Creating a Digital Collage in Procreate | Alison Kolesar | Skillshare

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Creating a Digital Collage in Procreate

teacher avatar Alison Kolesar, Artist and Illustrator

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Gathering your papers


    • 3.

      Creating the outline


    • 4.

      Starting the collage


    • 5.

      Alternative ways to copy and paste


    • 6.

      Making adjustments


    • 7.

      Final tweaks and thoughts


    • 8.

      One more collage


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About This Class

This class will teach you how to use your own unique hand-painted and printed papers in a digital collage. It will show the process by which you can photograph your papers, and cut and paste them digitally. It assumes some basic familiarity with the Procreate app and will be best suited to those who already enjoy collage but are looking to transition to doing that digitally. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Alison Kolesar

Artist and Illustrator


I've worked as an artist and illustrator for many years although my academic training was in history and art history. I've illustrated over a 100 books, mostly how-tos on crafts and gardening. I also love to paint in watercolor and create collages as well as making papier mache birds, painting rocks, and creating paper jewelry. You can see some of my work at my Etsy store, Alisonsart as well as my website

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Level: Intermediate

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Alison Kolesar. I'm an artist and illustrator and I love sharing some of the ways I've learned to create beautiful art. Working in collage is great for all kinds of reasons. I find it makes me less precious with fiddly details. It encourages me to be bolder and to simplify the shapes I use. It helps me find unexpected juxtapositions of color, and it allows for lots of interesting textures. I have another Skillshare class called collage from scratch, which talks about the many, many ways you can create your own hand painted or printed papers to use in collage. But what if you find the whole process of making physical collages just too messy, you hate having sticky fingers. This class is about how you can use those unique papers you created to make a collage digitally using an iPad and Apple Pencil. And the Procreate app. You'll still use your own lovely hand painted papers, but you won't have a floor and the work table covered in little snippets of paper. Your fingers won't be all sticky with glue. And you can even make your art curled up on the couch. I'm going to assume you already have a certain amount of experience with Procreate. If you're an absolute beginner, you should first find another Skillshare class that will teach you the basics. This class will give you the information you need to create beautiful collage work digitally. 2. Gathering your papers: I'm going to assume that you already have a stash of physical papers that you've painted, crayoned, inked, decorated in whatever way made you happy. I have a few here of my own that was done with acrylics. This made use of a crackle medium which breaks up the top layer of the paint like that. That one is watercolor. Another acrylic. And of course, you can always use bits out of paintings, either if they didn't work so well or if you still plan to use them because you're not going to be actually cutting them. If you don't have a pile like that and you'd like some ideas, Consider taking my class called collage from scratch. Tons of techniques for creating your own unique collage papers. Of course, it's also easy to find colored or patterned images on the Internet. But there are a couple of obvious problems with that. If you haven't found something on a copyright free site or paid to download an image, you may be using someone else's work without permission. Also, images found on the Internet are likely to be low resolution and could end up looking pixelated in your final collage. That's why it's best to use your own paintings. There are no copyright issues and your final product will be 100% your own work. The first step is to either scan or photograph your papers. I often use a scanner and adjust the levels in Photoshop. But the simplest thing is simply to take a photo with your iPad and then use the Edit function to adjust for contrast or brightness or color if you need to. Here's the photograph I took of that piece of paper. You can see that there's a little bit of the table visible behind it. I might not want to include this little bit of torn paper here. So if I go up to Edit, I can use that to make the image a little smaller. Then I might decide that I want to make it a little brighter. So I can go over here, find brightness, and scroll up a bit here. And obviously there are lots of other adjustments that you could choose to do and you can make further adjustments once it's in Procreate. I'm going to click Done. Now this little arrow allows you to send this image somewhere else. And what I'm going to do is to add to this album here. I've already set up an album within my photographs called collage papers. I simply tap on collage papers. This image is in there. That way all of the images that I use for my collage papers, which actually could do this in the same place. Under albums, collage papers. And here you see a bunch of things that I've collected over time. Different textures, different patterns that I've created. A few photographs, even just paper textures. Here's the new one that we just added. 