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10 Procreate app tricks to try if you want to learn how to draw on the iPad


Procreate has quickly become one of my favorite iPad apps. 


During coronavirus lockdowns, I (and much of the rest of the world) found myself with a lot more free time to pursue creative projects (and, let’s be real, play The Sims). While looking for new ways to draw on my iPad ($260 at Back Market), Apple’s Procreate app caught my eye. 

The digital illustration app costs $10 to download, but its suite of art tools and creative features make it well worth the cost. Procreate is accessible whether you’re a design professional, a seasoned digital artist or a beginner to the world of digital illustration. I’ve been using Procreate for a few months and there are still features I’m finding out about that improve my artwork. 

Having only used physical media in the past, I still consider myself a beginner on Procreate. I use an iPad Air (third generation) and an Apple Pencil (first generation.) Procreate also supports certain stylus models from TenOneDesign, Adonit and Wacom.   

Read more: The best Apple iPad apps of all time

Whatever your art style, you can explore the app and try out all of the different features it offers. Here are 10 tips that I’ve found most useful for getting started with Procreate as a beginner:

Gesture controls


Here’s what the Gesture Control panel will look like.

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iPadOS lets you use gesture controls in Procreate that can make your creative process more efficient and further personalize the app for you. You can explore all the customization options by tapping the wrench icon > Preferences > Gesture Controls. For example, you can set it so that you tap four fingers to immediately populate the copy and paste options. You can also use three fingers to scrub the screen and clear a layer. 



Circles, before and after Quickshape. 

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The Quickshape feature helps to rid your hand-drawn work of unwanted shaky lines and lopsided circles. After Quickshape “fixes” your lines, you can hold to adjust the shape and size. You can find Quickshape by tapping the wrench icon > Preferences > Gesture Controls > Quickshape. The feature is set default as “draw and hold,” but you can customize the settings to best fit your needs. 



A look at the layers panel.

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Using layers is another way to add a level of professionalism to your art, and can make your work easier to edit later if needed, since you’ll have put down your drawing piece by piece. To start adding layers to your work, tap the overlapping squares in the upper right. Tap “+” to add a layer. You can also swipe on a layer to access more features like delete, lock and duplication. 

You can find extra light and color editing features for each layer as well. Just tap the little “N” next to the check mark that selects the layer. 


Editing options within a layer.

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To stay organized, or if you want an added level of security to a section of art, you can combine layers into groups. Simply tap a layer and you can select either Merge Down or Combine Down. Merge Down makes two layers into one (i.e., if you had Alpha Lock on to protect line boundaries in a layer, it will turn off). Combine Down forms a new group, but still keeps each individual layer’s specifications active. 


Layer 1, 2 and 3 merged, layer 4 combined and 1-4 is a group.  

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Read more: 5 online drawing classes you can take right now

Alpha locks and clipping masks

The Alpha Lock feature lets you edit a layer, but only the pixels already there, to keep what you’re drawing within a certain boundary. You can tell when Alpha Lock is turned on by the checkerboard that appears next to the thumbnail. I used Alpha Lock on layers 2, 3 and 4, for example.  


Alpha Lock enabled on layers 2, 3 and 4. 

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Meanwhile, the Clipping Masks feature works like painter’s tape. I find it helpful when using blend mode. Create your shape on a layer and then add a new layer. Tap the newest layer and select Clipping Mask — you’ll know it worked because you’ll see a little arrow pointing to the layer below. For example, layer 7 was a clipping mask to make the blend for the circle in layer 6. 


Clipping mask on layer 7. 

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Making color palettes 

Depending on your art style, consistent colors can make for a better final product. Tap the circle of color in the upper right corner of the app to open the color disc panel. If you want, instead of a disc, you can customize and use a classic gradient or get technical with sliding bars that control color value. 

Procreate has three premade palettes that you can set to default — Ascend (jewel tones), Campfire (earthy neutrals) and Flourish (pastels). To make your own palette, tap the “+” in the top right next to Palettes. This will create a new empty palette that will be available when you go back to the color panel. 


A look at the color disc and colors added to a new palette.

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To add colors to the palette, just select the color you want and tap in the palette box to keep it. If you change your mind, tap and hold on a color to delete it from your palette. If you go back to the palettes tab, you can name it or delete a palette if you don’t need it anymore. 

Eyedropper tool

One of my favorite parts of Procreate is how much you can customize the colors you use, and in such detail. With the eyedropper tool (which is also customizable in gesture controls) you can hold down over a color to pick it up, or hold down, drag and zoom to get more detail in your use of color.


The Procreate ColorDrop feature acts like the bucket fill once did on Microsoft Paint. To use ColorDrop, choose the color you want from your palette, and tap and hold on the color circle in the upper right corner. Drag the color to where you want it on the canvas and let go. The color will either fill your whole canvas, or work around the shapes you’ve already placed. 

Sometimes if you use ColorDrop, you might notice that it “spills” on the whole canvas. I’ve had better luck controlling the color if I used Quickshape, but you can also continue to hold down and drag left or right to adjust the ColorDrop threshold. 

Blend mode


Using blend mode on layer 7’s clipping mask. 

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Instead of zooming in on pixels and trying to grab colors to make something look smoother, you can use the blend tool. The blend tool lives between the paintbrush and eraser icons in the top right (it looks like a finger pointing diagonally). When you tap the blend tool, you can select from a number of different brushes to keep consistency with the brush you were originally painting with. The brush size and opacity are adjustable on the left-hand side. 

Adjustment tools


The liquify edit options in the Adjustments tab. 

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Next to the wrench icon is a little magic wand icon. If you tap that, you’ll see (surprise!) more editing tools. You can experiment with tools like blurring (which can provide some cool depth illusions), opacity and noise (which can give your work a less grainy look). One of my favorites to play with was the Liquify tool. Liquify lets you push, pull, twist and twirl lines. 

Have fun!

There’s a lot going on in Procreate and it can seem overwhelming, but the more you use the app, the easier it gets. Having fun is the most important part. If you’re getting too stressed about not getting a piece “right,” take a break and just doodle. It’s fun (and less pressure) to upload blank coloring sheets to a canvas and experiment with the tools that way. There are dozens of ways to customize Procreate to help you discover or improve your art style. 

For more on drawing, check out 5 online drawing classes you can take right now and for quick reference in the app, check out the official Procreate Handbook

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