Border Illustration Design in Procreate | Molly Suber Thorpe | Skillshare

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Border Illustration Design in Procreate

teacher avatar Molly Suber Thorpe, Calligrapher & Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

15 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Welcome to Border Illustration Design!

    • 2. Intro to Symmetry Guides

    • 3. Canvas Setup

    • 4. Class Project Details

    • 5. How to Draw a Simple Tulip

    • 6. Complete Your Quadrant Sketch

    • 7. Quadrant Guide Setup

    • 8. Flower Drawing Part 1

    • 9. Flower Drawing Part 2

    • 10. Leaf Drawing

    • 11. Raindrop Drawing

    • 12. Recolor Each Element

    • 13. Add Monogram and Text

    • 14. Final Tweaks and Time Lapse

    • 15. BONUS: Sample Art for Inspiration

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About This Class

Welcome to Border Illustration Design in Procreate! Today you will learn a fun drawing technique with endless possibilities. This is a way to illustrate using symmetry guides and a simple floral art style. Not only do these symmetry techniques allow you to draw a piece of art in half the time, but they yield striking results!

In today’s lesson, we will create a floral border design featuring Nordic-inspired tulips and leaves. To make a finished art print, we’ll be adding a simple monogram design in the center, right in Procreate, but you could use this border artwork to frame an invitation, a quote, and so much more.




This is an early intermediate level class, because basic working knowledge of Procreate is required. Beyond that, you do not need any special tools or art skills. I’m going to walk you through every step of the way.



Procreate sample file – Head over to the Projects & Resources tab to download a layered Procreate file of the artwork I create in class. Use this as a template or for inspiration!

Molly’s Truest Monoline Brush – This is part of my Ultimate Lettering & Calligraphy Procreate Kit.

My Favorite iPad Tools & Apps

• Free brushes and lettering practice sheets at Molly’s Lettering Toolkit

Meet Your Teacher

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Molly Suber Thorpe

Calligrapher & Designer

Top Teacher

I design custom lettering for brands and individuals, Procreate brushes for artists, fonts for designers, and freelancing tools for creatives. I’m the author of four books for lettering artists and teach the craft both online and in person.



I’m lucky to have worked with some awesome clients over the years, including Google Arts & Culture, Martha Stewart, Fendi, and Michael Kors. My work and words have been featured in such publications as The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Martha Stewart Weddings, LA Times, and Buzzfeed.

I love connecting with my students so please please share your projects with me. If you do so on Instagram, tag me with @mollysuberthorpe so I’m sure to see it!&nb... See full profile

