Procreate: Step by Step Instructions for Revising a Painting

I have used PhotoShop Elements together with Procreate and they are very easy to use. I am particularly fond of Procreate because the application is more intuitive for artists, whereas PhotoShop Elements has a steeper learning curve.  I use Procreate when I am working on a painting and get stuck not knowing which direction to take.  I paint with molten wax and, when the surface hardens, it is difficult to make changes.  Trying a variety of ideas out on Procreate and not on the surface of my painting is much easier.   In this blog I take you through the basic steps of using  Procreate and then in future blogs show how to shift between PhotoShop Elements and Procreate.  I also will create some videos lessons on how to use Procreate and you can also follow those as well.

Beginning with an Art Work STEP 1

The first thing I do is take a photo of my artwork with my iPhone, camera or iPad.

Ok, here is the photo of the artwork that I took with my iPad.  I did this small painting in oil and cold wax and wanted to use it as a idea for a painting in encaustic.  Making  revisions in Procreate before creating a larger painting in Encaustic is so simple to do.

FullSizeRender 22

First step is to import my photo into Procreate.  Open Procreate first. (NOTE: you will have a blank black page with no images.)  When you look at the screen of Procreate you will see a small Cross in the upper right side

Small Cross up at the top on the right side – click on that cross.  As you can see, I have other painting examples saved in Procreate.

Click on that small cross.  Another small screen will open up below that white small cross on the top right side which has Create at the top.


On your screen you will only see Screen Size, New Canvas and Import.  Go to Import and click on it.  Your photo file folder will appear so I just click All Photos and then all of my Photos will appear, like on the top right image below.   Then click on the photo that you want to work on, I clicked on the one I wanted (bottom right) and then that photo automatically came into Procreate.

So Now I have my photo on my screen in Procreate.

Editing Tools: Sketching and Brushes Step 2

Click on your painting that you want to revise.  The painting will fill the screen. (Note: you can pinch the painting on the screen with your fingers to make the image smaller or larger.)   Now, in the top right side you see a row of tools that you can work with.  I will go through each one.  From the left to right, the first tool is the sketching/painting tools, the figure tool is the smudging tool, the eraser icon erases, and the double paper is the layering tool, and the green dot selects colours.  On the right side, down the side of the painting, are two small white squares and sliding each square up and down will change your brush sizes and the transparencies.  So, if you push the top square slider up you will get wider brushes and sketching marks and if you push it down you will get narrower marks.  The bottom small square is the transparency slider so up is more opaque and down is more transparent.


Above is a close-up of the slider bar to make your marks wider or narrower by pushing up or pushing down the top bar.  Transparencies are achieved by pushing the bottom bar up for opaque and down for transparencies,

Now we can begin with the basic painting and smudging techniques.  Now let me start by clicking on the small brush and an icon will pop up below the tool bar area.

Tool bar with the drawing and painting tool, then the smudge tool, the eraser, the layering tool and then the colour picker.

In the following photographs from 1 – 6 starting from the top left to the bottom right are the different types of brushes you can use.  So, I can pick the first one which is the sketching tool, then the inking, painting, airbrushing, textures and abstract mark making.  Just click on the tool that you want and then use that tool on your painting.

In the above photo from top right, brush picker tabs from top left – right are sketching tool, then the inking, painting, airbrushing, textures and abstract mark making.

Painting with Colours: Step 3

Once you select the tool you will be using ,  the next step is to select the color that you want to paint or sketch with.  So, go to the top right small coloured circle, in my picture it is green and click on that.   You will get the first green selection of colours in the drop down menu. Take your finger or stylus and touch the area of the larger square and you can change the colour.  So, I can pick a lighter green and a darker green.  Below the large green square you have a color slider bar and I can change my color selection.  So, I changed it to blue,  or to turquoise.  I can pick any color just by moving the first slider bar to the left and right.  The second slider bar is for lighter and darker colours and then the black and white one is for different tonal values.  On the bottom in the small coloured square are other choices of colors.  Then you have the background color in the white square on the bottom which is white.


