122 – The Basics of Drawing on an iPad with Procreate

To be a successful artist, you don’t need to go to art school. You don’t even need to have much natural talent. What you do need is practice – and lots of it. The more you draw, the better you’ll get. So how can you improve your drawing skills? One way is to use an app like Procreate.

Procreate is an app that allows you to draw on your iPad. It’s a great way to get practice drawing, analyze photo reference or finished paintings, do thumbnails or get more creative with your work in traditional media without having to go through a lot of materials. You can also create finished digital paintings. It’s also a lot of fun! There are lots of different brushes and colors to choose from, so you can really let your creativity flow.

IMG_2187 (1)
Procreate Portrait
Analyzing a Photo Reference
Thumbnail Sketch
If you’re new to Procreate, or if you just want to brush up on your skills, check out this introductory minilesson. There is so much to explore in Procreate, so this lesson is intended to get you started and we’ll give you some tips on how to create great drawings. So grab your iPad and let’s get started!

Open Procreate

When you open Procreate, the first thing you’ll see is the gallery where all of your work is saved. Here you can browse and organize your drawings. From here, tap on the + plus sign in the top right hand corner. You’ll see a variety of different canvas sizes to choose from. The size you choose will depend on the project you’re working on. For example, if you’re creating a poster, you’ll want a larger canvas size. If you’re just practicing, a smaller canvas size is fine. You can also create custom canvases.


There are three main menus to the interface: painting tools, the sidebar controls and the top left menu. These have all the controls you’ll need to save your artwork and make adjustments.

Now look at this glass. Looking straight down from above we see a circle.

Painting Tools

On the top right you’ll find your painting tools. Tap the brush. You can draw and paint with hundreds of brushes. Each brush has a different purpose, so it’s important to experiment with lots of them to see which ones you like best. You’ll also find the smudge and eraser tools (which use the same brushes), the layers panel and the color palette.

Let’s me show you a couple of my favorite brushes and put down some strokes!

The sidebar controls

There are several controls on the left hand side that you’ll be using all the time! The top slider controls the size of your brushes. The bottom one controls the opacity of your brushes.

The small button in the center is called the modify button. We will come back to this in the section on choosing colors.

At the bottom of the slider, you’ll find your undo and redo buttons. Tapping once on the top arrow will undo your last stroke! Tapping once on the bottom arrow will undo your last stroke. You’ll be using this a lot, so get familiar with this one.

Top Left Menu

This menu has all the features you’ll need to save, adjust and share your work. To go back to all your saved work, tap on Gallery and it will take you to everything you’ve previously saved. The Action tool is shaped like a wrench. This is where you can insert a photo or file, add text, share your work and much more.

The wand has all the adjustments you can make. Many of these are similar to what you can do in Photoshop.

The “s” shaped ribbon is the selection tool that lets you select areas of your artwork and make changes. This works best when you understand layers a bit more. Finally the “Arrow” is the transformation tool which can help you move your images or parts of your images.

Tips for Using Brushes

Here are some tips for using Procreate’s brushes:

  • Try different pressure levels to see how it affects your drawing.
  • Try using the tip of the stylus with your selected brush, then try using the side of the stylus. Some brushes are pressure sensitive and some are sensitive to the side of the stylus.
  • Experiment with different brush sizes to find the perfect one for your project.
  • Experiment with the opacity of the brushes using the opacity slider on the left

Basic Navigating with Gestures

Once you’ve drawn something you can to move it around a bit. To zoom into your canvas, use two fingers and pinch them together. Twist to rotate. To zoom out separate your fingers. To quickly undo- use a two finger tap. To quickly re-do use a three finger tap.

How to Use Colors in Procreate

In Procreate, there are many ways of selecting a color. One way that you can select a color by tapping on the colored circle on the top right corner. This will bring up the color disc. There are several options to view colors; Classic, Harmony, Value and Palettes.

You can also use the color picker by tapping the modify button, the square shape between the size and opacity sliders. This will bring up the eyedropper ring that you can then slide over your image to select a color. Slide the eyedropper around and let go to select a color. You’ll see that it’s the active color in the circle in the top right hand corner.

Coming back to the sidebar, you can also tap the square Modify button on the sidebar to bring up the Eyedropper. This allows you to pick colors straight from your artwork. Slide the eyedropper over a color you want to pick and release your finger to select it. This works only with your finger, not the stylus.

Procreate has a wide range of colors to choose from. You can experiment with different color combinations to find the perfect look for your project. You can make a custom palette from a reference photo which I find very useful. Click on Palettes, then click the “+” , then create new from photos. There are lots of amazing options here, so just poke around!

Tips for Adding Finishing Touches to Procreate Drawings

Here are some tips for adding finishing touches to your drawings:

  • Use contrasting colors to create a more polished effect.
  • Add highlights and shadows to create depth and dimension.
  • Use the blur tool to soften edges and give your drawing a more professional look.

Share your drawing with the world!

Once you’re done, it’s time to share your drawing with the world. You can export your artwork as JPEGs or PNGs. You can also save a time lapsed video of your drawing to share so you can remember exactly what you did!

To export your drawing as a JPEG or PNG, go the Actions menu(the wrench). Tap the Share and then select your file format. Once you’ve selected the file format, another menu will appear giving you many options for sharing your image or video.

There you have it – the basics of using Procreate. It’s a great app for drawing, and with a little practice, you’ll be able to create beautiful drawings that you can share with the world. Have fun experimenting with different colors and brushes, and don’t be afraid to try new things. So get out there and start practicing! The more you draw, the better you’ll get. The sky’s the limit!

Click Here to Learn More About my Upcoming Procreate Zoom Workshop! 
To see a gallery of my procreate portraits click here

Click here for the procreate handbook for an in depth look at all the features

Happy Drawing,

Painting Minilessons
with Marla Baggetta

My free online minilessons in art are a fantastic way to learn more about your craft, regardless of your skill level. There are lessons available on everything from basic drawing techniques to complex painting methods, and no matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something that appeals to you. Whether you’re a beginner who’s just starting out, or a seasoned artist who wants to brush up on your skills, these minilessons are a great resource. These lessons are available anytime, anywhere. So whether you’re looking for a quick refresher or want to explore something new, be sure to check out some of my minilessons at Painting Lessons with Marla.

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