Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Procreate - How to Create Art on an iPad

Jul 3, 2020

Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Procreate: How to Create Art on an iPad® (3DTotal Publishing, 2020)

Followers of digitalEPIGRAPHY know by now that Procreate is our official app of choice when it comes to working on the iPad. It is a multi-award-winning painting app that allows artists to paint in high resolution using customized brushes in a multilayered environment. For years Procreate has been the backbone of digitalEPIGRAPHY’s field documentation, and we have written extensively about our experiences with it here on our website. We introduced some of its features in the tools and tutorials sections, reviewed its most recent iterations (Procreate 4 and Procreate 5), and showed how we used its painting capabilities during our reconstruction and paint enhancement projects. Lately, we’ve been employing this sophisticated and versatile software for object drawing as well. We especially recommend Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Procreate, a comprehensive guide to Procreate written by professional artists, to those of you who encounter many epigraphic tasks during their documentation work. Whether they are new to Procreate or want to further utilize its capabilities, this is a very good book to learn the basics as well as some new techniques they can apply to their documentation projects.

Excerpts from the Introduction

“While digital painting, especially when using bespoke software such as Procreate, bears many similarities to painting in traditional media, the workflow can be quite different. Perhaps most noticeably, images are usually built up in layers, and you can choose how those layers interact with each other. For example, you may want one layer to influence another as if you were layering paint; you may want another to work independently as if you were masking an area off. This gives you the ability to isolate individual sections and stages of the painting when working, saving you time and allowing you to focus on the creative side. 

Using Procreate, you can also create your own brushes, manipulate shapes, and easily make image adjustments at the touch of a button, all of which offer flexibility and speed that you may not come across when using traditional media.”

Book description

“We recommend you begin by reading the introductory chapters. Getting Started will provide a brief overview of the interface and explain how to create and organize your files. Following on from this GesturesBrushesColorLayersSelectionsTransformAdjustments, and Actions will explore the many tools Procreate has to offer… Once you have read the introductory chapters and have a good grasp of the basics, work your way through each of the eight Projects.”

Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Procreate is split into two main parts. The briefer first part is called “Getting Started” which introduces the reader to the basic features of the software through ten chapters (Brushes, Colors, Layers etc.). First, we are introduced to the user interface, that is the menus, icons, buttons, how to set up a new canvas to draw on, and the gestures one uses to navigate the canvas (zoom, pinch, rotate, undo-redo etc.). Next, the book guides the reader through the various tools Procreate has to offer, from the different brushes and color modes, through layers and the tools that transform or effect an image, to other options that personalize one’s drawing experience (adding text, drawing guides etc.). 

After familiarizing the reader with the software, the guidebook offers hands-on tutorials through eight “Projects”, which are designed to demonstrate the various creative ways of painting digitally in Procreate. Within each project, an artist explains step-by-step the creation of one of his/her artworks. The topics range from human characterization to landscape painting, from “plein air” sketching to drawing sci-fi and fantasy creatures.

The book ends with a “Glossary” and a “Tool Directory”, plus a long list of downloadable resources supplied for the projects, which you can find on the website of 3DtotalPublishing (however, the link to the resources is unfortunately and inconveniently missing from the book). 

Sample pages



Character design


What we like

  • “Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Procreate” is both a manual for Procreate and an aid for those interested in digital painting on the iPad. The first part of the guidebook is for readers who are only now getting acquainted with the medium and the software; however, the Projects section offers useful tips for the more experienced digital artists as well.
  • The step-by-step tutorials lean a little too heavily towards sci-fi and fantasy themes and imagery, with only two projects concerning more traditional artwork. This shouldn’t be off-putting though, as the book is very professional, the tutorials are fun and creative, and offer a plethora of useful tips and methods for artists usually interested in a broader spectrum of styles.  
  • The presentation of the book is clear, modern and easily accessible. Plenty of pictures illustrate the chapters, yet the pages are not cluttered by images or colorful graphics. Useful tips and suggestions are highlighted in colorful boxes.
  • Procreate has pledged to plant a tree for every book sold. 

Additional reading

“Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Procreate” is available for purchase at Amazon US ($24.13 the paperback edition and $22.85 for Kindle) and Amazon UK (£21.99). It is also in stock at Barnes&Noble ($32.99) and the Book Depository ($25.39), among other retailers. 

At the publisher’s website,, you will find additional resources of all levels, including step-by-step tutorials on digital painting.

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