Smudging and Eraser Tool: Step 4  

You have the icon on the top tool bar that is a finger pointing to the left. It is beside the brush icon and this is your smudging tool.  You can use this tool to smudge and blend colours together.  The icon next to the smudge tool is the eraser.  This is for erasing areas on your painting.  You have to determine what the background color is so if your background is white then make sure the eraser shows white when you click on it.  Also, the eraser will erase in any type of brush that  you have selected.  For example, if you have clicked on the sketching tool then the eraser will act like a stitching tool when you erase  a section.  If it is a brush, it will erase like the brush.  So, make sure you have the eraser at the width, transparency or opaque style when using that tool.  I will demonstrate this smudge and eraser tool on my painting after I have finished this section.

Remember, the sliding bar on the right side that is for your brush width or length, or for transparencies or opaque considerations when revising the painting.  Below is a look at the bar to change your brushes when you need wide, narrow, transparent or opaque brush stokes.



OK so let’s do some revisions.  I will just make some alterations on my painting using the basic tools and then you can see how it works.

NOTE:  When I hold my finger or stylus anywhere on the surface of my painting I will be able to select the exact color.  So, if I want the darker crimson I just touch that area with my finger and hold it there for a few seconds and that colour will pop up in my little color circle on the top right side.  Then I can click on the color circle and the color swatches come up so I can choose to make the maroon  darker or lighter by selecting another maroon colour.   The painting below is the original.

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Also, if I pinch the painting with my fingers, I can make the painting smaller or larger.  So, can zoom into an area to work in that section.  The following is one revision using the colors in the painting and making revisions onto the surface.  I cleaned up some of the lines with the paint brush, I used the smudging tool to blend some areas.  Very small changes.


Also, if I don’t like a mark that I drew I can undo every mark from the most recent mark to the first mark.  I just click the undo arrow icon on the bottom of the slider shown below. I can undo the history of all of my sketching and drawing marks.

FullSizeRender 54
The bottom of the bar, on the right, is the undo arrow icon.

In the next few images I make more radical changes to three artworks.  I have the background of my painting in the first example that I imported to Procreate. I used the painting and smudging tools, and the wide and narrow slider tool to change the width of the lines as well as used the transparency bar to add different opaque and transparent colours.


The following painting on the left I felt was too stiff so I wanted to play around with it in Procreate.  Seeing what I could do by changing colors and getting rid of areas, adding lines etc. was exciting.

And finally, this is new painting that I did in Procreate.  I started with a new canvas in Procreate and then just played around with brushes, smudging, transparencies, and adding different line elements to this computer image.

Untitled_Artwork 14
An original design

In the next post I will explore how to do paint a new design using the New Canvas tool/section and then show more options like changing colours to the whole painting, cutting and cropping, etc.


Author: Anna

I am a painter and sculptor and have a studio beside a beautiful lake. For the past 40 years, I designed and built puppets, masks and sculptures and had solo exhibitions of these works. In 2013, I went back to painting and started working in encaustic. I am interested in issues of identity in terms of weavings as coverings to protect or to hide. The intersecting lines that I create over landscapes create an internal conversation versus the external between nature vs. nurture. Or how actual or psychological barriers erected in an environment can disrupt a cherished place. My engagement with woven structures speak to complex dialogues between identity and psychological barriers. My second passion is teaching. I try to encompass more than teaching my students art techniques. I encourage students to, not only learn the language of art, but to also engage in critiquing art. Additionally, we continually explore ways to enhance one's voice through art in relation to contemporary and historical issues. Encaustic adventures is a blog where not only processes and techniques are taught, but hopefully this sites will engage in a dialogue about the making of art, notions of voice, identity, themes, and ways to establish a body of work within an historical contexts.

2 thoughts on “Procreate: Step by Step Instructions for Revising a Painting”

  1. Thanks very much for posting this Anna! I have found Photoshop Elements very difficult to use, but will now try Procreate. I was sorry I wasn’t able to make it to Provincetown this summer. How was the conference?

    1. Hi Victoria, I am late in responding to your post. The conference was amazing. Learned so much and came back with so many ideas. Hope to see you there next year.

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