3. Creating the outline: It's time to start creating our collage. Go into Procreate to your gallery here, and add a new canvas. You can either make something completely new dimensions, in which case you're gonna click on that little thing with a plus sign. Or you can use a size You’ve used before. I'm going to use this eight inch by eight inch square. You just want to make sure that your piece isn't so small that it wouldn't reproduce. Should you want to print it out later or so big that you won't have enough layers to work with. The first step is to make a base drawing. I'm going to keep it fairly simple. I'm using a pencil that comes with Procreate. And I'm gonna make a little bird. I love drawing birds because they can be both decorative and realistic. Now this is obviously pretty sketchy as I'm still figuring out. What I wanted to do. His head a little bit fatter. Now you could obviously do this stage on paper instead of directly in the Procreate app. But if you do that and once you photograph your drawing and brought it into procreate, you'll need to add another layer and trace over your drawing. Because what you want are the outlines with no white background. Now, because I was working quite sketchily and have multiple lines here, I'm also going to add a layer and switch from my pencil to the inking and studio pen and make the first layer, turned off the first layer. Somewhat lighter. Then work on the second layer to create a more precise, well-defined outline. This is gonna be your guide. It obviously can be changed along the way, but it's a starting point. If you knew that you were gonna be using almost exclusively dark colors in your papers, you could make this outline light. I know that I'm going to be using mostly light-colored papers. My outline needs to be dark. Okay, so now I can turn off that first sketch layer, and I'm left with this outline. That is going to be my guide for when I bring in the papers. 4. Starting the collage: We're ready to start adding our collage papers. What order you choose to work in is up to you. If you're figuring your image out as you go along. But you already know that you want to use a particular paper in the foreground, it might make sense to start with that and then add a background later. For this particular image, I think it's gonna make most sense to work from the background forwards as you would in a real collage, where you're gluing pieces on top of each other. When you're ready to add a collage paper, go to the top left of your screen, to the wrench icon. Then you want to be showing this add. Then go to Insert a Photo. Now this will take you to your camera roll. You can then go to albums, collage papers, and pick the one you want. I'm going to use this blue paper. As you see, it's not quite big enough to fit my Canvas as I have it. So I'm just going to expand it. I use free form, then I can expand it this way and this way without changing the sides. Okay. There's my background color in my layers panel. It's underneath the outline, so you can still see the outline. Now obviously, I didn't need to do any cutting for that one. But we'll do the branch next on that. We'll need some cutting. Go back up to the hopes that one, Yes, I want to insert a photo, albums, collage papers. Let's use this one which has lots of interesting textures. It's not quite the right shape and place for the branch as I have it, so I'm simply going to move it a little bit until it's good. Let's also just make the canvas little smaller so we can see better. Now, I'm going to make sure I’m on the imported layer. I'm going to go to that small S selection tool and select this branch, join it up and that is selected. Now the simplest thing is to go down here. Copy and paste. Oops, didn't work It’s not in the layers. Try again. Copy and paste. And then when you go into your layers, you can see, there it is. If I turn that one off, you can see the branch. As you can see, my outline really was just a guide. I can certainly come back in with the eraser and do a little cleaning up. Let's try this again with a leaf. Go to the wrench. Add, insert a photo, albums, collage papers. Let's pick a nice green. I'm going to go to the selection tool. Select all the way around, copy and paste. To my layers panel. You can see it's there. Turn that off. And there you see it. This is the process you'll repeat each time when you bring a new piece of paper into your design. One thing to be aware of is that the selection tool can be a little hard to use precisely. You're likely to end up with some little extra bits sometimes where you join the start and end of your selection line. Part of the charm of collage, whether it's done with scissors or the selection tool is the less than perfect line. But sometimes things get a little too wonky. So be prepared to go back in with your eraser and smooth out some of those lines as necessary. Because we've been copying and pasting our selections, rather than cutting and pasting. The papers we've imported remain intact in the layers panel and can be used over and over. Just make sure to go back to the right layer. Each time when you want to use them. Having said that, it's nice to have plenty of variety in the papers you use. For example, I wouldn't recommend using the same one for all of the leaves. Two or three different papers will give some nice visual variety. I'm now going to continue working, but speed up the video. 5. Alternative ways to copy and paste: Just a quick word about some different methods of copying and pasting or cutting and pasting. I'm working on version 5.2.5 of procreate and you may have a different version in case you don't see, let's see, let me make a selection. In case you don't see that handy copy and paste button at the bottom of your screen when you've made a selection. Here are a couple of other ways to do the same thing. First, the three-finger swipe. Now I've seen videos. When, when you do that, There's a copy and paste option, but here you can see I either have copy or I have cut and paste. So if I click on cut-and-paste, it shows up in my selection here. But you can also see that it's made a hole in the base paper. Let's make a different selection. Oops, I'm gonna make sure I go back to the base layer, make another selection, and do the three-finger swipe again. This time I'm going to hit Copy. I'm going to go up into my layers panel and add a layer. Three fingers swipe and paste. There it is. Here's one more method. Go back to the base paper. Select it again. Go up to the wrench icon, make sure