7 Procreate Tips That Any Digital Artist Should Know
Life-saving Procreate tips! Really?
You may think I’m exaggerating — not at all! Okay, maybe a little, but these tips are essential! I’ve been teaching digital art with the Procreate app since 2012, and many students contact me for the same reasons — they’re discouraged and frustrated because they didn’t know the tips and tricks I’m about to share with you. So, if you get stuck or don’t know why something isn’t working as expected, chances are you will find the solution in this article.
Ready for some “aha” moments?
1. Who is ruining my work with random marks?
You know what I’m talking about, right? Yes! Those random marks that appear all over your canvas while you’re happily working with your Apple Pencil elsewhere.
Believe it or not, they are not a glitch. Something other than the Apple Pencil touched the screen while painting, probably our fingers. Fortunately for us, a feature restricts what our fingers can do. Since we are using an Apple Pencil for painting, smudging, and erasing, we only need them to perform gesture shortcuts. The solution is then to disable touch actions. We can do this by going to Actions (Wrench icon)>Prefs>Gesture Controls>General and turning on Disable Touch Actions.
This solution will be useful from now on, but how do we remove the marks if we notice them too late to undo them? Use the eraser, smudge, or clone tools, but first, we need to figure out which layer those annoying marks are on.
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2. Where is it? The Layer Select shortcut
When working with many layers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of what’s on each layer, even when we group and label all layers. Opening the layers panel and scrolling up and down or trying your luck is time-consuming. So, let’s learn how to find something in seconds.
Go again to Actions > Preferences > Gesture Controls. This time tap Select Layer and choose the shortcut that integrates best with your workflow. In my case, it is holding the square Modify button plus tapping with the Apple Pencil. The Modify button is between the brush size and brush opacity sliders on the sidebar.
The next step is to perform the customized gesture and get rid of the unwanted marks. Usually, the eraser is all we need, but there are other options we can try when it’s not.
3. The Clone Wars — ahem, I mean Clone tool
Like traditional art, when we paint over a part of our illustration on the same layer, what was there will be covered and lost. We can’t get it back, but we can replace it with another part of our illustration. To do that, we will use the Clone tool. It is at the bottom of the Adjustments menu.
A disk will appear in the middle of the canvas. The area inside it will be the source of the clone when we start painting. We have to drag that disk to a place that looks similar to the one we lost. Choose a brush — the Soft Airbrush default brush usually works well for me — adjust its size and opacity to suit your needs, and paint over the damaged area. The disk will move around while we clone, perfect for minor tweaks. We can also lock it in place by tapping and holding it for a moment when we want to clone entire elements or larger areas.
Needless to say, Procreate settings are not always the cause of all our problems. Sometimes it’s us who mess everything up.
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4. My world is falling apart! Line art and sketch are on the same layer!
Have you ever drawn the line art on the sketch layer accidentally? What if I tell you that you don’t need to start over, there is a way to separate your line art from your sketch. This tip will make your day!
Go to Adjustments>Gradient Map and create a custom gradient by tapping on the plus sign. Drag the white square to the left until your sketch lines disappear. Tap on Adjustments to exit and keep the changes. Make sure the only active layers are the white background and your line art — swipe three fingers downwards on the canvas and, on the menu, select Copy All. Attach a layer mask to your line art. Repeat the three fingers gesture, but this time tap Paste.
Finally, tap on your layer mask and choose Invert. Ta-da!
Now that we have fixed everything, we can take the next step — color!
5. Dropping colors properly. No gaps, no flooding.
In Procreate, there is a fantastic tool called ColorDrop. It allows us to change or add color to any area of our artwork. Drag and drop the color from the color circle at the top right corner to the place you want to fill. Despite what it seems, it doesn’t go rogue at filling shapes. It only needs a little guidance from us.
When it fills the entire canvas, either there is a gap somewhere, and the color goes through it, or the ColorDrop Threshold is set too high.
When it doesn’t fill to the edge, either you used a texture/grainy/not opaque brush for the outline, or your ColorDrop Threshold is too low.
So, if you want to have a good and healthy relationship with ColorDrop, you will have to tell it exactly what you need. To do that, drag the color into the shape and, maintaining contact with the screen, wait for the ColorDrop threshold slider to appear at the top. Without breaking contact with the screen, slide your Apple Pencil or finger to the left to decrease the threshold percentage or to the right to increase it. That’s it!
6. The freedom of having line art and color on separate layers
We can use ColorDrop to fill shapes on the same layer as our line art. However, wouldn’t it be better if we had color fills and line art on different layers? Good news! You can do this in Procreate, and it’s super easy.
Go to the Layers panel and tap on your Line Art layer — twice if it is not the active layer. Select Reference from the menu. Add a new layer below and drag and drop colors on it.
A little extra trick! We don’t need to drag and drop the color continuously. Tap on the dropdown option Continue Filling with Recolor and then on another area. Procreate will color it with the selected color. Moreover, we can change the color and continue filling spaces the same way.
Thanks to this feature, the blend modes and clipping masks we use for adding texture, color variation, and other effects will not affect our line art.
7. No closed areas: selection tool
Each digital artist has a different drawing style. Maybe outlines are not in your repertoire, or they are, but not closed. So, how can you quickly and accurately color areas? Use the Color Fill bucket!
Pick a color, tap on the Selection button, then on the little bucket, and draw around the content you want to color. Easy, right? If you need to fill more areas with the same color, draw around them. Don’t like the color? No problem! You can go to the Color Panel and try a different one. You can also tap and hold anywhere on your canvas to pick a color with the Eyedropper tool — also known as Color Picker in Photoshop. In any case, there is no need to use ColorDrop with this method.
If you prefer the traditional way, go for it! Procreate brushes mimic many traditional mediums incredibly well. It’s possible to create amazing works of art using a single layer and even a single brush. But I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and dive into all the new possibilities digital art offers you — it’s so fascinating!
Not ready to fly solo just yet? Don’t rush it. Focus on learning about something in particular. It could be a specific tool or feature, such as how to use layers, layer masks, clipping masks, etc. or how to paint something you’re interested in. Step-by-step tutorials are fun, and learning by doing is probably the best way to master digital art. Need inspiration? Check out this article and discover some cool things to draw on Procreate.