Procreate is such a wonderful tool for illustration and design. When you first open the app, it might feel a bit daunting at first, but you’ll see how easy and intuitive it can be. We’ll go through 10 of the best tips and tricks I’ve learned over my years exploring and using Procreate. I use these on a daily basis and they make my workflow so much faster and enjoyable.
So, let me share with you my best Procreate tips for beginners.
1. Let’s talk about the basics
In order to make the most out of the Procreate app, my first tip is: learn the basics. What I mean when I say that is, how does the app work? How do I take a step back or forward, how do I copy or paste, etc.?
Let’s go through them together:
How to undo?
Let’s imagine you made a line you didn’t want. How do you take that back? Where is the Ctrl+Z?
Just touch the screen using two fingers and that will quickly take you one step back.
How to redo?
What if you deleted something you liked and you want it to appear again. If you want to redo something, just touch the screen using 3 fingers.
How to quickly delete a layer?
If you use 3 fingers on the screen and move them quickly to the sides, you’ll clear the layer.
How to have a full screen?
Just touch your screen using 4 fingers to get to full-screen mode. If you want to take it back, just touch the screen once again using 4 fingers.
How to copy, cut or paste?
Using 3 fingers and swipe down to open the copy menu. Here, you can choose to copy, cut or paste with ease.
How to zoom in and out?
If you use two-fingers and make a pinch motion on the screen, you will zoom out.
If you do this movement using an “opening” motion to your pinch, then you’ll zoom in.
How to draw straight lines and perfect shapes?
In order to draw a perfectly straight line, just make a line and hold the pen on the screen for a few seconds. After a few moments, the line will snap into a perfectly straight line.
If you want to make perfect shapes, the process is more or less the same.
Just draw a shape, let’s say a circle. Don’t lift up your pencil from the screen for a few seconds and the circle will snap into a smoother one. If you want that shape to be perfect, touch the screen with one finger before lifting your pencil. Once you do that, your shape will become a perfect shape.
You can do this with circles, squares, triangles, etc.
How to select multiple layers?
To select multiple layers, use one finger to select the main layer.
After that, using one finger, swipe to the left on all the other layers you want to select.
How to merge layers?
To merge layers, simply select all the layers you want to merge and use a pinching motion with 2 fingers on them.
This will merge all your layers for you!
These are just some of the most important basic gestures on Procreate. It may seem like there’s a lot to learn, but don’t worry. The more you use the program, the easier it gets. With time, it becomes second nature to create art using all these gestures. You might even catch yourself trying to use these gestures when you’re creating traditional art, trying to undo a pencil line on a piece of paper using a two-finger tap. This happens to me all the time.
2. Drawing guides and drawing assist to the rescue
Drawing guides can save you so much time when you’re drawing. You’ll find perspective aids, symmetry, and even isometric guides. You can find these guides if you go to the wrench icon on the top left corner.
Once the menu opens, click on the canvas and turn on the drawing guides.
You’ll get a grid on your drawing, if you want to edit it, go to the same menu and underneath the drawing guide you’ll find “edit drawing guide”.
If you click there, it’ll take you to the drawing guide menu. Here you’ll find the different types of drawing guides Procreate has to offer. You’ll find a 2D grid, an isometric grid, a perspective grid, and the symmetry tool. Each of these grids can be edited to suit the needs you have to create your artwork.
Let’s say you want a 2D grid, just click on it and start editing it until you have what you’re looking for.
To change the color of any grid, just go to the color slider on the top of the screen and choose the color you want. You can edit the opacity of the grid, making it lighter or darker, or the thickness of the lines and the size of each square. If you tick the “assisted drawing” feature, you can only create lines that follow your grid perfectly.
The isometric grid can help you create... you guessed it, impressive isometric artwork in minutes!
Just as with the 2D Grid, you can edit the opacity, thickness, and size of your grid. And if you turn on “assisted drawing”, you can only create lines that follow your grid, making your isometric adventures faster and much easier, but just as fun!
The perspective tool is such a helpful one if you’re trying to draw streets or buildings, to name a few.
