Procreate and the pandemic

Procreate and the pandemic

I have really improved my drawing and illustration skills during the COVID-19 pandemic. I credit patience, and creating something nearly every day, for much of the improvement. And I credit learning the Procreate app for the rest.

Patience, Procreate and creating something every day improved my drawing and illustration skills.

Last year, my “go-to” hardware was a MacBook Pro, a Wacom drawing tablet, a wireless keyboard and a 25-inch monitor. Late in 2019 I upgraded my iPad and purchased an Apple pencil. I could use the iPad anywhere, rather than be chained to the desk in my studio.

As a graphic designer, I  am experienced with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign–the creative’s toolset for graphic design, typography, photography and illustration. I tried several iPad drawing apps, but none had the feature set I needed. I started to follow creatives who produce iPad tutorials on, lettering, drawing and illustration tutorials. I learned about an app called Procreate–so named as it was developed for the iPad Pro, the first iPad to use an Apple Pencil. I paid my ten bucks and started to learn the app. I found that I could create artwork that looks as good as that created with my desktop software.

Back to the pandemic… I have worked at home for over 15 years, so staying home a bit more was not too taxing. I wanted to improve my drawing skills, but could not make myself pick up a sketchbook. I remember my drawing teacher told me, “just try drawing something–anything–each day.” So I started creating something on the iPad nearly every day. Birthday cards, abstract illustrations, watercolor drawings, comic-style illustrations, and more. I learned how to use dozens of different types of “brushes,” something I hadn’t explored much with earlier Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator projects. Since I was home almost all the time, I created lots of works from photos–free stock photos and my own photos. My skills grew, week to week and month to month. 

Do something good. Create something every day. 

I now use my sketchbook almost daily. Sometimes I use it at the start of a project. Most days I see where my mind takes me when I start Procreate, and use the sketchbook to take notes and to paste printed versions. My advice: Do something good. Create something every day. 

Procreate: a true gem for iPad drawing

Procreate is a Raster (pixel) drawing app, and has many features not found in other drawing apps available for the iPad. It is a true gem, and well worth the money. 

In 2019, my “go-to” tools for making quick–and detailed–graphics and illustrations were Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop on my Macbook Pro. My setup included a Wacom drawing tablet, a wireless keyboard, and a large monitor. My iPad was a secondary tool, hardly part of my graphic design workflow. I dabbled in the different Illustrator and Photoshop apps for the iPad, but they seemed awkward. 

Then I traded in my iPad for an iPad Air (3rd Generation) and bought an Apple Pencil. I kept hearing about an app called Procreate, designed for the original iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. One of the blogs I follow had lots of Procreate tutorials, so invested the small sum of TEN DOLLARS (!) and got started with Procreate.

Procreate is a true gem.

Pros: 

  • Choose from pre-installed templates, or create your own
  • Allows you to use pressure sensitivity with Apple Pencil to change drawing strokes
  • Layers! Depending upon the drawing size and resolution, you can have up to 40 or more layers
  • Robust text capabilities, and you can add typefaces
  • Preinstalled color palettes
  • Ability to create your own color palettes manually, create from an image or a photo in your library, or import palettes created by others
  • Ability to export color palettes
  • Shape and symmetry tools
  • Drawing assist allows you to create straight lines, smooth curves, and more
  • Create CMYK and RGB documents for print and Web, respectively
  • Export to several file formats, including PNG, JPEG, TIFF, layered PSD, PDF and more
  • Ability to create Procreate brushes and brush sets
  • Hundreds (thousands?) of free and paid Procreate brush sets are available

Cons:

  • As a Raster app, you need to set the drawing size and resolution up front, according to how you intend to use the illustration
  • In the current version, you can draw and edit arcs, with three or four points, but not “S-curves.”
  • If you are a Typophile and load dozens of typefaces, or often create illustrations with 20 or more layers, Procreate will crash periodically, even with decent iPad memory–but I have never lost a file!
  • There are so many Procreate brushes available, you may find it hard to limit the number you add; currently you cannot tag brushes as “favorites”
  • Cannot lock a color palette; I have accidentally changed color swatches many times

All told, I like this app and recommend it to graphic designers as part of your work flow.

Multilayered Procreate illustration