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iPad Pro and Procreate: The amazing painting software that boasts exciting features for designers

7 min read

Back to Insight

7 min read

iPad Pro and Procreate: The amazing painting software that boasts exciting features for designers

Author: Phil Birss
Posted in Brand Strategy on 11th February 2019 12:00 am

Nowadays, designers have a lot of choice and flexibility when it comes to their work setup and because of this, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know which is best for them. With new software coming into play and older software constantly being updated, testing out software is a common occurrence for a designer. Whether that be we try it and love it, or just go back to the standard Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator; it depends on the designer. But for illustrators and digital painters that are seeking something new, there’s a powerful contender on the market.

Procreate is the ideal tool for creative professionals, especially those interested in digital illustration. In December I treated myself to the new iPad pro and after a brief demonstration in the Apple store, I promptly downloaded Procreate. Like with all design software it has its strengths and weaknesses. Yet apart from a few minor points, I still can’t seem to put it down after a few months of having it. 

So, what is procreate for the newbies?

The Procreate app is a powerful application designed for sketching, illustrating, and prototyping artwork. The basics are not unlike Photoshop in regards to the layers and the brushes, but as you’d expect, Procreate’s interface is heavily optimised for touch for the iPad and the Apple pencil. 

There are a ton of brushes already installed in the software. Each of these has its own uses and are massively customisable. Can’t make the right brush? No problem! There’s a huge online community of designers and illustrators that give away and sell the brushes they have come up with. You can easily save, organise and export your artwork in a variety of file formats ready for use to send to clients, printers and social media. The expanding list of features available on the app is ready to go from one low payment of £10. With it being available on the iPad means you can basically use it anywhere, great for those long journeys home where you can actually be productive instead of scrolling Instagram and re-watching Snapchat stories. 

Obviously, this does come at some cost, as even though Procreate is cheap to buy, the iPad Pro starting is a lot steeper. It’s super important to note that this software is also pretty pointless if you don’t have the accompanying Apple Pencil too.

The top features of Procreate include: 

+ Perfect lines and Shapes. So, as in Illustrator and Photoshop, you can create shapes and straight lines. Procreate is the same.  For example, if you draw a line and keep the pen on the screen it will straighten the line or if you make a circle, then hold and click anywhere off the screen it will make it symmetrical.  This is definitely a handy little feature. For an extra tip, draw a line and hold your pen on the screen. Then touch the screen with your other hand it will move the line by 15-degree increments. Very useful for doing accurate drawings. 

+ The streamline feature has to be up near the top, this corrects your strokes as you draw to create a smooth and stabilised look.

+ The Brushes, there is an extensive list of excellent and varied brushes that can just be constantly added too. All these brushes can be customised by changing the speed of your stroke and applied pen pressure to create the perfect look your after. If using a paintbrush you can charge your brush to naturally run out of paint, creating an original painting look without all the hassle of actually getting out your full paint set. 

+ Save time and money. There are so many ways that using procreate or even just going digital can save time and money (if you look at the overall saving and away from the price of the iPad). 

Some may argue that digital will never be as good as putting pen to paper, and you’ll never get the right textures that a painting will get. Well, they may be right, this is just my opinion after all but this digital design app comes very close. Textures of paint can still be created, for instance, let’s say I wanted a gouache paint effect. Sorted, it’s already loaded. All the colours you want, all the brush sizes you’ll need, easy. So think about how much time and money to start a piece of work if you were to put paint to paper. The cost and time of getting the paper, the paint, setting it up. 

 Now, let’s compare that to opening up the iPad (which is done by facial recognition might I add) and within three-four clicks your ready to go! Another scenario, let’s imagine you’re about to start your painting and instantly you put a line where you don’t want it. Panic, paint over with a lighter colour, deal with it? Well, digitally we can just tap with two fingers and instantly, it’s gone!

+ Effortlessly zoom into your work for a more precise. Need to do some fine detail? That’s easy too, Procreate lets you flip, change and zoom into the canvas with just using your fingers to twist the paper round or pull them apart slightly to zoom in. While you’re doing that fine detail your hand can rest on the iPad too without it making a line or causing any problems. 

 + Import media onto the artboard. If you’re like me and you’re often working from a reference image, you can easily import photos on your artboard or if you’d prefer to just see it next to you like you’re drawing, Procreate supports split-screen functionality with other apps.

 +Time-lapse. By switching on time-lapse recording it creates a high res video of your process, from start to finish. Once it’s finished you can edit the video in most video editing apps to add music and customise it till your heart’s content. Then share your process with your friends! 

 +Image-tweaking effects. Once you have created your piece of art, or while you’re still drawing its easy to tweak with great effects. Including blurs, sharpening, colour balancing, and curve manipulation. These features make it simple to make your drawings/paintings/pictures the perfect style you are after. 

With all the positives there are bound to be a few small problems. I’m still only a few months into Procreate so more problems may unfold in the future. Though for now, the only issues I’ve faced are that there is a maximum number of layers available. Which can cause a problem when you have a big piece with many layers. Though you can easily merge layers together. Another point is this is like photoshop, made with pixels, not vectors, so if you’re looking to create a slick new logo, this may not be the program for you.


What can you do on it?

Basically, you can do as much as your creativity allows. Have a look at the Procreate showcase for examples. They are pretty amazing!


I’m no way near a pro and still learning the ropes but so far I can safely say I love it! The overall interface is dark, simplistic and well-designed. It’s simple to use, you can edit your preferences to create the perfect artboard. As well as adjusting the light interface, adding drawing guides or creating a symmetrical grid. It can be used for beginners but with sufficient customisation. This allows professional users to achieve a high quality of work. Even though it obviously isn’t putting pen to paper. It sort of feels like you are if you have the apple pencil, which is quite nice. 


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