This grid allows you to create vanishing points that will help you create awesome art. To create a vanishing point, simply click on the screen wherever you need it.
You can add multiple vanishing points by clicking again on the screen with your pencil or your finger.
If you want to delete a point, click on it and you can delete it.
Just as with the other guides, if you click on “assisted drawing”, this will help you draw lines that follow only the guide you created.
This is my personal favorite out of all the guides.
It’s such a great time saver. This tool allows you to draw one side of your drawing and have that immediately repeated on the other side.
If you would like to see how to use this tool to draw realistic butterflies really fast, you can check out my tutorial on how to draw butterflies for beginners.
The symmetry tool comes with so many editing options as well. Just as with the previous tools, you can edit the opacity and thickness of the lines, but you can also change the style. Check out the options menu:
You can have vertical, horizontal, quadrant, or radial symmetry!
If you click on either quadrant or radial symmetry, you can also click on “rotational symmetry”. This will make it so that the lines you create all follow the same direction.
If you don’t turn this on, the lines will mirror each other.
3. What’s the fastest way to create awesome color palettes using Procreate?
Procreate’s new update came with the coolest and fastest way to create awesome color palettes: the instant palettes. You can now create a color palette on Procreate from a photo. So next time you see a sunset or the beach, make sure to take pictures to save these color palettes.
But how to do it? Easy, go to the color menu and go to palettes. After that, click on the plus sign.
Click on “new from photos” and select the photo you want.
And there you go, an instant color palette from a photo.
Another way to choose cool colors that work together fast is by using the “harmony” feature. You can find this also on the color menu.
If you click on the word that is right underneath “Color” you’ll get all the harmony options. You can access complementary, split complementary, analogous, triadic, and tetradic color palettes super fast and easy.
4. How to choose a pure color?
Let’s say that you want to choose a pure white, black, or even a specific color. If you open the color disc and double-tap with one finger around the area that the color you want is in, it’ll automatically select the pure version of that color for you.
5. How to move a selection with more control?
Let’s say you’ve selected a layer and want to move it 3 pixels to the left. Once you have the layer selected, if you tap with one finger, outside of the selection and towards the direction you want, it will move the selection by one pixel. So tap as many times as you need to carefully move the selection to where you want it.
6. What is the difference between Alpha Lock and Clipping Masks?
Alpha Lock is Procreate’s way to help you color inside the lines, if you will. Basically, alpha lock will help you easily add textures, shadows, highlights, or whatever you want, to a shape.
Let’s say that we have this shape and we want to make it come alive. Using 2 fingers, swipe right over the layer where the shape is and you will make the layer go into alpha lock.
Now, you can carelessly add textures, or whatever you want, and they will stay inside the shape you created.
There’s only one problem when you use alpha lock: you have to color on top of the layer where the original shape is, so you will lose the original shape.
This might be a bit problematic if you wanted to preserve the original shape just in case you changed your mind. So, there’s also a way of “coloring inside the lines” that will allow you to keep that original shape intact: clipping masks.
Clipping masks are another way to quickly add shadows, highlights, textures, or whatever you want to a shape without losing the original, unedited shape. So, let’s say you have a shape you want to jazz up. Create a new layer and make sure it’s on top of the shape you want to add to.
Using 1 finger, click on the layer to open the layer menu. Click on “clipping mask”.
Now, this new layer will only allow you to color inside the shape. You can carelessly edit it until you’re happy with how it looks, without losing the original shape.
7. How do masks work?
Well, you put them over your mouth and nose, and not only over your mouth…
I’m sorry… the trauma just took over. Where were we? Ah yes, Procreate masks. A Procreate mask is something you apply to a layer to control the transparency or visibility of that layer without losing the original layer. This allows you to experiment and have fun without losing any pixels.
So, let’s say I have a shape I would like to experiment with. Instead of erasing it, you can click on the layer and then click on “mask”.
This will add a new layer with the mask on top of the layer where the shape is. Once you have that, you can start experimenting. If you use pure white on a mask it will reveal the layer underneath it, but if you use pure black, it will conceal it.
