Digital Watercolors on Your iPad Using Procreate + FREE Digital Watercolor Brushes | Liz Kohler Brown | Skillshare

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Digital Watercolors on Your iPad Using Procreate + FREE Digital Watercolor Brushes

teacher avatar Liz Kohler Brown, artist | designer | teacher | author

Watch this class and thousands more

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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.

      Digital Watercolors in Procreate


    • 2.

      Downloads Password + Materials & Textures


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Create a Painting


    • 5.

      Paint from a Photograph


    • 6.

      Create a Cutout


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About This Class

In this class, I'll show you how to use the iPad app Procreate to make watercolor paintings that look like real pigment on paper.  Procreate doesn’t come with any high quality watercolor brushes, so I created 9 brushes and a watercolor paper texture that I want to share with you as free downloads.  

I’ll show you how to:

  • use my brushes to create watercolor effects lIke wet on wet, layering, and blending
  • use textured paper to bring a real watercolor texture into your paintings
  • turn a photograph into a sketch
  • paint over your sketch with watercolor brushes

If you’ve never used Procreate before, don’t worry, I’ll show you every step of my process so even if you’re a complete beginner you can easily follow along with this class.  

You'll learn how to create:

  • an abstract watercolor painting
  • a more realistic illustration style painting
  • and a calligraphy cutout

If you already know a lot about Procreate, you may want to skip to my more advanced classes on watercolors in Procreate.  You can check those out here.

Click to download the paper and brushes. (the password is shown at the beginning of the class)

Looking for more inspiration? Head here to discover more classes on watercolor.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Liz Kohler Brown

artist | designer | teacher | author


** Watch the Mini-Course **

*** Get the Procreate Foundations Mini-Course ***

^^ I created this mini-course for all of my students who have never worked in Procreate, or have used it before but feel like they're "missing something". Dive in to Procreate with me to see how easy it can be!

