This article was originally published in October 2021 and most recently updated in July 2022.
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 21 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.
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.
#caption#Starting with a blank page? Make sure that you set it up correctly every single time.
#alt#An image showing the Procreate new canvas creation screen.
Here’s how to set up a custom canvas:
- Open your Gallery.
- Tap the + icon in the upper right hand corner.
- Tap the rectangle icon in the top right.
- 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.
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.
#caption#With a few quick taps, you can eliminate random marks and strokes forever.
#alt#A picture of the Procreate menu for disabling Touch Actions.
Here’s how to activate Disable Touch actions:
- Open the Actions Menu.
- Select Preferences.
- Select Gesture Controls.
- Go to General.
- 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.
03. Work smarter & 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:
#caption#Grouping layers is a great way to keep related elements organized.
#alt#An image demonstrating a layer group in Procreate.
- Open the Layers Panel in the upper right hand corner.
- Tap the first layer you'd like in your group.
- Swipe left-to-right on each additional layer to select it.
- Select Group in the upper righthand corner of the Layers Panel.
- 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.
#caption#You can take elements from separate layers and merge them onto a single layer.
#alt#An image in Procreate demonstrating the merge layer feature.
- Open the Layers Panel in the upper right hand corner.
- Swipe right to select additional layers.
- 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.
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.
#caption#Clipping masks can help you make edits to layers without having to commit to them.
#alt#An image demonstrating a clipping mask in Procreate.
Here’s how to create a Clipping Mask in Procreate:
- Add a new layer.
- Select the layer.
- 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.
05. Create smoother strokes 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.
#caption#Want smoother strokes? It all starts with StreamLine.
#alt#An image of the Procreate StreamLine and brush customization interface.
Here’s how to enable the StreamLine feature in Procreate:
- Open the Brush Library.
- Select your brush.
- Go to Stabilization within Brush Studio settings.
- Under StreamLine, adjust the Amount setting to taste.
The higher the StreamLine amount, 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 most comfortable for your style and preference.
This is a very useful feature if you're into calligraphy or lettering (guide here), 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.
In addition to the StreamLine feature, you'll find Stabilization. This feature is similar to StreamLine but it's designed to create a straighter, smoother line based on the amount of wobble in a stroke.
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.
#caption#There are endless ways to have fun with fonts in Procreate!
#alt#An image of the font customization screen in Procreate.
Here’s how to add text to your art:
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:
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!
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 in Procreate. You can learn all about Procreate Fonts and how to use them in our article here.
07. Add color with ColorDrop
Who says coloring can't be fun?
Use this feature to add color to your canvas in a quick and highly customizable way.
#caption#ColorDrop allows you to instantly fill your entire canvas with a single color. Fast, easy, and effective.
#alt#An image showing the results of using the ColorDrop feature in the Procreate app.
Here’s how to use the ColorDrop feature in Procreate:
- Tap the Color Button (the little color circle) in the upper right hand corner.
- Select your color using the color picker.
- 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.
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?
#caption#Create a color palette from your favorite images and files.
#alt#An image displaying the color palette menu in Procreate.
Here’s how to use Procreate to create dynamic color palettes:
- Tap the Color button (top right) to open the Color Panel.
- In the bottom right hand corner select Palettes.
- Select the + icon in the upper right hand corner.
- 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.
Want to learn more about color palettes in Procreate? Check out our article here.
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.
#caption#Need a reference? Reference Companion to the rescue!
#alt#An image displaying the reference feature in Procreate.
Here’s how to activate the Reference Companion in Procreate:
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.
When you're in 3D mode, you can also use the Reference Companion. When in 3D, you can toggle between 2D and 3D. The 2D view will make your 3D object a flat image. The 3D version also allows you to look at and move around your 3D model.
10. Find lost layers in seconds
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.
#caption#Have you ever gotten stuck while searching for a lost layer? The Layer Select tool can help you out.
#alt#An image showing the name of a layer in Procreate, found using the Layer Select tool.
Here’s how to use Layer Select to find lost layers:
- Open the Actions Menu.
- Select Preferences.
- Select Gesture Controls.
- 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 workarounds 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.
11. Balance your canvas with symmetry
Who doesn't love balance?
Using the Symmetry Guide in Procreate can help you achieve perfectly mirrored artwork in a variety of fun ways.
#caption#Quickly create flowers like this one using Symmetry Guides in Procreate.
#alt#An image of a flower in the Procreate app.
Here’s how to turn on Symmetry Guides:
- Go to Canvas under the Actions Menu.
- Toggle on Edit Drawing Guide.
- Tap the Symmetry tab in the submenu.
- Tap Options and select your Guide type.
Once you're under Options, you'll be able to choose from Vertical, Horizontal, Quadrant, and Radial guides.