we're on Add. Go down to copy. Again over to the Layers panel. Add a layer. Back to the wrench. Paste. There it is. You'll see only one of these made a hole in the base paper because only one of them was cutting as opposed to copying. But I did make sure each time I took my subsequent selections to do it away from that area where there was a hole 6. Making adjustments: We're at the point where we don't need the outline anymore. Let's go in to the layers and turn it off. Things certainly look very different when you turn it off. You can now see clearly where there are edges that need tidying up with the eraser like this. And it's also time to think about whether you want to make any adjustments to the color or size of the individual elements. Here's where the benefit of keeping everything on separate layers really comes in. I think I'm going to want to make my leaves bigger. To do that, I have to go into the layers, Make sure I have the right one selected. Let’s see. That's this one. With this tool on that little arrow button, I can gradually Pull the corner out, just make that leaf a little bit bigger. Pull it down a tiny bit too. Let’s go and do another one. Let's pick this one. Arrow tool. Pull it out a little bit like that. Now I could decide also that I wanted to change the color or saturation or brightness of any individual element. To do that, I once again have to make sure I'm on the right layer. And then use this little adjustment button here that looks like a magic wand. For example, I think the wing needs to be more clearly distinguished from the rest of the body of the bird. I'm going to adjust that. There we go. That's the wing. Click on that little magic wand. And then I'm going to go to hue, saturation, brightness. I think I'll make it a little bit darker. So then it's clearly standing out from the rest of the bird I made. Increase the saturation a little bit. But it may be that the pink is just too similar. So I can then play with the hue. A little bit more orange in that direction. A little bit more towards purply pink in that direction. I think I like that better. If you look closely, This is also one of those places where the selection tool has given me a little extra bump here. While I'm working on that layer, I will just erase that. I'm also not really fond of the yellow decorative element on the tail. So I'm going to play with the color of that little bit. That layer. Go into the Magic Wand. Hue, Saturation, Brightness. Let's see. That’s getting too green. I think I like it better if it goes a bit more in the pinky direction. Increase the saturation a little bit. Maybe decrease the brightness, Okay, that works better. It's also possible that you might want to emphasize an edge on one of your cut pieces. If this were a physical collage, you'd probably be able to see a little cast shadow by the edge of the paper. And there are a couple of ways working digitally where you can emphasize where one cut Piece meets another. I'm going to create little bit of an edge on the bottom of the wing. Let's go back to that layer. Then I'm going to turn the alpha lock on. That. This will mean that any lines that I make will stay on this selection and not anywhere else. Let's see, basically that kind of pink if I'm just go for a darker pink. And I think I'm going to go with my 6B pencil rather than something as hard as an ink. I'm just going to very carefully come along the edge. I don't want to overdo it. But let's just again emphasize that edge. Now, I could also either instead or as well, create a shadow underneath that wing on the layer that's beneath it. So here's the layer that has the body of the bird. I think I will go with something even more diffuse, like this bonobo chalk. Remember I'm actually working on the bird itself, not the wing. So it's going to show up along the edge here. Obviously, how much of any of that you do is just a matter of personal preference. You obviously don't need to create your whole picture from collaged papers. You might find that the process gets a little tedious to use over and over again. Maybe the surface of your image starts feeling too busy and you want some untextured areas where your eye can rest. Feel free to add any details or whole sections using the various brushes in procreate. For example, I'm going to draw my bird's eye as opposed to cutting out a shape for it. Fairly dark. I'm going to add a layer for that just in case it doesn't work out. And I want to change it. And go back to six B pencil rather than the chalk and draw in the eye. Similarly, you could decide you wanted to draw veins on your leaves. Or draw in some flowers. There are no rules here. Do whatever works for you and for your artwork. I'm going to go on working on this piece. But I'm going to speed up the video. 7. Final tweaks and thoughts: I'm going to stop at this point I think. I wanted to keep it fairly simple for demonstration purposes. The blessing and the curse of this kind of digital work is that you can keep fiddling with it forever. When you're working with a real collage and you finally glue something down, then that's pretty much it. You've made your decision. With digital work, you can keep coming in and making changes. And at some point you have to say, okay, that's it. Thanks so much for coming along on this digital collaging journey with me. I hope you've had fun and learned some useful things. And I hope you've been able to see the possibilities for your own art. To my mind not much beats the potential of collage. Whether you use it throughout a piece or just in a few spots to provide interesting textures in your pictures. Some digital work only ever looks like it was created digitally. By including images of your hand painted papers, Your final product will itself look much more hand produced. Now go and practice it for yourself. It's the only way to make the steps stick in your mind. Use any imagery you're comfortable with. I'd love to see what you produce. And please do upload your work to the project gallery. In parting, here's a little digital collage flower inspiration.