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Level: Beginner

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1. Digital Watercolors in Procreate: Hi everyone. I'm Liz from water and pigment and I want to show you how to use Procreate on your iPad with the Apple pencil to make watercolor paintings that look like real pigment on paper. Procreate doesn't come with any high-quality watercolor brushes. So, I created nine brushes that I want to share with you as a free download. I'll show you how to use the brushes to create watercolor effects like wet on wet, layering and blending. I also created a free downloadable water color texture paper that we'll use in this class to bring your real watercolor texture into our paintings. I'll show you how to turn a photograph into a sketch and how to paint over your sketch with watercolor brushes that look just like the real thing. I absolutely love this process and I can't wait to share it with you. If you've never used Procreate before, don't worry. I'm going to show you every step of my process. So, even if you're a complete beginner, you can follow along with this class. So let's get started. 2. Downloads Password + Materials & Textures: You can find all of the materials that I mentioned in this class in the about section of the class page, and here is the password that you'll need to access that page. To take this class, you really only need two things, an iPad and a stylus. I do recommend the Apple pencil since its pressure sensitive, but you could use a regular stylus. It just wouldn't have the same effect that you'll see me demonstrating here today. One other thing you may want to get that's super cheap, but it makes a big difference, is a little rubber pencil grip. I got this set for about $2 and it's made for a regular pencil, but it fits the Apple pencil perfectly and these are really sticky, so it makes it much easier to hold onto the pencil. You'll see when you use this pencil that it's a little bit slick, and to get more control, you really need a grip. I want to show you what you'll need for this class and how to import the downloadable brushes and the texture paper. But before we get started, I wanted to note that if you use Procreate often and you're familiar with how to install the brushes and use the blending modes. You may want to go ahead and skip to my more advanced classes on watercolors and Procreate. I cover some more advanced blending and darkening methods in these classes, so if this class seems too basic for your level, you could go ahead and skip to the more advanced versions. The first thing we need to do is set up our file with the water color texture paper. I'll open Procreate and click "Plus" to open a new document. I'll just open this at screen size. But you may want to make a larger size depending on what your final use is. This would only be a few inches wide four print, so you may want something bigger, but for now I'm going to start with this. I'll pinch here to make this smaller, and then over in the toolbar section, I'll click "Image" and then insert a photo. I've saved this in my photo section here. This is just the white watercolor page and the rotate button down here will turn this, and then the expand button will make it fit the canvas. Then I'll click my arrow here to set it on the canvas. I want to change the layer blending mode to multiply. That's going to allow the watercolor to bleed through. That's going to make a really nice effect. The next thing I'll do is swipe left here and click "Duplicate". Now, I have two of those pages, and I'll click on that layer, the bottom layer and click "Linear Burn", so that's another layer style that will add some opacity and will allow the watercolors to really blend with the paper texture. You can see there's a little bit of darkness down here at the corner. I want to even this out a little bit. What I'll do is click my move tool, and then rotate this paper the opposite way. Now, I have more of an even blend across the paper and these two layers will blend nicely together. I'm going to add one more layer. You can name these. It's optional, but I do like to name them just so I can stay organized. I'll name this Paint. For this layer I want it to be set to multiply, so I have a multiply layer, a linear burn layer, and a paint layer that's for multiply. I'll swipe to the left here and click "Duplicate". I'm going to do that a few times because I like to use several different layers to paint. For this one, I really want to have a lot of options. This page is actually going to be my template. I don't have to do this every time I create a new document because I'll go to my gallery. I'll click, "Select", select that, and click "Duplicate". I may do that a few times depending on how many you'll think you'll create this exact size. Some people don't like the, oops, let me go back here. Let's call this our template. Some people don't like how dark this paper is. Sometimes I'll make my paper a little bit lighter. If you want to do that, just go into your page and click on your paper layer and reduce the opacity on each one. So that just makes your paper a little bit lighter. That's another option. It's totally personal preference here, so you can set this however you'd like. 3. Brushes: Now that we have our document created and ready for painting, we need to go ahead and grab the brushes. You'll see the link to download these brushes on the About page of this class. Then we can go into Procreate, just open any of these documents that you've created, and click over here on the brush panel. You'll see the little brush tool here, and then you'll see the plus sign, and that allows you to import a new brush. I'm going to click Import, and then I save these to my Dropbox. At this point, if you had saved them