Using any of these grids will allow you to fill out your canvas in real-time with reflections of the strokes you draw.
If you ever find yourself working on a layer that doesn’t need the Symmetry feature, you can simply tap it once, and select Drawing Assist. Layers with Symmetry enabled will say Assisted underneath them, making them easy to identify.
For added convenience, you can customize the color, thickness and opacity of your guidelines. This will allow you to work in a way that's best suited to you and what you're creating.
12. 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.
#caption#Importing brushes is as easy as tapping the + icon in the Brush Library and selecting Import.
#alt#An image of the Procreate Brush Library Menu with the + icon highlighted in red.
Once you’ve done that, here’s how to import your brushes directly to Procreate:
- Open your Brush Library.
- Tap the + icon in the upper right hand corner.
- Select Import.
- 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 all of our our free brush sets. Check out our brush set library here.
13. Never forget your brushes
With such an impressive amount of brushes to choose from, it can be easy to forget which ones you've recently used. Thankfully, we have the Recent brush category.
The last eight brushes that you've used will go to this section by default, making it so you never lose track of your brushes again.
#caption#Your Recent brush category saves up to eight brushes automatically!
#alt#An image of the Procreate Brush Library open with the Recent brush category highlighted.
Want to make sure your favorite brushes are always within reach?
Once brushes are in your Recent category, they can be Pinned so they never go anywhere:
- Go to the Recent category.
- Swipe left on the brush you'd like to pin.
- Select Pin.
With all your brushes moving around from section to section, it can be hard to remember what category they originally came from. You can use the Find feature to do just that.
Simply swipe left on any of the brushes in your Recent brush category and hit Find. This will take you instantly to where the brush came from.
Try this out with your favorite brushes in Procreate!
14. Save your brush sizes
Not only can you find your most used brushes with the Recent section, but you can also save your brush sizes.
This level of customization will allow your preferences to remain consistent across your Procreate documents, helping you work more efficiently and keep a consistent look and feel when using certain brushes.
Once you set your sizes, going from different brush size presets is as easy as a single tap.
#caption#Saving your brush sizes can keep the characteristics of your favorite brushes consistent each time you use them.
#alt#An image of the Brush size being highlighted and saved in Procreate.
To set and save your brush sizes:
- Tap your brush slider once.
- Hit the + to set your value.
- Repeat this for up to four values.
I like to use this to set minimum and maximum brush sizes for my favorite brushes. And did I mention that you can do this for your opacity slider as well?
With this feature you can create up to four preset values for brush size and opacity, giving more than enough options to customize your experience.
15. Combine two brushes into one with Dual Brush
Now that you know how to import and save brushes, what about combining them?
You can do just that with a Dual Brush in Procreate. Any two brushes within the same Brush set can be edited to create a unique combined brush.
#caption#Combining brushes is a fun way to experiment with and expand your brush library.
#alt#An image of the word "Hey!" drawn using a Dual Brush in Procreate.
Here's how to create a Dual brush:
- Open your Brush Library and tap a brush to select it as your primary brush.
- Swipe right on a different brush to select your secondary brush.
- When the secondary brush is selected, Procreate with highlight it in a soft blue (not as bright as the blue highlight on your primary brush).
- When both brushes are selected, tap Combine in the top right of the Brush Library window.
- Tap your new Combined brush and make edits.
You can combine any two brushes in Procreate to create a custom brush. A Dual Brush is best achieved by using brushes with noticeably different textures, characteristics, and width profiles.
You can think of it as creating an inline effect with a single brush.
Play with the edits to the Primary and Secondary brush within the Brush Studio and adjust your blend modes to see the different effects you can produce. This will also allow you to create unique texture brushes.
In addition to blend modes, it can be fun to adjust other settings like Spacing to create dotted lines.
Lastly, I suggest you test your brush while still in the Brush Studio. This allows you to try out your edits in real-time before committing to them.
16. Make it fast with QuickMenu
Working digitally can really streamline your workflow. But maybe you've noticed that you use certain actions in Procreate a lot. Wouldn't it be nice to have them appear in an instant?
This is exactly what you get when you use the QuickMenu.
The menu has six customizable actions that you can change and assign to make performing certain actions faster. In the Preferences menu under the Gesture controls section, you can set how you prefer to invoke the QuickMenu.
#caption#The QuickMenu doesn't only help you work faster. It's also completely customizable.
#alt#An image of the QuickMenu open in Procreate.
To set new actions:
- Bring up the QuickMenu.
- Press and hold the action.
- Choose an action from the Set Action menu.
This is a great way to work within Procreate if you like the idea of incorporating shortcuts in your workflow.
And if six customizable actions aren’t enough for you to work with, you can create as many different QuickMenu profiles as you'd like.
