Every once in a while, a major technological breakthrough transforms the way we go about our personal or professional lives. If you draw, sketch, paint or create visual art, the Procreate app can be one such game changer for you. 

Designed to work with the iPad, iPhone and Apple Pencil, Procreate gives you all the benefits of working digitally—the ability to easily make revisions, create art on the go, and share your work instantaneously—while recreating the familiar experience of using brushes, pens and pencils on paper.

If you haven’t yet taken the plunge, Procreate can appear intimidating. But rest assured, the app is far easier to use than you might think. All you need are the right tools and a few helpful tips. 

What Is Procreate?

A person's hand drawing in the Procreate app on an iPad. The iPad is resting on a pink tabletop, and the drawing depicted is of three purple mushrooms under a moon and stars.
In the Skillshare class “Procreate for Beginners: Learn Illustration on the iPad in 4 Projects,” teacher Brooke Glaser draws a colorful mushroom trio using Procreate.

Procreate is an award-winning illustration, sketching, and painting app made exclusively for the iPad and iPhone. As such, it can’t be used on Android devices or desktop computers.

It’s most similar to the widely-known programs Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, though there are some key differences between them. 

When comparing Procreate and Illustrator, the core difference is that Procreate is a raster graphics editor while Illustrator is vector-based. In other words, graphics created in Procreate are made of tiny pixels, while those created in Illustrator are based on mathematical formulas. 

And if you’re looking at Procreate vs. Photoshop, you’ll notice that Procreate is mainly used to make original art while Photoshop’s primary function is to edit photos. 

A Brief History of Procreate

Procreate was invented by Savage Interactive, a tech startup located on the Australian island state of Tasmania. Their innovation put much of the power of desktop creative tools into the hands of visual artists—literally—via the iPad and Apple Pencil.

For the many illustrators, designers and artists who rely on Procreate, the app’s responsiveness and precision makes it feel almost like making art on paper.

That “natural” feeling, combined with the wide array of Procreate brushes (plus the ability to create and add your own) have tipped the scales in the app’s favor, even among experienced artists.

As a result, Procreate now has tens of thousands of positive reviews on Apple’s App Store and is among the top graphics and design apps on the platform. 

New to Procreate? Don’t worry – we’ve got plenty of tools, tips, walk-throughs, and full classes to help you get started.

The Benefits of Using Procreate

With Procreate, you can create digital art and enjoy a number of valuable benefits: 

  • Artwork is organized in a gallery format, which may be familiar to you if you’re a Photoshop user.
  • You’re able to import files from other devices and locations, use hand gestures to zoom in and out of your artwork and easily undo changes to your work.
  • You can perform professional-level compositing and layer adjustments, and generally create artwork much faster than you could using physical mediums.
  • Procreate offers easy integration with existing workflows, so you can quickly move back and forth between other apps and platforms.

Other professional-grade digital art apps do exist, but few rival Procreate’s impressive flexibility, features and functionality.

By experimenting with the app’s many tools and features, you can develop a signature art style that’s 100 percent your own.

Procreate Essentials 

Since Procreate is Apple-exclusive, you’ll need the right Apple devices to use it. 

A person's hands resting on either side of a black iPad, with her right hand holding an Apple Pencil. The iPad is displaying a repeating pink and green cactus pattern.
In the Skillshare class Create an Editable Pattern in Procreate with Color Variations, teacher Maja Faber uses an iPad and Apple Pencil to create a charming cactus pattern.

Procreate-Compatible iPads

Procreate requires iPadOS 15.4.1 or newer. Fortunately, that means it’s compatible with many different iPad models, including: 

  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th generation)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation)
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch
  • iPad (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th generation)
  • iPad mini (5th and 6th generation)
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad Air (3rd, 4th and 5th generation)
  • iPad Air 2

To be sure the app will work on the iPad you own (or are looking to purchase), check Procreate’s FAQ page for an up-to-date list of supported models. 

Using Apple Pencil with Procreate

While touchscreen gestures work just fine for most iPad apps, design apps like Procreate are even better with the precision of a stylus. And of all styluses on the market, Apple Pencil offers a little more control and customization in Procreate. 

