Procreate: One Of The Most Beautiful and Powerful iPad Art Apps Available Today

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Let’s set the expectations at the outset here: this is not a post about how I used iPad app Procreate ($4.99) to create amazing artwork, because who cares. Instead, it’s a post about how a $5 app can evoke a sense of wonder even in someone who’s not graphically inclined, and how exactly drawing on your iPad (iPad Mini, in my case) can feel almost as good as the real deal.

I’m going to take you on a tour of Procreate (last featured on MakeUseOf way back in 2011), and show you an app that gets it right: Packing lots of power into an interface that remains simple to use.

Creating Beautiful Art On Your iPad? Sounds Good!

While browser-based apps like deviantArt muro are fun to use, most users interact with them using a mouse or touchpad. Using an iPad to draw is much closer to the actual experience of drawing on paper, supposedly making creations like this easier to accomplish:


This is one of the sample images that ship with Procreate. While it doesn’t explicitly state that these gorgeous creations were made using Procreate, after playing with the app, I find that believable.

Brushes, Color, and Smearing

Putting paint onto canvas is the core of painting, and that’s where Procreate’s powerful brush engine comes in. “Brush engine” sounds like a buzzword, but no other name will fit the mind-boggling array of natural-media brushes Procreate offers, each with its many customizations. It starts out simple enough, with a tap of the Brush toolbar icon:

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The Brushes menu, shown above, has no less than three tab pages for a total of 15 brush sets, each with eight brushes. Some quick mental math (not really, I used a calculator) shows the app ships with 120 brushes. That would have been impressive in its own right, but then we get to the fact that each brush can be customized in numerous ways:


Above we see the Grunge brush settings pane, with no less than six sliders. Note that it’s just the first of six setting panes for that one brush. Overwhelmed yet?

In truth, you shouldn’t be: you don’t have to fiddle with the settings to start painting. Procreate tries to hint at this by how deeply it nests the settings. You’ll have to drill down several levels of hierarchy to start tweaking things. Instead, it’d be easier to just pick a brush and start painting. Most people might do something like this:


I just took each Painting brush, put it to the canvas, and saw what happened (and then couldn’t resist the urge to doodle with some of the Pencil brushes, too).

If you decide to go so far as to customize individual brush settings, Procreate offers some built-in documentation to help you figure out what’s what:


The only other thing you need before you start painting is to pick a color, and Procreate’s color picker is straightforward and fun to use:


Putting paint on the canvas is only part of the work: Natural media often mixes new paint with what’s already on the canvas by smearing and scraping. This is where the smear tool comes in:


The Smear tool uses the very same collection of brushes you’ll find on the Brush tool, with one twist: they won’t add any new paint to the canvas. Instead, these brushes only interact with what’s already on the current layer.

Layers and Selections

Now would be a good time to cover layers – one of the fixtures of any serious graphics app. Here’s how Procreate introduces you to the concept:


Just like in Photoshop, you can set color blend modes for each layer and use layers to selectively alter the look of your painting:


Making such selective changes requires, well, selecting areas of your painting. This is one of the few areas in which the fine motor control that comes with using a mouse is really lacking: Using a stylus or your finger to make selections just isn’t as accurate.


I sort-of managed to select that elf’s ear, more or less, but not in any level that would allow me to truly manipulate it without impacting the rest of the art around it:


Mind you, this is a clumsy attempt at selection, and you can go much fancier than that. Procreate has an entire selection tutorial online, showing it is possible to get to a high level of accuracy – and even feather your selection.

It Won’t Make You an Artist, But You’ll Have Fun Trying


In this quick little tour, I mainly wanted to give you a sense of what’s possible with Procreate, and why you should really try it if you’ve got an iPad. Even if you won’t end up creating awe-inspiring works of art, you will probably have fun trying. The only feature I found truly missing is the lack of a decent palm detection algorithm, which meant I could not rest my hand on the screen while working. I had to constantly hold the stylus over the iPad, which can become fatiguing after a while.

Apart from that minor drawback, Procreate is truly a stellar app.

Download: Procreate ($4.99)

Do you use Procreate, or are you more into apps like Paper? Perhaps you just enjoy handwriting on your iPad rather than drawing. Do let me know in the comments, and feel free to share links to your artwork!

Image Credits: iPad Via PlaceIt

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Comments (9)
  • Anonymous

    Procreate is by far the most vesatile and powerful mobile drawing app, design is beautiful, double layer brushes are off the hook , dynamic of the brushes are insane, you can even get 4k canvas… No wonder an app like this isnt supported on older idevices , its just too much god damn powerful.

    Procreate is one of the main reason why i went Apple (tablet) instead of android. (that says alot)

  • Anonymous

    Copy/paste from procreate FAQ ;
    Why don’t you support the palm rejection on my stylus?
    If you are a Wacom artist, you’re probably familiar with how this system works. When palm rejection is done correctly, it generally produces a natural pen to surface environment. If you have a Jot Touch, Jaja, or Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus, you might be asking yourself why palm rejection is not present within Procreate.
    First, let’s understand what palm rejection is. Palm rejection is the system whereby hardware and software work in tandem, to limit input to stylus only. Having a stylus alone will not produce an environment which rejects palm input. For this to happen, you’ll also need software which can understand the difference between the palm, a finger and the stylus. Unfortunately, Apple do not allow access to this touch information. This situation has forced today’s pressure sensitive stylus manufacturers to implement workarounds which mimic palm rejection on a multitouch device.

    One of the most common workarounds is to simply ignore all multitouch input. This system can be quite effective for note taking apps. Unfortunately this system does not work for software like Procreate. Multitouch is a fundamental input method within Procreate and many features can only be controlled through multitouch gestures, such as zooming, rotating, or clearing the canvas.

    Another common workaround is to force the artist to place the stylus tip on the surface of the iPad first, and then use software to disregard all subsequent input. Requiring artists to place the stylus tip on the surface first, creates an inaccurate method of input. And after extensive testing we have found this method to not only be inaccurate, but also unpleasant to use for extended periods of time.

    Others have implemented movable surfaces which do not accept touch input. This method has no connection with pressure sensitive hardware and could be implemented independently of stylus hardware. At this point in time, we have no plans to develop a movable surface feature.

    Instead, we remain hopeful Apple will see the benefit of a stylus within the creative market, and allow developers and manufactures to create a true palm rejection environment for iPad artists.

  • Johnny

    I have tried just about every drawing app available, and I was blown away by Procreate. Hands down it is the best app available for iPad and it looks absolutely stunning on my iPad with Retina display. It also looks pretty sweet when I use Airplay to mirror my iPad to AppleTV. Now my family gets to enjoy watching me paint without having to hover over my shoulder.

    As for procreate having nopalm rejection… personally, it isn’t an issue for me due to the way I draw/paint, however, it is a feature that I hope is included in future upgrades.

    One question… which stylus do you suggest is best to use with Procreate? Currently, I use a cheap, yet very effective, Brookstone Drew stylus but I’m looking for something better. I’m leaning toward a Adonit stylus but there may be something better for painting that I haven’t heard about. Suggestions?


  • Henry Lahore

    Great iPad application, but with their upgrade in 2013 it no longer works on early generation iPads.

  • Kade

    Which one you prefer. This app or Paper.

    • Erez Z

      I prefer this app (Procreate), mainly due to the business model — I like being able to pay for the whole app upfront rather than buy it in bits and pieces when I’m already using it. Just a subjective thing really.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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