All you need to do is tap the center QuickMenu button and hit the +. From there you can customize a completely new QuickMenu to use.
This is great for streamlining all different types of workflows you might have depending on what you are creating.
17. Create a digital sketchbook with Page Assist
As digital artists, there are more ways than ever to replicate traditional materials.
This is true for features like Page Assist, where you can use Procreate like a digital sketchbook, which makes it an ideal tool for creating comic books, ideating, storyboarding, and more.
#caption#With the Page Assist feature your layers become the pages of your document.
#alt#An image of colorful shapes in Procreate with the Page Assist interface open.
To activate Page Assist:
- Go to the Actions menu and hit Canvas.
- Toggle on Page Assist.
Once it's activated, a Page Assist timeline will appear at the bottom of your screen. This allows you to toggle to any page in your document and add new pages.
Unique to Page Assist, your Layers panel now represents each page in your document. Once you're done, you can easily export your Procreate document into a multi-page PDF.
18. Go virtual with augmented reality (AR)
Within Procreate you have the ability to import and illustrate on 3D models, and if that wasn't enough, you can take it a step further.
With the use of AR technology, you can place your 3D models into your space.
#caption#Using AR technology you can place your the 3D models you design into your own space.
#alt#An image of a 3D model of a soda can on a desk using augmented reality technology.
To activate AR:
- Go to the Actions menu and tap 3D.
- Tap View in AR.
From there you can use the camera on your iPad to place your model anywhere you'd like. You can even scale your object within your space to get a realistic effect.
This is an especially fun tool to use with the sample models included in Procreate, like the soda can and skateboard. It really pushes the boundaries of creation and how we imagine seeing our work.
In addition, it comes in handy when creating case studies and putting projects in your portfolio. Context matters, and this allows people viewing your work to better understand and visualize your 3D concepts.
19. Customize your 3D model environments
When you're editing a 3D object in Procreate, you don't only have control over how it looks, but also its environment. You can also see how it looks in a virtual environment, where you can make edits to lighting, colors, and more.
#caption#You can change the look and feel of your 3D environment by editing the number of light sources and their color.
#alt#An image of a 3D model of a soda can within the Lighting Studio of Procreate.
To edit the lighting and environment of your 3D models:
- Go to the Actions menu and hit 3D.
- Select Edit lighting & environment.
From there, within the Lighting Studio, you'll have 11 different environment presets to choose from, ranging from Nightlife to Studio.
You also have the option to add lights and change their colors and intensity. This opens up a world of possibilities for how you visualize your models.
20. Make it snappy with object snapping
Having increased precision is an added benefit of working digitally. This is where Snapping in Procreate comes in handy. This is what will keep your objects aligned as you move and rotate them.
#caption#With the Snapping feature you never have to worry about the alignment of your objects.
#alt#An image of three illustrated pumpkins being moved in Procreate with the Snapping feature active.
To activate snapping:
- Select the Transform tool.
- Tap the Snapping button and toggle on Snapping.
The blue guidelines will help you know that your Snapping is on. For increased precision, you can also toggle on Magnetics.
With these features, you'll never have to worry about your work being aligned on your canvas and to other objects on your canvas. As an added tip, you can use the Uniform setting to keep your objects proportional when you scale them.
21. Make better transformations with Interpolation
Since Procreate is a pixel based software, it can sometimes leave you with fuzzy, pixelated results when you make transformations.
Playing with Interpolation settings can help with that.
While it's generally not encouraged to transform and scale too much in Procreate, these are some methods to help you get the clearest results.
#caption#Say goodbye to fuzzy pixels in Procreate. Try these three ways to improve the quality of your transformations.
#alt#An image of three sets of pink flowers transformed using Nearest Neighbor, Bilinear, and Bicubic Interpolation.
How to use Interpolation in Procreate:
- Select the Transform icon.
- Select Uniform from the submenu.
- Choose from Nearest Neighbor, Bilinear, or Bicubic.
So what's the difference between Nearest Neighbor, Bilinear, and Bicubic?
- Nearest Neighbor will produce a result based on one pixel on either side.
- Bilinear will give you a smoother result based on a 2x2 pixel average of the pixels around your transformation.
- Bicubic will use an area of 16 surrounding pixels producing the smoothest, average results.
As a general rule of thumb, it's best to not make too many transformations to your objects. Each time you do, you will further degrade the quality of the image.
#caption#Art is better with Paperlike.
#alt#An image showing the Paperlike packaging and screen protector with an iPad and Apple Pencil.
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 for iPad was designed to improve your digital drawing experience by making drawing on your iPad feel just like drawing in your favorite sketchbook.
Get your Paperlike today and feel the difference it makes in your work.