The first-generation Apple Pencil will work with:

  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad (6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th generation)
  • iPad (10th generation)*
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd generation)
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch

If you have a second-generation Apple Pencil, it will work with: 

  • iPad mini (6th generation)
  • iPad Air (4th generation and later)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation and later)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation and later)

In terms of Procreate, the difference between the first and second-generation Apple Pencils is that the second-generation model can be tapped to switch between brushes and erasers, move from layer to layer or efficiently navigate pop-up menus. Additionally, the second-generation Apple Pencil has a flat side you may find easier to grip and control. 

While the first-generation Apple Pencil doesn’t have those advanced features, both generations can be squeezed to produce lines of varying thickness and tilted to create realistic shading. 

Want to confirm your Apple Pencil will work with your iPad? Check Apple’s compatibility guide to make sure. 

Procreate on iPhone

Thanks to an app called Procreate Pocket, Procreate isn’t only for iPads. It can also be used on iPhones, and it’s ideal for creating art on the go. 

It features brushes, a layer system, plenty of design tools and 64-bit color, just like its iPad counterpart. 

Note that unlike the iPad app, you can’t use an Apple Pencil to create art in Procreate Pocket. That’s because iPhones themselves aren’t compatible with Apple Pencils, so you’ll need to use your fingers or a third-party touchscreen stylus when drawing, painting or designing in Procreate Pocket. 

Pro tip: One product that thousands of Procreate artists swear by is Paperlike, a screen protector that makes the smooth glass surface of the iPad feel more like real paper. If you love the feeling of drawing on paper, PaperLike could be right up your alley. 

How to Use Procreate

Once you’ve downloaded the Procreate app, you’ll be able to start creating original art in seconds. 

Create a New Canvas

In the upper right corner of the Procreate app, click the “plus” sign to create a new canvas (i.e., a new artwork). 

The Procreate app opened on an iPad. A person's hand is positioned over it, with her index finger hovering over a ‘plus’ sign icon in the upper right corner.
In the Skillshare class Intro to Procreate: Illustrating on the iPad (UPDATED for 2023), teacher Brooke Glaser demonstrates how to create a new canvas.

This will open up a dropdown menu from which you can select the canvas size you’re after. You can choose from several presets, create a custom size, or just pick “screen size” to match the dimensions of your iPad’s screen. 

Actions Menu

Click on the wrench icon in the top left toolbar to access the actions menu. This is where you can make adjustments to your canvas and tools. Play around with the settings to find what works best for you. We recommend turning on the light interface and brush cursor, both of which can be found under the “prefs” tab.

Learn More About Procreate

Procreate Fundamentals: Everything You Didn’t Realize You Wanted to Know

QuickMenu

Before exiting the actions menu, tap and hold anywhere on the canvas to bring up the QuickMenu. You can customize this menu to contain actions you’ll frequently use. For instance, you might want to add the option to rotate your canvas; think of it as turning your paper as you draw. 

Brushes 

Just as you use pens and pencils to draw in real life, brushes are the tools you’ll use in Procreate to create your art. The app comes with 200 pre-installed brushes, but you can unlock even more options by customizing existing Procreate brushes, creating your own or buying brushes from other artists. 

Three Procreate brushes arranged side by side. One is labeled ‘Lisa’s Pencil’ and looks like pencil shading, one is labeled ‘Roasted’ and looks like charcoal, and one is labeled ‘Salt Shaker’ and looks like scattered speckles.
In the Skillshare class Procreate for Beginners: Learn the Basics & Sell Your Artwork, teacher Cat Coquillette shows the three brushes her students will receive.

To choose which Procreate brush you’d like to draw with, tap the paintbrush-shaped icon in your canvas’ upper right toolbar to use the Brush tool. Tap it again to open up the Brush Library. You’ll have hundreds of options, but we suggest selecting one of the default pencils to start with (you can find them in the “sketching” section). Once you’ve explored Procreate’s built-in brushes and are ready to branch out, try downloading brushes created by other artists. 

Smudge Tool 

Right next to the brush icon in the upper right toolbar, you’ll see an icon shaped like a hand with a pointed finger. This is the Smudge tool, and it gives you the ability to blend sections of your work, mix colors and soften brush strokes.

Erase Tool 

The Erase tool, located just to the right of the Smudge tool, also has the same set of brush options. You can use the Erase tool to undo mistakes and remove pigment, as well as to blend.