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1. Welcome to Border Illustration Design!: Welcome to Border Illustration Design in Procreate. Today, you will learn a fun drawing technique with endless possibilities. This is a way to illustrate using symmetry guides and a simple floral art style. In today's lesson, we will create this floral border design featuring Nordic-inspired tulips and leaves. To make a finished art print, we'll be adding a simple monogram designed in the center, right here in Procreate but you could use this border artwork to frame an invitation, a quote, a greeting card, and so much more. This is an early intermediate level class because basic working knowledge of Procreate is required. Beyond that, you don't need any special tools or art skills. I'm going to walk you through every step of the way. Now without further ado, let's dive right in and learn how we can use the power of symmetry guides to create beautiful illustrations. 2. Intro to Symmetry Guides: Before we start drawing, we need to understand what's possible with Procreate's symmetry guides and how exactly to use them. First I'll do a demonstration and then we'll set them up together. Symmetry guides reflect any drawing that you make on one part of the canvas onto another. Here, I'm demonstrating vertical symmetry, where my drawing is reflected as a mirror image across the vertical axis. Here's horizontal symmetry with reflection across the horizontal axis. Quadrant symmetry duplicates your drawing in each of the four quadrants of your canvas so it reflects both vertically and horizontally. Finally, radial symmetry divides your canvas into eight slices and duplicates your art into all of them. 3. Canvas Setup: I have here a new blank canvas. Mine is 8 by 10 inches at 300 DPI. Next, I'll head over to Actions, Canvas, and start by turning on Drawing Guide. Then I'll immediately tap Edit Drawing Guide right below it. Here I can set up a lot of different types of guides, not just symmetry guides. You can see that by default, I'm presented with a standard square grid, that's useful for lots of things, but not for the symmetrical illustrations we're making today. I'll skip right over here to symmetry. Immediately you can see that the square grid changes to a vertical line. This is for vertical reflection across the vertical axis, like the first example that I showed you. Now let's click options to explore the four different types of symmetry guides. First, we have vertical. Next is horizontal across the horizontal axis. Like I showed you, quadrant divides your Canvas into four pieces, and radial divides it into eight slices. While selecting which of these four options you want is relatively self-explanatory, the bottom two options here in this menu are not so. First we have rotational symmetry. Turning this on won't do anything visible at this point. But it does mean that not only will your art be reflected across the guideline, it will be inverted as well. Here I have vertical and rotational symmetry turned on. Remember how earlier my art duplicated exactly across the guideline like a perfect mirror image? Now it both reflect across and it inverts. My starting point goes across and to the bottom. Essentially your drawing is flipped both horizontally and vertically at the same time. Back in our drawing guide settings now, I'm going to turn off rotational symmetry because we're not going to use it now for this current project. The final option in this menu is assisted drawing. This is crucial. All of Procreate's drawing guides, both symmetry and non-symmetry, require assisted drawing to be turned on in order for your actual drawing to adhere to the guides so you can set up your guide settings. But if you don't turn on assisted drawing, the guides won't actually be applied when you draw. For that reason, I always turn on assisted drawing here while I'm creating my guides. However, now I'm going to show you how to turn it on and off once we're back in Canvas view. When I open my layers palette, I can see right now that the layer I was on when I opened my drawing guide preferences has the word Assisted underneath the layer name. When I draw on my Canvas, you can see what you saw before that my drawing adheres to that vertical symmetry setting. But now I'm going to make a new layer. You can see immediately that this new one does not have the word Assisted on it and that when I draw, I'm not getting that vertical reflection. That's because with assisted drawing turned off, my strokes will not be reflected according to my guideline settings. To turn Assisted Drawing on, on any layer, you simply tap it once and choose Drawing Assist, and now you can see that on that same new layer, I am getting that same vertical reflection. So long as a drawing layer has Assisted turned on, anything you draw on that layer will adhere to whatever guide settings you have. Even if you turn off the drawing guides visibility over here. If you're drawing on an assisted layer, it will still adhere. Just note that you can turn off the visibility of the guides if they distract you at all and that doesn't mean you're sacrificing the ability to draw according to the guides. I tend to keep my guides visible when I draw simply because it helps me visualize the division of the canvas. Now, one more very quick final note about our guide settings. You can change the opacity and the thickness and the color with these three sliders. This is especially helpful if you have, say, a dark background on your canvas and you need a break or a bold guideline. 