Procreate App Review: It's Not Photoshop, But It's Good!
Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Considering Procreate for your mobile drawing and creative needs? Welp, we hope we can help you make a decision by sharing our experience with the app. Procreate is a drawing app available in the app store for $9.99; this is a one time payment and not a monthly subscription. There is certainly a lot to love about this app, but like anything there are some down sides. Let's get into it.
In order for this to be a fair review we want to be clear; tablet drawing is still behind surface drawing like the Microsoft Surface Studio or the Wacom Cintiq. These professional drawing surfaces are incredibly responsive and robust in both their performance and their software abilities, but Procreate on the iPad 12.9" has a lot to offer. Click below if you want to try it yourself.
Don't take this the wrong way, but this app is gloriously child friendly. Children as young as 4 years old can easily navigate around this app and select brushes, change brush size, and pick colors (this means you won't have a learning curve...or you shouldn't at leaset). The simplicity is actually very impressive, when you consider its drawing options. The team at Savage Interactive (developers of Procreate) have really taken their time to consider this app's layout and accessibility. It really does allow you to get right to drawing and painting.
Brushes and Media Options
Procreate comes with 17 useful default brush options, each of which contains different variations of those brushes to choose from. Since this app is often used as a mobile supplement app for commercial artists, this is more than plenty of variety for a default offering. From sketching pencils to paint brushes and all the way to textures, Procreate comes loaded with options. After you have selected your brushes, you can quickly modify them with a double click. This brings you to the secondary interface where you can modify your brush in just about any way.
At the bottom are the seven different categories available for modifying your selected brush to your exact specifications. Don't know what effect these might have...don't worry. At the top, you can see the changes to your brush as you make them. You can also test how those changes feel and display right there in that window. Simply use your Apple Pencil or your finger and scribble round in the preview window to test your new brush. Rather than going back and forth to test your brushes, you are able to test it right inside the modification interface.
Did we mentioned you can also create your own custom brushes?... Yeah, if you are somehow unsatisfied with the default offering, you can easily create your own brushes as well.
Layers & Export Formats
As many drawing apps do, Procreate works with layers. This enables you to separate the elements of any piece you are working on and manipulate them individually. For example, you can draw on one layer and create a new layer underneath to add your color. With the ability to create multiple layers, also comes some powerful abilities to manipulate those layers. With a quick double click on any layer, you will see a fly-out menu giving me many editing choices.
Within the layer editing fly-out menu are options like Alpha Lock and Mask. These two options are our favorite because they can really help speed up your drawing by giving you the flexibility to go back and make changes quickly.
Alpha Lock functions the exact same as the "Lock Transparent Pixels" button at the top of the Photoshop layers panel. Select the Alpha Lock options in the Procreate fly-out menu, and it will constrain any colors or drawings inside the filled areas on that layer. This is particularly useful when you want to change the color fills of your drawing after you have already filled them. Rather than having to go back and carefully "color inside the lines" you can simply engage Alpha Lock and quickly color in your new hue.
The Masking option is also very handy for non-destructively hiding parts of your drawing. Just like in Photoshop, Procreate will create a mask over your layer allowing you do cover up or reveal parts of your artwork. Rather than erasing and losing your work, you can mask it just in case you want to uncover it later. With all this being said, wouldn't it be terrible if you had to export your work flat?
This is not the case in Procreate, which is why we often use it as an ideation tool in combination with Photoshop. The app allows you to export to PDF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and of course, PSD! Once you have your drawing the way you want it, you can export it to Photoshop in all its layered glory for more editing.
We do wish the same could be said for the PDF export and Illustrator. It would be great to be able to export to PDF and retain its layered properties, but unfortunately this isn't the case. This, along with a few other negatives, are very minor. If we are being honest its pretty hard to find a negative with Procreate if you approach the app understanding what it is. The negative issues stem more from its availability rather than its performance. It is only available for iPads currently (they do have a version for your iPhone called Procreate Pocket), and there is no free version or trial period for testing...we know, we know, we are getting really nit picky here. Overall, it is a great creative app for digital drawing and painting, but if you expect it to be Photoshop, be prepared for a massive letdown (because nothing is like Photoshop, HA!).