somewhere else, maybe you save them in iCloud Drive or Google Drive or on your iPad, wherever you save them, this will be the same for you. But for me it would be Dropbox because that's where I saved it. Then you can see all my brushes are in here, they have the Procreate logo. You just go ahead and click on the brush that you want, and it'll load that brush into your Procreate app. I already have all these brushes, so I'm not going to click that right now, but you have everything you need to do this, just click on each individual one. You do have to do this for each individual brush, you can't do it for folder as a whole. That's one downside of Procreate, maybe they'll fix that with the next version. I'm going to click Cancel because I've already put all my brushes into my Procreate app. Once you download all of these, they're actually going to be in a section called Imported, so you can leave them in there, or what I like to do is organize my brushes into how I use them. I created a new set by clicking here, New Set, and then you can make a title here. You could call these Watercolor Brushes, and press Enter, and then you can go grab those brushes that you downloaded, click on them and drag them into that new folder. That's a nice way to just keep track of your brushes, and then if you want to change that set or delete it or move it into another set, you can easily just click and drag with these. Now that I have all of my brushes here, I want to go ahead and test these out, you can do this on a blank document, I'll click Gallery, and get a blank document, but I've actually already created a document for these, so I'll use that one. I'm just pinching with two fingers to make this a little bit smaller. Let's take a look at how each brush behaves, and I'm just going to grab a pink color I like here, and I'm clicking on the folder and then I'm clicking on the first brush. This brush I named Fade Out because it does exactly that. As you're painting with it, it starts to fade out. It has a hard start, and then it fades to almost nothing. You can see, if you click and drag, the beginning is very strong, and then it gets lighter and lighter as you go. You can really see that if you click and drag a long piece. The next brush is called Liquid Smooth, and this one is really smooth and almost like a digital painting effect. I would say this looks the least real, but it's really nice for blending, so I'll show you some blending effects with this one. But the harder you press, the darker it is, so you can start out really light and then get harder as you go. This one's called Heavy Bleed, and this one's pretty big. I'm going to make this a little smaller on my brushes panel here, and you can see this one makes a huge mark. If you barely touch, you almost can't see it, so it makes it a really nice wash, and then also it gets darker as you go down. This is called Rough and Chaotic and that's exactly what it is, you almost never know what this pressure is going to do, but it's nice for abstract pieces. You can see how I'm keeping the same pressure, but I'm getting a different effect in random places. I like that one for maybe a rough texture background. The next one is called Even Wash, and this creates a really even watercolor effect. If you wanted to start your canvas with a light wash, this would be a great brush to use. It doesn't change the darkness based on how hard you press, it only changes the width. This one's called Heavy Dark, let's make this one a little bit smaller so you can see it. You can see it's dark and it has some dark edges too, that's what I like about this. If you just press and turn, it really looks like a real watercolor where it has those dark pieces on the edge. Here I'll start out light and get heavier, and that makes a nice bleed. This is a Rough brush, and this makes a really nice varied line or varied mark. Each time you press, you're going to get a different texture. It's not the same every time, even though I pressed about the same pressure each time. It makes a nice blurring effect as well. This is a Medium Round brush, this one's nice for watercolor details. With all of these, you can increase or decrease the size based on what you want to make. But if you wanted to add some nice line detail to something, this would be a great brush. Then the last one is Fine Detail. This one's going to be great for tiny little details, and you can see it has a really thin start, so you can make eyelashes or hair or any tiny little line work with this one. Those are all of our brushes. 4. Create a Painting: Now that we have tested out all of the brushes, let's go ahead, and start with an abstract painting. I like starting out with an abstract piece because you don't have to worry if it looks perfect. This is really just going to be to test out the brushes, and play around with color a little bit, so choose any of your duplicate Canvases that you created here, and then I just pinch to make this fit within the Canvas bounds, and one important short-cut here that you'll see me use a lot is to step backwards, so let's say I make a mark, and then I accidentally make a stray mark or I hit the Canvas with my finger. You can easily step back by taking both fingers, and tapping one time, and you can keep doing that. If you want to step forward, you can use three fingers to step forward. The first thing I want to do before I paint anything is click my Layers Panel, and make sure I'm on a Paint Layer. You don't want to paint on your paper layer, so just double-check that you're using a paint layer before you make any marks. The next thing I like to do is start by creating a color palette. You don't have to do this, you can certainly just choose the colors as you paint, but I really like to start with a palette I feel like it helps me be