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A quick introduction to Procreate for beginners

A Quick Introduction to Procreate for Beginners

Affordable and powerful, Procreate is one of many iPad tools users are learning they can’t live without. Procreate is a fantastic tool for digital artwork and animation, but it can take some time to get used to.

Colorful stock photo for introduction to Procreate

As a beginner digital artist, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Understanding the basics of Procreate seems important ... but there are so many basic tools, skills, functions, and features. Where are you meant to start?

To help you begin your digital creation journey, I’ve put together a complete guide to Procreate for beginners. Read on to learn the basics, learn how to improve your skill level, and discover the endless possibilities within the Procreate software.

For more advanced users, be sure to check out our advanced guide to Procreate.

What Equipment Do You Need?

Before diving into the many features inside Procreate, make sure you have the necessary physical tools. To use Procreate, you’ll need an iPad, an Apple Pencil, and the Procreate app.

Procreate currently only runs on iOS, so you need an Apple iPad (or you can use the Pocket version of the app on your iPhone). When choosing an iPad screen size, try to find a balance between visibility (larger screen size) and transportability (smaller screen size).

You’ll also need an Apple Pencil to draw with. There are two generations of Apple Pencil, with the 1st generation needing to plug into the bottom of your iPad to charge, and the 2nd generation including wireless charging.

If you think you’ll miss the texture of the paper as you draw, it may be worth investing in a Paperlike screen protector, which protects your screen and makes it feel like you’re sketching on paper.

What Is DPI?

When you start a new Procreate creation, you need to choose the size and resolution (DPI) of your canvas. You can opt for a preset size or you can create a custom canvas size for extra flexibility.

Procreate tutorial - edit and create a custom canvas size

DPI stands for dots per inch, and it measures print resolution. Your DPI controls the quality and file size of your artwork. Higher DPI means a crisper, more detailed printed image, but it also means larger file sizes.

If you plan on printing your work, 300 DPI is the industry standard. For fine art or scientific imaging, you can see numbers as high as 800 DPI or 1000 DPI. If you’re producing images for use on the web, a 72 DPI optimizes speedy loading times.

How Do I Turn Off ‘Touch’?

Procreate allows you to draw with your fingers as well as an Apple Pencil. This means that when you use the Apple Pencil, your hand might make strange marks across your work. Turning off the Touch feature lets you rest your hand on the iPad as you draw with the Apple Pencil.

To turn off the Touch feature, open a new canvas and tap the wrench icon. This opens the Actions menu. Select Preferences. Select Gesture controls. Select General, and then Disable touch actions.

This doesn’t disable all gestures, however! Procreate uses several gestures to give you easy navigation and intuitive control over your art. Procreate Gestures allow you to zoom in and out, quickly preview your work, undo any actions, and more.

Basic Tools in Procreate for Beginners

With a blank canvas open in front of you, you’ll see a bar on the left-hand side of the screen that holds two sliders. The top slider adjusts your brush size, and the bottom slider adjusts the opacity of your brush strokes. If you tap the small square between the two sliders, you open the Eyedropper tool, which lets you “pick up” any color you’ve used on your canvas.

You’re ready to start creating! Here is a quick overview of the basic tools in Procreate.

Installing Procreate Brushes

Procreate comes with a number of pre-installed brushes for you to work with. Before installing new brushes, take the time to get used to using the default brushes and learning what they can do.

When you’re comfortable with them and are ready for a little extra detail, look for Procreate brushes that you’ll use often. Custom brushes can replicate falling leaves, the fine texture of hair, or the ripples in water.

To install and organize new brushes, tap the “+” icon to create a new brush, tap Import on the top right, and select the brush from your Files.

Procreate Color Tools

On the top right of your screen, you will find the Color palette, a small circle that shows you what color you’re using. Tap the circle to quickly change between colors. To fill a shape with solid color, make sure the outline has no gaps and is connected completely. Then, drag the colored circle into the shape and let go.

Color Palettes in Procreate - how to use

If you want to expand your color library, have a look at the FREE Procreate Palettes that Design Bundles has on offer. With the selection of Skin Tone Procreate Palettes, it's easy to achieve just the right tone for portraits!

Perfect Procreate Shapes

Procreate has a handy feature called Quickshape that lets you quickly draw perfectly straight lines and round circles. All you have to do is draw your line or circle, and then hold your Apple Pencil in place for a few seconds.

Procreate Perspective Grid

Drawing guides are useful tools that help you with proportions and perspective in your drawings. These guidelines do not show up in your final image.

Open your Actions menu, select Canvas, and toggle the Drawing Guide button. After adding the guide, select Edit Drawing Guide to change the shape, color, opacity, thickness, or style of the grid.

Procreate Image Layers

You can create different layers in your Procreate art. When working with layers, you only edit the colors and lines within that layer. Every other layer remains untouched. Many digital artists make a sketch layer to figure out their image composition before creating a new layer for detailed color and final line art.

You can adjust the opacity and style of your layer by tapping the “N” on the right-hand side of your screen. Find out more with this Procreate Layers Tutorial for an in-depth explanation of how you can use layers to stay organized, save time, and create gorgeous art.

How to use Procreate layers - helpful guide

Uploading Fonts to Procreate

Working with text in Procreate is intuitive and it provides incredible customization. Under the Actions menu, tap Add Text to open a text bar on your canvas. Here, you can adjust the font, letter size, kerning, and tracking.

To import or install a new font, double-tap on any text in your canvas. Tap the font name in the pop-up menu, then select Import Font on the top left. Then select the downloaded font from your Files.

How Do I Export My Drawings?

Once you’ve completed a piece of digital art that you’re proud of, you can export it as an image file. Do this by opening the Actions menu and tapping Share. Most artists export their work in JPEG or PNG format, or as a PSD file for use with Photoshop.

You can also export a time-lapse of your drawing process. Select Video < Time-lapse Replay, and then Export time-lapse video to save it to your iPad.

Creating in Procreate Has Never Felt So Easy

Now you have a basic understanding of how to use Procreate as a beginner digital artist. Procreate is an incredible drawing tool with possibilities that expand every time you learn a new skill inside the Procreate software.

For more Procreate for Beginners tutorials, be sure to visit the Design School today.

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