreate. A 189 page handbook comes with the app and goes step by step through Procreate’s various tools and techniques, including brushes, layers, iPad gestures for Procreate, transform (enlarge, reduce, or distort a layer), and selections (select area, then copy and paste).

When you open the Procreate app it brings you to the Gallery. Click on the plus on the top right corner. Pick the size canvas you want and the canvas view will open.

Gallery view

Gallery view

Below is the Procreate canvas with icons around the top and right sides. Clicking on Gallery takes you and your current painting to the gallery. Paintings are saved there with their layers intact. The second icon from the left, the little wrench is the Actions menu. Here you can import photos, export the painting, flip or copy the canvas, and get help with the app. You can also save directly to the photos app, upload to Facebook or Twitter, or even email a painting.

The next two icons, Select (lightning icon)and Transform (up angled arrow) are not needed for basic work, but are covered in the handbook if you want to explore using them.

Procreate canvas

Procreate canvas

Moving along the top of the canvas to the right, the next icon is Brushes. Clicking on it brings up a drop-down menu from which you can select the brush you wish to use. There is a large selection of brushes. Clicking on one selects it and a double click on a brush turns the menu over to an options menu for that specific brush. This gives you a lot of variety for each brush.

brushes menu

Brushes menu

Next to the Brushes icon is the Smudge icon.  Clicking on Smudge, then rubbing on a painted part of the screen will smudge the colors.  The icon to its right is the Eraser icon.  It uses the same  brushes as the Brush icon and can vary size and opacity using the sliders on the side of the canvas.

Eraser icon drop down menu

Eraser icon drop down menu

After you select a brush, you can vary its size and opacity using the two sliders on the right of the canvas. The top one changes the size, increasing it as you slide up. The bottom one changes the opacity, increasing it as you slide up. Below the Opacity Slider is the undo arrow with 250 undos.

Size and Opacity Sliders

Size and Opacity Sliders

Clicking the colored square icon in the top right corner of the screen opens up the Color popover. There are hue, saturation and brightness sliders that can be adjusted to pick precise colors.

Color Palette

Color Palette

Now you have picked your brush type, size, and opacity and your color. You are ready to start painting. You can use your finger to paint with, or a stylus like the Wacom Bamboo stylus shown below. I like using a stylus, as it feels more precise than my finger and also lifts my hand up off the screen some so I can see the area I’m working on better.

Wacom Bamboo stylus

Wacom Bamboo stylus

The icon to the left of the color swatch is the Layers icon. Clicking on it brings up a drop-down menu showing all the layers. Your first strokes will automatically go on the first layer.

Layers drop`down menu

Layers drop`down menu

First strokes appear on Layer 1.

first stroke on Layer 1

first stroke on Layer 1

Here you can see the different effects you can get from using various brushes.

To add a new layer, click on the + icon in the Layers drop-down menu. The added layer has a black background meaning it is the active layer. Paint strokes will appear on the active layer. You can change the active layer by clicking on the layer you wish to be active.
Adding Layer 2

Adding Layer 2

Here I painted with different brushes on the second layer.  They appear above Layer 1 both in the Layers drop-down menu and on the canvas.

Layer two is on top.

Layer two is on top.

Here layer two has been moved down below layer one. It shows as under everything on layer one and now becomes the background. You can move layers by holding on the layer you want to move until it appears to lift up. Then drag it to the layer position you want.

Layer 2 moved to bottom

Layer 2 moved to bottom

Now strokes on Layer 2 are below layer 1 strokes.

Layer 2 on bottom

Layer 2 on bottom

Layers are very helpful in working in Procreate. I tend to use a lot of layers and like to keep backgrounds on separate layers and objects that are touching or on top of one another on separate layers.

If I am doing a face, I would keep the outline, the fill color, the face details – eyes, nose, mouth, and hair all on separate layers for working. Then if I want to change the hair, for instance, it is easy to do without messing up the face outline or fill.

When the layers are at a point where you are satisfied with them, then you can merge layers by pinching the layers together in the Layers drop-down menu or by clicking on the layer you wish to merge and click merge up or merge down on the Layers Options pop-up menu that appears. (Sometimes you have to click more than once for the pop-up menu to appear.)

A Few Tips for Working: Painting on such a small surface as an iPad makes painting details hard to do precisely. To magnify and get a close-up view, pinching out with two fingers works in the app as it does in Safari and many other iPad apps. I use this option for anything that needs precision.

Also a quick pinch together and then lift of two fingers sizes the painting to fit the shown canvas.

Have fun trying out Procreate. If you would like to show what you have created with it, you can leave a comment with a link to your painting.

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