a little bit more organized with my colors. If you want to do that, click "Pallets" on the right, and then click the "Plus sign" up here so you'll see it's an untitled palette, I like to name those. Let's call these pinks, and then click anywhere to set that. Then you can go back to your desk, and just find the color that you like, and then click down here, and as with watercolors, there tends to be a natural variation that comes with watercolor painting. When you're mixing paints, and blending paints together, they end up being a lot of variation, so I do try to create that in my digital watercolor paintings too, you definitely don't have to do that. This is just my personal style, but this is one good way to do it. Just get a wide range of whatever color you are using, and then alternate between those colors with the brushes, so you can use that color palette. I have an older palette that I want to use here, and just click "Set default" and then that goes back to your main color palette, so here I'll get my medium. Let's do the heavy dark brush for this one, just to get a feel for this brash, and I may try the heavy bleed, and the heavy dark together, so let's start with the heavy dark. I'm just going to lay down some basic shapes here, and you can do any shape you want, and you don't even have to create a piece here, you could just be doing some mark making to practice working with these brushes. You can see here if you overlap these, you can get a really nice effect, especially when the colors are really different from each other. Like if I grab a green here, that can make a really nice overlap, so I'm going to keep doing this with all my other colors here. I'll speed up the video, so you don't have to watch all these steps, but one last thing we'll do before I speed my video up is, let's do a little bit of blending, so if I grab a dark color here, and then I add a little bit more dark in the corner, and maybe a little more, and a little more. I like this, but I'm not crazy about this line here that makes it obvious that it's a digital piece. I'm going to take my blending tool right beside the brush tool, and choose a nice soft brush. Let's use the liquid smooth, and then, oops, I' m going to decrease the size of it a little bit, and zoom in, and you can see you can easily zoom, and turn at the same time, and then I'm just going to go with that liquid smooth brash, and do tiny little blends. Doesn't have to be drastic. Just a little bit, so it really looks like water, and that's really good enough. It looks like a water puddle from here, so I'll continue doing this with all the other colors, and you can see what this looks like in the end with these nice overlaps, and some blended petals. I like how that looks, starting out, there's some really nice places here where it's like a little watercolor bleed, a little overlapping, some different colors overlapping together, so this is great time to just really play with all the brushes see how the overlapping looks like, and maybe then add another layer, and color on top of that, so let's go ahead, and do that. I'm going to make this layer invisible, and I'm going to move to a different layer, and so let's paint the same way on this layer, and then combine those two layers, so I'll speed my video here. That layer looks good, I'll go ahead and reveal my other layer, and despite the a little bit chaotic for you, I like this abstract feeling, so I'm really reduce the opacity of these two layers because I really want to see the layering, so if I zoom in here, you can see there's a lot of nice watercolor overlaps, and you may even see some colors that look great together, and some colors that don't look great together, so this is a great time to just get to know your color palette, play around with layering, play around with the opacity, and that's probably good for this piece, and in the next one, we'll go ahead, and try to create a more realistic looking watercolor. 5. Paint from a Photograph: We've worked on an abstract piece. We've played around with all of the brushes and blending. Now we're ready to create a watercolor illustration or a more realistic looking watercolor. I've chosen to do a watermelon slice, that's a nice, easy shape to start with. I like to use a reference picture, especially to get some realistic colors and shapes, so I tend to use the site Unsplash. This is a site that allows you to use all of the images on the site for free. They can be used for commercial use, personal use, sketching, anything at all, so you don't have to credit the creator. I would just go on this site and search something like watermelon and then just scan through the pictures and download the ones I like. You can see there's a lot of great options from the site. I've already saved some images to my computer that I really like. I'll just open Procreate, open one of my blank canvases and pinch to make this fit on the screen. Then I'll click my little tool up here and click insert a photo, if you saved it to your photos, or insert a file if you saved it to your files. I saved a couple different images, but I really like this single watercolor slice here. I like the colors, and I also like the image itself. I'm pinching or the opposite of pinching to make it bigger and then just moving one finger to move it around. That looks good. It doesn't really matter where this is and I can move it later. I'll click the arrow. I'm going to make my paper layers invisible for now just so I can really see this picture. Let's rename this layer picture. I want to grab some of the colors out of here. There's some nice watermelon shades and the shade of the rind. Let's do the same thing we did with the abstract piece. We'll click palettes, plus to create a new palette, and I'll call this watermelon. Then to get