Layers 

To the right of the Eraser tool you’ll see the Layers tool, represented by an icon shaped like two overlapping squares. This tool allows you to isolate elements of your artwork to manipulate or add effects without affecting the entire piece. 

The Procreate app opened on an iPad, with a floral design on the canvas. A person's hand is using a stylus to open a menu titled ‘Layers’ in the upper right corner.
In the Skillshare class Dramatic and Vivid Luxurious Garden in Procreate Part 1 – Clipping Masks and Layering for Dimension, teacher Delores Naskrent shows students how to use layers to create a floral design.

You can designate a primary layer and create as many secondary layers as you want, continually moving, grouping, adjusting, merging, blending or otherwise customizing your layers as you work.

Colors

Next to the Layers icon, tap the round dot to bring up the color menu. Simply tap on the color you want to use and start drawing or painting. You can also save your favorite colors and create your own custom colors from this menu. 

Brush Size and Opacity

The left sidebar contains sliders to adjust brush size and opacity. You can use the opacity slider to control how opaque or transparent your brush strokes and smudges are, as well as to control how much pigment the Erase tool removes.

Undo and Redo 

The left sidebar contains buttons to undo and redo your last actions. You can also tap your screen with two fingers to undo, or tap it with three fingers to redo.

Animating in Procreate

You’re not limited to creating still images in Procreate. With the help of its included animation tools, you can also create unique animations. 

Turn On Animation Assist

Procreate’s built-in Animation Assist tool makes it easier to turn your artwork into an animation. To turn it on, open the Actions menu, navigate to the ‘Canvas’ tab and turn on the Animation Assist toggle.

The user interface of the Procreate app. On the canvas is an image of a black cat lounging in a yellow chair. The Actions menu is open in the upper left corner, and within that menu a toggle labeled ‘Animation Assist’ is turned on.
In the Skillshare class Fun With Spaces: Create a Stylised Scene in Procreate + Animation, teacher Charly Clements demonstrates how to animate in Procreate with Animation Assist.

Tweak Animation Settings

Create some layers for your animation—Procreate will turn each layer into its own frame. Then, tap the “settings” button in the lower menu to control how Animation Assist works. 

Here, you can tell Procreate how you want your animation to play (loop, ping-pong or one shot), adjust the speed of your animation by changing the frames per second, and even display semi-transparent copies of your drawings on either side of your current frame (this is known as “onion-skinning”). 

The user interface of the Procreate app. On the canvas is an image of a black cat lounging in a yellow chair. The ‘settings’ menu is open at the bottom of the screen and displays a number of animation-related options.
Charly Clements changes the Animation Assist settings for an animation.

Export and Add Sound

To export your finished animation, open the Actions menu, select the “share” tab, and click any of the animated options. You can choose “animated GIF,” “animated PNG” or “animated MP4,” depending on your desired file format. 

In the following example, the artist has chosen “animated GIF.” Once you make your selection, you’ll be able to specify several parameters, including frames per second. Click “export,” and your animation will be saved to your device. 

The user interface of the Procreate app. On the canvas is an image of a black cat lounging in a yellow chair. A menu titled ‘animated GIF’ is open on the left side of the screen, and displays various export settings.
While exporting her animated GIF, Charly Clements shows students how to modify their export settings.

If you want to add sounds to your animation, you won’t be able to do so directly in the Procreate app. Instead, you’ll need to upload your creation to another. Apple’s iMovie is an easy-to-use choice, and chances are it’s already installed on your iPad by default. 

One App, Endless Creativity

Despite being so easy to download and use, Procreate allows you to create a limitless array of unique artworks. Artists on Skillshare have used it to create dreamy botanical drawings, digital hand lettering, colorful landscapes and even fabric patterns.

So if you’ve been wanting to give Procreate a try, take this as your sign to jump in and get started.

Want More? Watch Jarom Vogel’s Full Class

Digital Illustration: Learn to Use Procreate

Written By
Carrie Buchholz

Carrie Buchholz

Carrie Buchholz is a freelance writer who lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and dog.

  • Click here to share on Twitter
  • Click here to share on Facebook
  • Click here to share on LinkedIn
  • Click here to share on Pinterest