4. Class Project Details: Now you should have a good sense of how to set up your own symmetry guides and use them in conjunction with assisted drawing. Whenever I set about to create these symmetrical borders, the very first thing I do is I choose my primary illustration or basically my subject matter. In today's lesson, we are using a tulip as the primary illustration and then adding leaves and water droplets as the secondary theme. In the following video, I'm going to get you started by showing you my exact process for drawing that tulip and you can follow along if you'd like, or you can start with a design completely of your own. 5. How to Draw a Simple Tulip: In this video, I'll show you how I drew this project's primary illustration. You can watch me create this simple tulip design and follow along on your own, or just relax while you watch me draw it. 6. Complete Your Quadrant Sketch: With my primary illustration sketch complete, I've placed it in the top center of my canvas. Later, I'm going to be using Quadrant Drawing Assist, which means that I'll only have to draw one-quarter of the canvas in order to create a complete border. What that means for my next step is that now I only have to complete this sketch in one quadrant or 1/4 of my canvas. It's okay that I've placed my art in the top center, spanning the top two quadrants because my art is symmetrical on the left and right sides. When I'm using Drawing Assist, I'm only going to have to draw 1/2 of the flower and the other half will be drawn automatically like magic. Now, I'm going to fill in as much space in this quadrant as I can with variations of this primary illustration. In my layers palette, I've duplicated my flower and rotated it so that it's on its side. Now, I'll duplicate it again and move it somewhere else on the canvas to edit it. I'll start by erasing the leaves and stem so that I just have the flower bud. Now, I'll move it over into the negative space and resize it to fit here nicely. Remember, I'm only focusing on the top right corner of the canvas, only filling in that area with my sketches. With the flower bud placed, I'll fill in the rest of the negative space with more leaves and stems. I'll even duplicate the flower bud one more time and move it down and shrink it to fill in more of the negative space. Then, I'll connect the flower with stems. Now, that I've filled in all that I can with leaves and stems and flower buds, there are still some small spaces left. I've decided to incorporate the shape of a raindrop because that seems very fitting with the floral theme. Now, I'm just going around and I'm adding two or three little raindrop shapes in each of these small blank spaces. 7. Quadrant Guide Setup: Now my sketch is complete. I've come over and I've turned on drawing guides, hit "Edit Drawing Guides", and come over to Symmetry Options. Turned on quadrant and made sure that assisted drawing is turned on. Then I'm just adjusting the look, the color, opacity, and thickness of my guides so that they really pop out. Next to my layers palette, I'm just going to merge down all of my sketch layers into one flat layer because I know that I no longer need to move around specific elements of that sketch and then reducing its opacity dramatically because I'm about to trace over it. I've made a new layer and I'm selecting this bright purple color for a high contrast look. Now, I'm coming over and selecting a monoline pen. This one is called Molly's Truest Monoline and you can find it linked in the description. Next, I'm tapping the layer once and turning on drawing assist. Drawing a quick squiggle on my screen reveals that indeed my strokes are about to follow this quadrant drawing guide that I'd set up. 8. Flower Drawing Part 1: Now I've zoomed in on my sketch, and I'm making sure that I'm on that Assisted Drawing blank layer. I'm going to start tracing over my sketch on the left side. You're going to immediately see that as I draw on the left side of my flower, that same stroke is reflected not only across vertically, but also up above across the horizontal axis. I'll finish off sketching the outline and fill it in with blue, by dragging and dropping my color swatch into the enclosed space. Now we're going to use a little technique that I like to do to create really crisp and simple illustrations. So I'm going to reduce the opacity on my newly drawn flowers so that I can see my sketch below it. Then I'll use my Eraser tool to draw in the actual outlines that are within the enclosed shape. So what you end up getting are a bunch of smaller separate shapes that come together to form the whole flower. Just to be clear, these are not white lines that I'm drawing, these are actually erased lines. There I'm moving over to a new part of the canvas and I'm drawing another of the flowers. Again, this is being reflected across the vertical and horizontal axes. So drawing only half of this flower one time actually is going to make two complete flowers. Then I'm going back in with my Eraser tool and I'm just drawing over the lines of my sketch with the eraser. Here I've drawn in the stem. Coming in with my eraser you can see that the first thing that I did was erase this line between the flower bud and the stem itself. Then I erased the interior line of that stem. 9. Flower Drawing Part 2: I'm going to continue this exact process around my canvas for all of the flowers and the stems. You're going to see in a moment that I'm going to make a new layer to do the same thing for the leaves and yet another new layer for those raindrop shapes. The reason for that is that I think I'm going to want to recolor those three types of elements, the flowers, the leaves, and the raindrops. Having each of those three elements on their own layers is going to make it much easier to recolor later. Now I'm going to increase the speed dramatically and you can watch me whip through the rest of the flowers. 10. Leaf Drawing: Now with the flowers and their stems complete, I can make a new blank layer, turn on drawing assist, and create the leaves. I'm going to be drawing the leaves in the same color, at least for now, but I know that later, I'm going to be able to go in and recolor them very easily because again, I have it on a separate layer. Do make sure that on that new blank layer, you have drawing assist turned on or else your work again, is not going to be reflected around the canvas. Here's one example of editing my sketch as I go. I had originally made this one leaf behind the smaller flower, but as I was coloring it in, I decided I really didn't like it there, so I ultimately just deleted this entire leaf altogether. 11. Raindrop Drawing: Now it's time to draw those raindrops so I've created a new layer with drawing assist turned on and sketched in these raindrops. Same method as before. There's much less erasing to do though on these. Once I filled them in, I did want the ends of them to be sharp, so I just went in with an eraser and cleaned up the edges a little bit so that I didn't get these rounded ends but instead got sharper points. Now the tracing of my border is complete. I'm turning up the opacity on all the layers to 100 percent. I'm turning off the guidelines as well because at this point, I find them a little bit distracting. 12. Recolor Each Element: Now I'll address the issue of color because again, since I made these all on their own layer, it's going to be really easy for me to change the color. I'm starting by making new blank layers on top of each of my art layers and then tapping them once and selecting "Clipping Mask". What this means is that when I fill each of these blank layers with color, that color is going to only affect the art layer below it. Now I've selected a new color for my palette and I've tapped a blank layer and hit 'Fill Layer". Now I'll continue to do this on all of the other blank layers to recolor the leaves, the blossoms, and the raindrops individually. Using clipping masks to recolor is one of my personal favorite ways to recolor artwork in Procreate, because it's entirely non-destructive, meaning that I can always turn that clipping mask off again, and I have my original color right underneath. If color palettes are a little bit daunting to you, I would suggest trying to stick in a similar area or slice of the color wheel, like blue and green are very close to each other on the color wheel, so naturally they go together quite nicely. 13. Add Monogram and Text: After color, it's time to fill in the empty space here. There are so many possibilities, I can see this being a wonderful border for a birth announcement, a save-the-date card, any type of invitation, personal stationery, a thank you note, a holiday card. But I'm going to turn this into a piece of monogram art today, which is going to be very simple to do right here in Procreate. I'm going up to my Actions menu and selecting Add, Add Text. Here, I'm zooming out a bit and just moving that text box down into the center so I can see it a bit better and then I'm putting in just the letter T, that's going to be my monogram today. Coming over to the fonts, I'll select the font Didot, which should be a system font for you that you can also select in your own Procreate app. Tapping out of the text options, I'm going to come to my Transform tool and enlarge that T quite dramatically to fill up the majority of the interior space. For now, I've made the T into the same color as the raindrops, but we're going to change that a bit later, you'll see. Now I've added a new text frame here. I'm keeping this in the exact same font Didot as the monogram, but I'm actually putting it into lowercase italic for some contrast. Then I'm typing in a sweet little phrase that would make this into a cute greeting card or maybe a piece of wall art for a nursery and I'm just writing "is for tulips", so T is for tulip. Now I'm just adjusting the spacing and sizing slightly of this so that it fills in that negative space really nicely. To change the colors of my type, all I have to do is select each text layer, then open the color palette and tap the color that I want. 14. Final Tweaks and Time Lapse: As so often happens in designing, I've changed my mind about the colors here. I've decided I want this border to be monochrome, so I want the leaves to be dark blue instead of dark green. I've selected a dark blue, tapped that green color fill layer over the leaves, hit "Fill Layer" and now the leaves are dark blue. This makes the borders still quite intricate and illustrative. But now if I change the T to a pop color like orange, which is the compliment of blue, it's going to really pop out and have just a much bolder, more modern look. Keep watching because in the next video I'm showing you a lot of examples of other symmetrical border designs that I created using different types of symmetry guides and lots of different illustrations subjects. If you do create this project using the exact steps I did or your own illustrations, make sure to share it in the project section so that I and your peers can have a look at it. Be sure to check out the resources tab of this class, where you'll be able to download a layered procreate version of this file for your own reference. In the course's About section, you'll find a nice long list of links for further learning and other resources that might be helpful. 15. BONUS: Sample Art for Inspiration: In this final section, I'm just sharing with you a number of different illustrative border designs and symmetry guide artwork that I've created to hopefully give you some inspiration for choosing illustration subject matter of your own, and also to show you really what's possible with all of these different symmetry guide settings. My method for coming up with the illustrative subject matter for these borders is to start by choosing a primary illustration and then create secondary drawings or illustrations to support that primary theme. For example, in this illustration, I used a whale as my primary illustration, and then I added various sea-themed drawings like seaweed, and waves, and bubbles to support it. Having the whale as the primary and largest illustration duplicated, in fact, across the canvas allowed me to fill up the majority of the space with just this one illustration, and then fill in the negative space with the smaller, simpler illustrations. In this illustrative border illustration, I actually just used this one floral illustration and then I duplicated my sketch and turned it at different angles so that it would fill up all of the space of the canvas, and then the negative space, I just filled it with leaves and some stems. The end result does end up looking a lot more time-consuming than it actually took me. This example also utilized vertical symmetry, and instead of a square or a rectangular border, I created a round border. Again, for this, I just selected the primary illustration of this one type of flower, and then I drew it in a couple of ways and sizes and angles and filled in the negative space with a single type of leaf and stem. Here's an example of a piece of art I created that used the radial symmetry guides, and rather than create a border, the actual symmetry art is the artwork itself. I stuck to calligraphic flourishes rather than using any words or traditional illustrations. The primary theme and illustration of this piece of symmetry art was pens and ink, and so I created a number of ways of drawing a pen, a hand holding a pen, simple pen nibs, and then I filled in the negative space with fairly simple illustrations of ink droplets and drawn strokes.