the color, you actually can't use your pencil for this. You use your finger. I'm going to put my finger down on hold and then when I see a color I like, it selects it up here and then I'll just click the palette. I'm going to get a few different shades from this watermelon. If you accidentally close that window, it's fine, you can always go back to it. Whoops, I always forget you can't use your pencil for this. There are a few reds and a light cream that you see on the rind. Let's get some green from the edge and then I'll get some black from the seeds. This doesn't have to be perfect. This could be a blue watermelon. It can be whatever you want it to be. But I really like just starting out with a nice set of colors that I am happy with. Now I've got my color palette. I want to take a little outline of this as a guide for my painting. I'll click my layers palette, take a sketch layer, and let's bring this on top of my picture so I can see it really well. Then I'll also go to my picture layer and make it a little more transparent so I can see my sketch really well. Let's rename this layer, sketch. So I have a sketch layer and then my picture layer below it, and my paper's still invisible. I'm just going to grab one of the pre-set Procreate pencils here. Let's just choose a dark color. I'm just going to go around and take a general sketch of this shape and also mark out some of the color areas that I want to watch for. For example, I have the green part of the rind here, and then the wider part of the watermelon here, and then the watermelon gets really dark in here. I like to just map those areas out as a guide. Now that I have that I can make my picture invisible. I'm also going to make this layer a little more transparent so it's not too distracting. Then let's go ahead and bring back the paper and make sure you're on a paint layer, not a paper layer or a sketch layer. Let's go ahead and lay down some of that rind color just to fill in the shape. I'm going to click my brush set here. I like to start with just a light wash, so this heavy bleed is nice. The even wash is nice. I like the heavy bleed because it's a little more varied than the even wash. That goes with my style better. Let's make this not huge, but a medium size brush. You can barely see this color, but honestly that's what I like about it. It's really subtle so you can come in and just like a watercolor wash. You can see I'm going outside the lines a little bit. We're going to erase some of that later, so I don't worry too much about going outside the lines. I want to get a little more color and I'm trying to be uneven just like a normal watercolor painting would be, and I'm trying to do a lot of color layers. I marked out that area here that's a little darker. We'll add a little bit more red to that area. You can see how we're just building up color. We're just slowly adding in red and making some nice watercolor marks here. I would like to have some more red in this tip area. I think I'll get a brighter red and I'll get my heavy dark brush. I'm just going to go through and add it in and then we'll blend it. That's pretty good. Let's get our blender and let's start with the liquid smooth blender, I like that one. Just going over making it a little bit bigger. Going over that area to make it nice and water-like. I'm really just going over the edge. I'm not really touching the outside area. Just set hard edge that I want to make disappear. Let's also do this same thing here with the heavy bleed, brush. I like that new red shade that we've got. That looks good. I think I'll go ahead and start with my green. I'm going to make my brush a heavy dark brush. Just to pass or to over this. Let me go back and get a lighter brush for them. I'm trying to do a lot of different passes. I'm trying to not do it all in one stroke. I could easily just pick one big brush and do it all in one stroke. But I think doing it in little marks makes it look a lot more like a real watercolor. I want to make that dark fine line along the edge. I think I'll use my fine detail brush. Get a darker green. Actually let's get a slightly wider brush here. Let's do that. Then I'll get a lighter green and you can see this is really a personal style thing. You certainly don't have to do this like I'm doing it. You, hopefully have a totally different way and maybe even a better way of doing this. Anyone who's worked a lot with watercolors is probably seeing this and saying, I know about a million things you could do to make that better. Please, in the comments, share with us some things you've realized and things you noticed while you are doing this. That would really help everybody, get this heavy bleed brush. I want to add a little bit of green, a different green shade here. Let's get a lighter green. I'm going to go ahead and erase all the places where I got outside my lines. You just want to make sure you have a good brush for that. Let's get the heavy round that's a little bit more stable. I'm just cleaning this up around the edges. I want to go ahead and make my sketch invisible and I'm going to put my seeds on a separate layer. I have my seed layer here. I think to make the seeds, I'll get my detail brush and I'll get the black. I'm just going to make these a little more random. Once you get your base watercolor established here, you can come in with the blending brash like we did, and blend some things to make it look a little more like a smooth watercolor. Let's get the blending brush on the medium round. I'll just zoom in here and do some little strokes just to blend those two colors together. This is optional you may like the definition between the two colors, so you could definitely change that. Let me turn my screen here. I think I want to add a little bit of white over here. I'll get my eraser and I'll get the heavy bleed brush. I'm just going to do little strokes around the top here to lighten this up. Doing that a little along the blend lines can help blend two colors together as well. I'll do a little bit more cleaning up around the edge. You can make this super clean or you can leave it a little bit messy, it's totally up to you. That looks pretty good to me. I want to go ahead and make some duplicates of this watermelons size. I'm going go to the layer, swipe to the left and click "Duplicate". You can see it gets a lot darker here. I'll click my "Move tool" and move this one over here. I think I'm going to use the rotate here to turn this once. Let's select the other one and move it over here and turn it as well. You could do for five of those. You could change the size of some of them. They don't all have to be the same size. But this would be a really great start to seamless repeat pattern. I have another class. It's all about making a seamless repeat for like fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap. This would be a great place to start if you wanted to get into that. 6. Create a Cutout: The last piece we're going to create is going to use watercolor and calligraphy together and you don't have to use calligraphy. This could be any shape that you want to use. I'll just open one of my blank canvases that I created and let's reduce the opacity on these just a little bit. I'm going to grab a calligraphy brush. I like the script brush. If you click it one time, you can adjust the streamline and that makes the line a lot more steady, so here's the regular streamline and if I bump it up, it'll be much more smooth so I like to bump it up, but it's totally up to you. I'll increase this to about 92 and just write some text in the center. I'm on my paint layer and I just have a dark color. It doesn't really matter what color you use because we're just using this as a mask. We have our text on this layer. I want to paint watercolor only on the text so I'll click "Select" and then I'll click "Automatic." Freehand would allow me to trace around this whole thing but Automatic is nice because I just click and it automatically selects what is that same color. It's not always perfect so one option if you click here to de-select. If you click "Automatic", and then you keep your pen down and drag, it increases the threshold, which means it'll select more. You can see some of that black layer went away, that little black line along the edge. But for this, it doesn't really matter. We're going to fill this with water color, so just a simple selection is fine. I'm dragging my paint layer on top of this layer and I am making my calligraphy layer invisible. Now I'm on a new layer and only the calligraphy part is selected. Let's get our watercolor brush and I'm going to select a few colors that'll work together here. Let's make this a little bit bigger and just do a varied wash. Let's get a blue. That could be a nice effect. You could do this with any color. You could do a more detailed watercolor piece and this is a really nice cut out. If you want to remove that selection, just click the Selecting tool and then you can always go down and decrease the opacity of your paper, that seems a little bit too dark for this piece and there's a nice watercolor text. I want to do the same thing, but this time I'm going to use the background so I'll click "Select", I'll click on the background and then you can see my other little white sections didn't get selected because they're closed shapes so I'll just click to select each of those. Then I'm going to get my next paint layer and drag that on top and make my calligraphy layer invisible again, and now I am on a new paint layer. Same brush, I'm going to get my color palette that has a lot of nice blues in it and use that. I'll make my brush a little bit bigger and I'll just do a light wash to start with, then maybe a little bit of gradiation in the background. You could imagine there's a lot of nice effects that you could do with the style. You can blend multiple colors together or you can do what I'm doing and just use the same color palette, several different shades of the same color. Let's start with that. I'm going to make my selection go away. I'll click the Selection tool and then I want to be sure I'm on my paint layer. Let's say you want to go through and remove some more of this watercolor background. You can get your eraser tool and choose a brush. I'll choose the medium round brush. Actually, let's get a sketching brush. I'm going to use this pencil instead, and you can do some painterly or sketch like lines here. I'm just erasing on my watercolor layer. Let's do some little shapes. You can imagine the possibilities with this are endless. You can do cut outs, you can watercolor specific silhouettes and I'm sure you'll come up with all kinds of new combinations and possibilities with this method, and I cannot wait to see what you make. If you liked this class, you may like some of my other classes where I cover a lot more ways to design and paint on your iPad, like how to paint, wash, and procreate using the free downloadable brushes I created. Check those out on my profile if you want to see more. Also, I share a lot of free downloads on my site. So if you want to get more downloads like the ones you got for this class, check out my website. I would love to see the final project that you create for this class. You could add it as a project here on Skillshare, or you could tag me on Instagram or Facebook. If you have any questions about the process you learned in this class, please feel free to ask. You can reply to my discussion here on Skillshare, or you can contact me through my website. Thanks so much for watching and I hope to see you again next time. Bye bye.