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How To Use Procreate – Complete Guide

how to use procreate

It’s not straightforward figuring out how to do things in Procreate, that’s why I’m here to help.

Procreate is one of the best creative graphic software at the moment, and also one of the most exclusive. Its full version is only available for iPad users — not even iPhone users can access all its features, and you can use it to create all kinds of amazing illustrations, effects, and animations. 

Procreate is priced at $9.99 which is a very small price to pay for everything it offers. It’s incredibly easy to use for both beginners and pros, and it helps them learn everything about illustrations. 

Learning the basics

How to create a new canvas

In the top right corner, you have a little plus sign and that’s where you’ll want to start. You can choose from the already existing sizes, or create something custom — you need to keep in mind the fact that a bigger canvas gives you a lower number of layers. If you’re practising, it’s best to use the “Screen size” option, where you can add about 50 different layers. 

procreate a new canvas
You can create a new canvas from Procreate’s main menu

How to save your project in Procreate

You would be surprised but it’s actually so easy to save in Procreate, you don’t need to do anything! It saves automatically. So carry on creating and don’t worry about saving, because it’s always saved after every edit you make.

How to Undo in Procreate

There are two methods to undo in Procreate:

  1. To undo in Procreate, just tap two fingers on your canvas. this will undo the latest change you made and go one step back.
  2. Pressing the “Undo” button located on the right of your screen

You can see a video walkthrough of how to undo in Procreate here.

undo button in procreate

How to Copy & Paste

  1. Select the layer you want to copy
  2. Tap the 3 dots icon in the top-middle of your screen
  3. Press “Copy”
  4. Tap the “Settings” icon (shaped like a spanner) and press “Paste”

For a video walkthrough, check our guide on how to copy and paste in Procreate.

How to make a straight line

Making a straight line requires a bit more effort. Check our video tutorial below and if you want to see a step-by-step process, look at our tutorial on making a straight line in Procreate.

How to change the opacity of a layer

Change opacity is a simple process. Check out the 14-second video walkthrough below. If you want o see a step-by-step process, check our detailed guide on changing the opacity in Procreate.

How to select multiple layers

  1. Select one of your layers through the layers menu at the top right
  2. Swipe right on all other layers you want to move
  3. If you’ve done this correctly, all layers will be highlighted
  4. You can now select the Pointer icon in the top left to move the layers together

See am ore detailed guide on how to select multiple layers in Procrea here.

How to fill the background

  1. Go to the top right side of your screen, tap on the coloured circle
  2. Select your colour
  3. Drag the circle from the top right, onto your blank canvas

See a more detailed walkthrough about filling in the background on Procreate here.

How to blend

  1. Select the “Smudge” tool in the top right corner
  2. Select the layer you want to smudge
  3. Select the size of the smudge
  4. Start smudging

See a step-by-step tutorial here on blending in Procreate.

How to add text & making it unique

Learn how to add text in Procreate by following our extensive guide on adding text and making it unique in Procreate.

How to curve text

Learn how to curve text in Procreate, it’s easier than you think, but it requires you to see our detailed walkthrough.

How to blur – Gaussian, Motion & Positional

To see a written walkthrough, please look at our guide on how to blur in Procreate.

How to mirror

You may need to use a mirror effect for many reasons, so we’ve written an easy guide to mirror in Procreate here.

How to shade in Procreate

Learn how to shade in Procreate using the Brush textures and easily create a realistic image.

How to animate

Animating in Procreate isn’t the most straightforward task. Please see our guide on animating here.

How to do clipping mask in Procreate

Masking is a bit more difficult to grasp, so that’s why we created this blog about how to use clipping masks in Procreate. We also dive into what a clipping mask is.

Tools & features in Procreate

3 Main tools

Procreate has 3 main tools:

  • Brush
  • Smudge
  • Eraser

At first, this seems pretty lame — I know, I had the exact same thought. However, Procreate comes with hundreds of brushes, and you can use any combination of brush and tool.

Besides the classic brush you probably know from everywhere, you also get hundreds of effects: from vintage patterns, so bokeh, water, smoke, fire, etc. 

Screenshot of the Procreate UI
You have hundreds of brushes to choose from

This is one of the reasons it’s so popular — it has all the possible tools, and you can import any other brushes you find online, or even create your own. This is pretty cool because it makes your illustrator job a lot easier. 

Besides, each brush has its own settings and you can always create a new one. I recommend you do a backup before you start playing with the brushes, as you may not find the initial settings — been there, done that.

Color palettes

Something cool Procreate implemented, are colour palettes. These allow you to create, download or import certain colour palettes you may want to use and keep them all organized.

You can choose your colours using the standard colour wheel, by entering the colour codes, and you even get a tool to help you find complementary colours for your designs. 

screenshot of Procreate's color palettes
You have all the tools you need to choose the best colours in Procreate

Advanced features

Once you start learning how everything works, you may find Procreate’s advanced features incredibly helpful. You can edit any layer, cut, copy, and paste — most of the functionalities you may find in Photoshop or Illustrator.

What it doesn’t have are vectors, which can be quite inconvenient for a lot of people. However, if your main purpose is to create awesome illustrations, then you’re set.

Helper tools

If you want to create symmetrical designs, or you want to add a reference picture, Procreate has special tools for that. In the top left menu, you can enable the drawing guide or reference window. 

The drawing guide will either divide your canvas into as many parts as you need, and it has 4 different options: 2D grid, isometric, perspective and symmetry. Each of these options does something different, and it’s quite helpful in many situations. 

screenshot of the Procreate UI
The drawing guide will help you create symmetrical art

The reference window allows you to add a picture of something you want to draw and keep it in the same window. It’s more convenient than keeping the image on another layer, and you can move it around anywhere you need it. 

screenshot of the Procreate UI
You can add any reference picture and move it around

Procreate’s animation assist

Procreate allows you to create all kinds of movies and gifs, but the process is a little meticulous if I can say so. Once you turn on the animation assist, you can start creating animations frame by frame.

I recommend it if you want to create funny gifs for Instagram, but if you want to create something more complex, you’ll be left without layers in no time. 

screenshot of the Procreate UI
You can create short animations with Procreate

You can make your animation run in a loop, ping-pong, or one-shot sequence, and can choose up to 60 fps, which is more than enough for any Procreate project. 

Sharing your artwork

In Procreate, you can export and import PSD, PDF, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF files, and can export your animations in PDF, MP4, PNG, GIF, and HEVC formats, which is pretty cool. The fact that it’s fully compatible with Photoshop is relieving. 

You can also use its time-lapse recording feature and get awesome MP4s of how you created everything, from the moment you created the canvas. You can choose to export the full-length version, or 30 seconds to share on social media. 

Smart gestures

Probably the coolest feature Procreate has is the smart gestures. You can tap the screen with two fingers to undo, and with three fingers to redo. If you want to erase the entire canvas, you need to swipe left and right a couple of times with three fingers, and you’re done!

Besides, you can customize the smudge, erase, animated drawing, eyedropper etc. in its gesture control menu, and have it fully customized. 

Compatibility

As I mentioned before, Procreate only works with iPads running on iOS 11 and higher. If you’re serious about it, you also need a pen for it. The recommended one is the Apple Pencil, but I successfully used it with an Adonit one — the only problem is that only the Apple Pencil has pressure control, which can be inconvenient at times. 

In conclusion, Procreate is an amazing software — it’s easy to use, comes with a ton of features, and you can learn how to use it in less than one week. I don’t find it suitable for professionals, but if you want to learn to create amazing illustrations, feel free to give it a try!

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I'm an expert designer/animator using Procreate.

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