10 Procreate Techniques for Better Character Design
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Using Layers for Complex Designs
  2. Applying Brush Techniques for Texture
  3. Using Clipping Masks for Shading
  4. How to Use Smudge Tool for Blending
  5. Creating Custom Brushes for Unique Effects
  6. Using Perspective Guide for Proportions
  7. Applying Alpha Lock for Quick Color Changes
  8. Using Adjustment Layers for Light Effects
  9. Applying Transform Tool for Scaling and Rotation
  10. How to Use Selection Tool for Precise Edits

If you're anything like me, you're always on the lookout for new ways to improve your digital character design skills in Procreate. This incredible app offers a wealth of features, but it can be tough to know how to use them all to their full potential. That's why I've put together this guide of 10 Procreate techniques you can start using right now. These techniques can be real game-changers, helping you elevate your work and get better at digital character design in Procreate.

Using Layers for Complex Designs

One of the most useful features of Procreate is its layers functionality. This allows you to break down your character designs into easily manageable sections, which you can then work on separately. This is especially handy when you're dealing with complex designs that require a lot of detail.

  • Start by sketching your initial design on the base layer. This should be a rough outline of your character, focusing on getting the proportions and pose right. Remember, this is just a guide, so don't worry about making it perfect!
  • Add a new layer for each part of your design. For example, you could have a separate layer for the character's clothes, hair, and facial features. This allows you to fine-tune each part of your design without affecting the others.
  • Use the opacity and blend mode options to your advantage. By adjusting the opacity of your layers, you can see how your design is coming together. The blend modes, on the other hand, let you create interesting effects by combining layers in different ways.
  • Duplicate layers to try out different ideas. If you're not sure about a particular aspect of your design, duplicate the relevant layer and experiment! This way, you can test out different looks without losing your original work.

By using layers effectively, you can tackle complex character designs in a structured, organized way. This can be a big help in getting better at digital character design in Procreate. So, give it a try — you might be surprised at what you can achieve!

Applying Brush Techniques for Texture

Applying texture to your digital characters can make them come to life. The right choice of brush can add depth, dimension, and a sense of realism. Here is how you can make the most out of Procreate's brushes:

  • Experiment with different brushes: Procreate has a wide range of brushes you can use. Don't stick to just one or two. Try out various brushes and see how each of them affects the texture of your design. It's all about trial and error!
  • Adjust brush settings: Did you know you can change the settings of your brush in Procreate? Dive into the brush settings and play around with the sliders. Adjusting the size, opacity, and blend modes can drastically change the effect your brush has.
  • Use pressure sensitivity: If you're using an Apple Pencil, take advantage of its pressure sensitivity. Apply more pressure for bolder strokes, and less for lighter ones. This can create a highly realistic texture, especially for aspects like hair and clothing.

Brush techniques might seem daunting at first, but the more you play around with them, the better you get. Remember, the goal is to get better at digital character design in Procreate, and that means exploring and pushing the boundaries of what you can do!

Using Clipping Masks for Shading

Shading can add depth and dimension to your digital characters, making them look more three-dimensional. One excellent technique for adding shading in Procreate is using clipping masks. Don't worry if you're not sure what those are—let's break it down:

  • Creating the Clipping Mask: To create a clipping mask, you first need a layer to apply it to. Once your base layer is ready, create a new layer above it and tap on it to bring up the options. Tap on "Clipping Mask" and voila—you've got a clipping mask!
  • Shading with the Clipping Mask: Now that you've got your clipping mask, it's time to shade. Choose a darker color than your base layer and start painting on the clipping mask. The beauty of a clipping mask is that your shading will only appear on the design of the base layer, making it easier to keep within the lines.
  • Adjusting the shading: If your shading is too harsh or too soft, don't worry. You can adjust the opacity of your clipping mask layer to make the shading perfect. Simply tap on the layer and adjust the opacity slider to your liking.

Shading with clipping masks might seem a bit tricky at first. But with a little practice, you'll be getting better at digital character design in Procreate in no time. Remember, it's all about experimenting and finding what works best for you!

How to Use Smudge Tool for Blending

Blending colors is a fantastic way to create smooth transitions and realistic textures in your digital art. In Procreate, the Smudge Tool is your best friend when it comes to blending. Here's how you can use it:

  • Selecting the Smudge Tool: You'll find the Smudge Tool in the top menu—it's the finger icon. Tap on it and you're ready to start blending!
  • Choosing a Brush for Blending: The Smudge Tool works with any brush in Procreate, so you can get creative with your blending. Want a soft blend? Try a soft brush. Looking for a textured blend? A textured brush might be just what you need!
  • Blending Colors: Now the fun part—blending! Drag the Smudge Tool over the colors you want to blend together. The more you smudge, the softer the transition will be. Don't be afraid to experiment with different levels of smudging to see what looks best.

Blending might seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference in your character design. It can help your characters feel more lifelike and vivid. So, give blending a try! You might be surprised by how much it can help you in getting better at digital character design in Procreate.

Creating Custom Brushes for Unique Effects

Now, who doesn't love a good custom brush? They can add unique textures and effects to your character designs, making them truly stand out. Procreate allows you to create your own brushes, giving you endless possibilities for customization. Let's break it down into simple steps:

  • Accessing the Brush Library: To start, tap on the brush icon in the top menu. This will open the brush library which holds all your current brushes.
  • Creating a New Brush: To create a new brush, tap on the "+" symbol in the top-right corner of the brush library. This will open the brush studio where you can design your new brush.
  • Designing Your Brush: In the brush studio, you can adjust the settings to create a brush that suits your needs. You can change the shape, grain, dynamics, and more. It's all about playing around and seeing what works for you!

Creating custom brushes can seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's a game changer. It's one of the exciting ways of getting better at digital character design in Procreate. Remember, there's no "right" way to make a custom brush, so don't be afraid to experiment and have fun with it!

Using Perspective Guide for Proportions

Do you ever find yourself stuck trying to get the proportions of your character just right? Well, you're not alone. The Perspective Guide in Procreate can be a lifesaver when it comes to getting those tricky proportions spot on. And you know what? It's easier than you might think:

  1. Enabling Perspective Guide: First off, you'll need to find the actions panel, marked by the wrench icon on the top menu. Once there, tap on the "Canvas" tab and switch on the "Perspective Guide" option.
  2. Setting up Your Guide: After enabling the Perspective Guide, you'll see a grid appear on your canvas. You can adjust the vanishing point and line angles to match the perspective you want for your character design.
  3. Drawing with the Guide: Now, as you draw, your lines will snap to the guide, helping you maintain accurate proportions and perspective. It's as simple as that!

When you're getting better at digital character design in Procreate, using tools like the Perspective Guide can be a real game changer. It can turn a frustrating process into a breeze. So give it a try, and see how it can transform your character designs!

Applying Alpha Lock for Quick Color Changes

Have you ever spent ages meticulously coloring a character, only to decide you want to change the color scheme? What if I told you there's a quick and easy way to switch colors without having to redraw or recolor everything? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it's not thanks to the Alpha Lock feature in Procreate.

  1. Activating Alpha Lock: To apply Alpha Lock, select the layer you want to work on and swipe right with two fingers. You'll see a checkerboard pattern appear on the layer thumbnail, indicating that Alpha Lock is now active.
  2. Changing Colors: With Alpha Lock on, you can now change the color of your layer without affecting the transparency. Just select a new color and brush over your layer. The original design will stay the same, only the colors will change.
  3. Experimenting with Colors: Don't be afraid to experiment with different color combinations. You can always undo any changes, so let your creativity run wild!

The more you experiment with features like Alpha Lock, the more you'll find yourself getting better at digital character design in Procreate. It's all about finding the right techniques that work for your style and workflow. So, why not give Alpha Lock a try on your next character design project?

Using Adjustment Layers for Light Effects

When you're getting better at digital character design in Procreate, one of the things you'll come to appreciate is the power of light. Light can add depth, mood, and even tell a story. But how do you manipulate light in Procreate? The answer is simple: Adjustment Layers.

  1. What are Adjustment Layers? In Procreate, Adjustment Layers allow you to apply effects to your artwork without permanently altering the original layer. This means you can play around with light effects without worrying about ruining your work.
  2. Adding an Adjustment Layer: To add an Adjustment Layer, tap the magic wand icon at the top of the screen and select the type of effect you want to apply. For example, you can choose "Brightness/Contrast" to adjust the overall lighting of your piece.
  3. Manipulating Light: Once you've added an Adjustment Layer, you can manipulate the light effect by sliding your finger left or right on the screen. You can also use the "Layer Opacity" slider to control the intensity of the effect.

Lighting can dramatically change the look and feel of your character design. By mastering the use of Adjustment Layers, you'll be taking a big step towards getting better at digital character design in Procreate. So why not shine some light on your next artwork?

Applying Transform Tool for Scaling and Rotation

Every now and then, you might draw a character that's perfect in every way—except that it's just a tad too big, or maybe it's facing the wrong direction. No need to start over: the Transform Tool is your best friend in these situations. It's a key component of getting better at digital character design in Procreate.

  1. What's the Transform Tool? Simply put, it's like a magic wand that lets you scale, rotate, and even skew your character to your heart's content, all without losing any detail or quality.
  2. Activating the Transform Tool: To use it, you simply need to tap the arrow icon at the top of the screen. Then, select the layer or layers you want to transform.
  3. Scaling with the Transform Tool: To scale your character, grab one of the blue dots that appear around it and drag it. Pro tip: if you want to maintain the proportions while scaling, make sure the "Uniform" option at the bottom of the screen is selected.
  4. Rotating with the Transform Tool: Rotating is just as easy. Simply drag the green dot above your character to rotate it. The angle of rotation is shown at the top of the screen so you can make precise adjustments.

Remember, it's all about making your work easier and more efficient. Mastering the Transform Tool will save you valuable time and effort, getting you one step closer to becoming a digital character design pro in Procreate. So, ready to transform your designs?

How to Use Selection Tool for Precise Edits

Ever wished you could magically move a character's eye a little to the left, or maybe make their smile a bit wider? Well, with Procreate's Selection Tool, you can do just that! It's another secret weapon for getting better at digital character design in Procreate.

  1. Understanding the Selection Tool: This tool allows you to highlight specific parts of your design. Once an area is selected, you can move, resize, or even delete it without affecting the rest of your design.
  2. