11 Procreate Tips You Have to Know

If you're a busy digital creative, Procreate is one of the best drawing apps out there.

But you probably don't have time to read through their ridiculously comprehensive handbook. So we did it for you!

We scoured through all the documentation and tutorials we could find, and we’ve discovered 11 procreate tips you absolutely have to know when using this incredible software tool.

In this article, we’ll show you what we’ve found and how you can use these techniques step by step to create your next masterpiece.

Let’s get started.

Table of contents

An image showing the Procreate new canvas creation screen.
Starting with a blank page? Make sure that you set it up correctly every single time.

01. Setting Up Your Canvas for Success

Before you start drawing, you’ll need to set up your canvas. While Procreate comes loaded with several great canvas presets, sometimes you just need something custom.

Here’s how to set up a custom canvas:

  1. Open your Gallery
  2. Tap the + icon in the upper right hand corner
  3. Tap the rectangle icon
  4. Set your custom dimensions & DPI

When setting your DPI, you’ll need to know how your drawing will be used. Will the drawing be for social media or will it be a print?

Here are the settings that I’d recommend:

  • High-quality prints: 300 DPI
  • Digital art: 150 DPI
  • Web-only images: 72 DPI

One of the coolest things about Procreate is that you’ll only need to set up a custom canvas once!

After you create your own canvas, the Procreate app will save all of your settings automatically as a new preset template. The next time you need to create a canvas, simply select the preset and you’ll be good to go.

A picture of the Procreate menu for disabling Touch Actions.
With a few quick taps, you can eliminate random marks and stroke forever.

02. Say Goodbye to Random Marks

Have you noticed that you’ve accidentally created random marks all over your canvas while trying to add line work and details?

Don't worry, we've all been there. Going back to erase every single line is pretty annoying.

You can put your eraser away and eliminate random marks entirely by turning on Disable Touch actions. This feature will prevent you from marking up your canvas accidentally with anything other than your Apple Pencil.

Here’s how to activate Disable Touch actions:

  1. Open the Actions Menu
  2. Select Preferences
  3. Select Gesture Controls
  4. Go to General
  5. Turn on Disable Touch actions

A great part of this feature is that it won't disable your other touch gestures, so you won’t have to worry about breaking your workflow.

Popular gestures like two-finger undo or three-finger redo will still be recognized and ready to use. Now you can enjoy having full control over every mark and stroke on your canvas without those silly mistakes.

An image in Procreate demonstrates layer group features.

03. Work Smarter and Stay Organized

Once I get in the groove of my drawing process, I often find myself juggling a lot of layers.

Managing high layer counts without a method for organization can make editing or completing a piece needlessly difficult — trust me, I know!

Controlling your layer count is something to keep in mind as you work at higher resolutions because your layer limit will be lower as you work with larger canvases.

Before you add another new layer, here are two key methods for optimizing your workflow and keeping your layers organized:

Grouping Layers

  1. Open the Layers Panel in the upper right hand corner
  2. Tap the first layer you'd like in your group
  3. Swipe left-to-right on each additional layer to select it
  4. Select Group in the upper righthand corner of the Layers Panel
  5. To add additional layers, drag them directly into your new group

To get the most out of this feature, I suggest categorizing your layer groups by identifying similar elements like text, backgrounds, and effects.

An image in Procreate demonstrates the merge layer features.

Merging layers

  1. Open the Layers Panel in the upper right hand corner
  2. Swipe right to select additional layers
  3. Use two fingers and pinch your layers together

Unlike grouping layers, merging will take the elements of any of the selected layers and combine them together onto a single layer.

Merging is useful for when you need to reduce your total layer count. It also forces you to carefully review parts of your piece and determine which elements can be on the same layer.

This might seem a bit tedious but you'll thank yourself later.

An image demonstrating a clipping mask in Procreate.
Clipping masks can help you gain even more control over how your layers interact with one another.

04. Have Fun With Clipping Masks

The freedom to easily experiment with a variety of effects is a unique advantage of digital drawing.

Clipping Masks let you make changes while staying flexible as you edit and improve your artwork. With Clipping Masks, you can easily recolor your work, experiment with blend modes, shadows, and more in a nondestructive way.

Any layer can become a Clipping Mask, but you first have to make sure it's positioned above the layer that you want to edit.

Here’s how to create a Clipping Mask in Procreate:

  1. Add a new layer
  2. Select the layer
  3. Select Clipping Mask

Your Clipping Mask layer can be identified by a small arrow that will appear on the left side of the layer.

Unlike the Alpha Lock feature, which only affects existing artwork on a layer while leaving transparent areas untouched, edits you make with a Clipping Mask sit on top of your original artwork in a completely separate layer.

Using Clipping Masks, you’ll never have to worry about compromising the integrity of your original artwork, no matter how many changes you need to make.

This level of functionality makes Clipping Masks a must-have tool for any digital artist.

The next time you're thinking about adding color or additional details, try using a Clipping Mask.

An image of the Procreate StreamLine and brush customization interface.
Want smoother strokes? It all starts with SteamLine.

05. Smooth Sailing With StreamLine

Creating great art requires a diverse collection of skills, but thanks to the StreamLine feature, a steady hand isn't one of them!

StreamLine helps you smooth out every stroke, curve, and loop that you draw for fluid and flexible lines.

Here’s how to enable the StreamLine feature in Procreate:

  1. Open the Brush Library
  2. Select your brush
  3. Go to Stroke properties within Brush Studio settings
  4. Adjust the StreamLine percentage

The higher the StreamLine percentage, the smoother the line becomes. With a lower percentage, your lines will appear more natural. At higher percentages, the line almost follows the Apple Pencil as you draw.

In my experience, StreamLine feels different depending on the brush you use, so feel free to experiment with it and see whatever feels the most comfortable for your style and preference.

This is a very useful feature if you're into calligraphy or lettering, because you can use it to create smooth lines and curves. Tackling script styles is much easier with this feature in play, so be sure to try it out for your next piece.

An image of the font customization screen in Procreate.
You don’t have to draw text in Procreate. You can always always use interesting fonts to spruce things up.

06. Add Dynamic Type to Your Artwork

You don't need to be a professional lettering artist to add fun and dynamic type to your digital art.

Anyone can add text to their artwork with a simple click.

Here’s how to add text to your art:

  1. Go to the Actions Menu
  2. Go to Add
  3. Select Add text

By default, you’ll have access to the entire iOS font library when using Procreate. But, if you find that none of the default options fit your vision, feel free to import your own font files into the app.

To import custom fonts in Procreate:

  1. From the text menu, select Import Fonts
  2. Select your font file from the Files App

Once you’ve selected your font, you can use the keyboard on your iPad to type your text or you can take advantage of the Scribble feature on iPad and use your Apple Pencil to write directly inside the text box!

Just like the objects or drawn elements on your canvas, text can be moved, edited, and resized. To take things a step further, Rasterize your text layer from your Layers Panel.

This will turn your text into editable pixels allowing you to apply complex transformations and effects to your text.

There are no limits to what you can do with typography so jump in and have some font fun!

An image showing the results of using the ColorDrop feature in the Procreate app.
ColorDrop allows you to instantly fill your entire canvas with a single color. Fast, easy, and effective.

07. Flood Your World With Color

Who says coloring can't be fun?

Similar to the Fill Layer or Paint Bucket tool in other apps, the ColorDrop feature puts the power of color at your fingertips.

Use this feature to add color to your canvas in a quick and highly customizable way.

Here’s how to use the ColorDrop feature in Procreate:

  1. Tap the Color Button (the little color circle) in the upper right hand corner
  2. Select your color using the color picker
  3. Drag your color from the Color Button onto the screen

If your canvas is blank, ColorDrop will simply fill your entire layer with your selected color.

You might notice that, sometimes, your objects don't fill with color completely. Instead, ColorDrop leaves a thin, white border around the edge. Before you pull out your Apple Pencil to manually fill in the rest, try adjusting your ColorDrop Threshold.

To do this, ColorDrop into your object as you normally would. Before you lift your finger from the screen, hold for a moment, then slide your finger to the right.

As you do this, note the ColorDrop Threshold percentage that appears at the top of your screen. This will show you how much more of the area you can fill. Once you’ve achieved the desired fill amount, lift up your finger!

Using the ColorDrop Threshold will help you achieve complete color fills every time. Enjoy these features for added control, speed and ease in your coloring process.

An image displaying the color palette menu in Procreate.
Create a color palette from your favorite images and files.

08. Create Inspired Color Palettes

Color is a detail that can aid in visual storytelling and complete your piece, but gathering inspiration for the drawing and painting process is hard enough without thinking about your color palette.

Well, what if I told you that you can create color palettes in seconds?

Here’s how to use Procreate to create dynamic color palettes:

  1. Tap the Color Button
  2. In the bottom right hand corner select Palettes
  3. Select the + icon in the upper right hand corner
  4. Select New from file or New from photos

Not only is this a huge time saver, it also allows you to use the world around you as inspiration.

Have a great photo from a recent trip? Bring it into the app and see what kind of palette it creates. Use those color swatches to create a variety of different artwork.

No matter whether you’re trying out digital watercolor brushes or following a drawing tutorial, a good set of swatches can make all the difference when bringing your digital art to life.

An image displaying the reference feature in Procreate.
Need a reference? Reference Companion to the rescue!

09. References: The Ultimate Drawing Guide

As much as every artist would love to have a perfect memory to refer to while drawing, we usually end up needing a reference image.

The Reference Companion window is designed to be your best friend while you draw. You can use this window to get a zoomed-out view of your canvas or to hold a reference image imported from your iPad.

Here’s how to activate the Reference Companion in Procreate:

  1. Open the Actions Menu
  2. Select the Canvas panel
  3. Turn on Reference

This will make a floating window appear on screen.

Selecting Canvas at the bottom of the window will give you a view of your canvas, while selecting Image will allow you to import a photo from your library on your iPad.

Plus, you can interact with the window in the same way you would with your canvas. You'll be able to zoom in and out, select colors, rotate, etc.

You also have full control over the position of the reference window on the screen, so you’ll never have to worry about it getting in the way while you work.

An image showing the name of a layer in Procreate, found using the Layer Select tool.
Have you ever gotten stuck while searching for a lost layer? The Layer Select Tool can help you out.

10. Finding Lost Layers

Have you ever gotten to a point in your drawing where you realize you have elements lost in an endless sea of layers?

Say no more!

Artists creating complex drawings that require high layer counts deal with this problem often. The Layer Select feature makes this a thing of the past.

Here’s how to use Layer Select to find lost layers:

  1. Open the Actions Menu
  2. Select Preferences
  3. Select Gesture Controls
  4. Assign a custom gesture to Layer Select

Note that if the gesture you select is already in use, assigning Layer Select to it will disable the previously assigned function.

Once activated, Layer Select will identify individual layers when you invoke the assigned gesture and will even automatically select specific layers in your Layers Panel for you.

So say goodbye to work arounds like adjusting the opacity to find your long lost layer! No more worrying about complex blend modes, effects, and high layer counts.

If you haven't fully embraced using our tips for organizing your layers, you can count on Layer Select to save the day.

An image showing the import interface in Procreate.
Why stop at the standard brushes? Bring in new brushes to create new and incredible art.

11. Expand Your Brush Library

Brushes are part of what makes drawing in Procreate so much fun.

With over 200 default brushes in the app, there are endless possibilities to what you can create.

However using custom brush sets can help you achieve a variety of styles and effects. Importing brushes is simple and in just a few clicks you'll have access to an expanded brush selection.

To do this, you’ll need to move your Procreate-compatible brush files to the Files app on your iPad.

Once you’ve done that, here’s how to import your brushes directly to Procreate:

  1. Open your Brush Library
  2. Tap the + icon in the upper right hand corner
  3. Select Import
  4. Select your brush file

Individual brush files will automatically go to a folder called Imported at the bottom of your Brush Library, while brush sets will go to the top. You can also use these steps to install your favorite Photoshop brushes.

Not so hard right?

Practice importing different brushes by downloading our latest free Better than the Basics brush pack collaboration with Jimbo Bernaus.

An image showing the Paperlike packaging and screen protector with an iPad and Apple Pencil.
Art is better with Paperlike.

Bonus tip: Use Paperlike to make digital drawing easier

If you haven’t downloaded Procreate yet, it’s available in the app store for just $10.

At Paperlike we believe that digital drawing should be easy and feel as natural as possible. Like Procreate, the Paperlike screen protector was designed for the iPad to improve your digital drawing experience.

Get your Paperlike today and feel the difference it makes in your work.