And, if you use grey, it will show the layer with a lower opacity. So, imagine you have a shape and you want to experiment with refining its edges, but you don’t want to erase anything just in case you might not like it. That’s the perfect time for a mask. Choose pure black to start concealing as you like.
And, if you want to take it back, no worries, just choose a pure white and reveal it again!
8. What’s the fastest way to make art in Procreate for beginners?
The answer is: Stamp Brushes!
Stamp brushes are line illustrations that are ready for you to color, or include in your artworks, even if you don’t know how to draw. You can always create, even if you’re starting out. Even if you’re not a beginner, stamp brushes can help you save so much time when you’re creating art. I love making these because I know how much time they can save you and how much they can help if you’re starting out.
Here are some of my favorite stamp brushes that I use all the time:
- 70 Flower Stamp Brushes for Procreate
- 111 Tropical Stamp Brushes for Procreate
- 12 Leaf Procreate Stamp Brushes
I love to add floral elements to my art!
Pro Tip: How to add color to stamps quickly?
There’s two ways to do this.
I usually like to make a new layer and place it underneath the stamp. And on that layer, I add a color base. After that, I make a new layer and place it on top of the color base. I click on the new layer with one finger and click “clipping mask”.
Remember, this will help you add textures, shadows and highlights without going out of the lines.
Another way is to use the stamp you want and click on the layer where the stamp is with one finger. Click “reference”.
Once you do this, you can make a new layer and place it underneath the stamp. You can now drop colors from the color menu and fill your stamp with color.
9. I want a layer, but make it private!
Sometimes when you’re drawing on Procreate, you want to have some notes or images as reference. But once you’re done with your art and you want to share the Process Video, these notes and images appear on it. That’s a bit frustrating because they can make your process videos look cluttered.
But there’s a way to insert anything and make it private. This means, only you will know you had that layer there, it won’t show on your beautiful process video! To add a private layer go to the wrench on the top left corner of the screen. Let’s insert a private photo. To do that, swipe left over the “insert a photo” tab. Click insert a private photo.
And that’s how you add private layers in Procreate.
10. What is “reference companion”?
Reference companion is one of those Procreate tools that just make sense. To access it, click the wrench on the top left corner of the screen. Go to the canvas tab and toggle on “Reference”.
This will activate a small window that will automatically show you the whole image you’re working with.
This is very helpful when you’re painting because it allows you to look at the whole picture without having to zoom out so many times But, my favorite thing about this tool is the reference images. If you click where it says “image” inside the reference window, you can add your reference photo to your artwork. If you have a reference image you can zoom in or out. You can even pick colors directly from the reference image window by tapping with one finger and holding it for a few seconds!
So, there you have it. These are my 10 favorite Procreate tips for beginners!
Extra: Tips for drawing in Procreate
1. Flip the canvas to check the proportions
This is an old trick that the drawing masters used. Of course not with an iPad, but they used to hold a mirror in front of their art. This helps you get a fresh perspective on your drawing and fix some of the proportions. To flip your canvas, go to the wrench on the top left corner of the screen and click on “Flip canvas horizontally”.
I recommend doing this a few times until you’re done with your sketch to make sure that you are happy with how the proportions are looking.
2. Erase with the same brush
When I’m drawing in Procreate, I always like to erase with the same brush I’m using to paint. This helps everything look consistent in your illustration. To do this, there’s no need to go to the brush menu and look for the same brush. You can simply click and hold the eraser icon for a few seconds and it will automatically put the same brush you’re using as an eraser.
3. Keep your sketch on a separate layer
I always recommend keeping your sketch on a separate layer as your finished illustration.
This helps you make sure that you follow your sketch, and once you’re done, you can always turn the sketch layer off. Also, it’s always fun to see how your sketch became the final artwork.
I hope these tips were helpful for you. Which of these tips was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time, Stay awesome.
This article was contributed by Claudia Riveros from Riveros Illustration. In addition to working with brands, Claudia teaches beginners how to master the art of illustration and creates popular Procreate brush packs. To explore more of her work and tutorials, you can find her on Instagram and her website.