Digital illustration of a child hugging a sheep at a city petting zoo, with other animals and people in the background. On the right of the screen, a stylus adjusts the opacity of sheep’s wool using a slider.
Credit: Class Intro to Procreate: Illustrating on Your iPad by Rebecca Howe 
Rebecca Howe demonstrates how to adjust opacity to make it look like the child’s arm is snuggled into the sheep’s wool.

Designed specifically for the iPad, Procreate is a fantastic drawing tool with plenty of features for digital drawing and painting. The more Procreate tricks and features you know how to use, the more you’ll get out of the software.  

One of these features is opacity, a key element you’ll find in most digital graphics editing tools. If you’ve been struggling to figure out how to change opacity in Procreate, worry no more. It’s actually quite easy, once you know where to look.  

An iPad working in Procreate, adjusting the opacity of a circular, orange animation.   
Credit: Class Simple Animated Skies: The Beginners Start to Animating in Procreate by Chris Hall
Chris Hall uses the opacity feature to tweak an animation of a circular, orange design.   

Opacity Basics Explained

Opacity, or opaqueness, is a measure of how much light can permeate an object. Something completely opaque, like a tree trunk, won’t allow any light to pass through. A transparent object, such as a window pane, can be seen through clearly. 

In digital graphics, such as Procreate projects, opacity capabilities allow you to make active layers more transparent. So if you’re creating a scene with ghosts, for example, and you know how to lower opacity in Procreate, you can use the feature to make characters somewhat see-through and otherworldly.   

Methods and Simple Steps to Change Opacity in Procreate

Procreate is a graphics editor for the iPad and iPhone. You can use it for digital drawing and painting, and employ features like opacity to make, undo and save adjustments. How to access and use opacity isn’t terribly obvious in Procreate, but with a little guidance you can choose one of three methods. 

Two of the methods work for Procreate on the iPad, while the third is for Procreate Pocket on the iPhone. Experiment with each to learn how to make a layer transparent in Procreate and adjust how much light gets through various objects.  

1. The Two-Finger Method

Begin by opening the “Layers” panel for your project in the top right corner and find the layer you need in the list. You can only alter opacity for one layer at a time. 

1. With two fingers, tap the layer you wish to alter opacity for

You may find it easiest to use the index and middle fingers of the same hand. An opacity slider will appear at the top of your screen, and opacity will, by default, be at 100%, or fully opaque. 

2. Slide your finger to adjust the opacity

Slide your finger to the left to reduce the opacity (make the layer more transparent), and to the right to increase opacity (make the layer more opaque). Finalize the setting by tapping the “Adjustments” icon at the top left of your screen. 

2. The Layer Settings Method

Although this method is slightly slower than the two-finger method, it’s still relatively simple and quick. 

1. Access the layers panel

Open the “Layers” menu or panel in the top right corner of your screen. 

2. Select the “N” icon next to the layer in which you want to modify opacity

You should see an “N” to the right of the layer’s name, standing for Normal Blend Mode. Layers using a different blend mode may have a different letter in the spot, but you’ll tap it, no matter what letter is there (this won’t change anything with the blend mode; it’s simply how to access the opacity slider). You’ll get a list of settings with the opacity slider at the top. 

3. Slide your finger to adjust the opacity with the slider

Slide your finger to the left to reduce the opacity (make the layer more transparent), and to the right to increase opacity (make the layer more opaque). Finalize the setting by tapping the “Adjustments” icon at the top left of your screen. 

3. For Procreate Pocket

If you use Procreate on an iPhone, it will be Procreate Pocket. You’ll access the opacity feature in a slightly different way than on an iPad, though still using a slider.

1. Access the “Modify” tab on the top menu

Look for the magic wand symbol to then open the equivalent of “Adjustments” in Procreate for the iPad.

2. From the drop-down menu, choose “Opacity”

You may need to tap “Effects” before this step, depending on the version of Procreate Pocket that you’re using. 

3. Adjust opacity by sliding your finger to your preferred level

Slide your finger to the left to reduce the opacity (make the layer more transparent), and to the right to increase opacity (make the layer more opaque). Finalize the setting by tapping the “Adjustments” icon at the top left of your screen.

Considerations for Adjusting Layer Opacity

Using opacity is relatively simple, though a couple things might trip you up. Keep these tips in mind when using opacity in Procreate for a more efficient user experience:

  • You cannot modify the opacity of more than one layer at a time. If you have multiple layers that need opacity changed, you’ll have to group and merge them into one layer. However, they will all need to have the same level of opacity. 
  • If it seems like one of your layers has disappeared, go into the list of layers and check opacity. It’s possible that you set the invisible layer’s opacity to 0%, making it fully transparent. Once you have several layers, it’s easy to forget that one has such a low opacity. 
  • Avoid a disappearing Procreate transparent layer by deselecting it, rather than setting opacity to 0%. It’s a faster and tidier option than holding onto transparent layers.   

The Art of Transforming Images Through Opacity

With an incredible digital graphics tool like Procreate, you have numerous features to take advantage of. But that doesn’t mean it’s always obvious how to access and use them. Once you know how to fade a layer on Procreate, it opens a whole new world of possibilities for your characters and settings. 

Skillshare offers a wide range of classes on Procreate and other digital graphics platforms, including learning to animate in Procreate and using Procreate brushes. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned professional, there’s always something to learn about features and techniques.

Written by:

Katie Mitchell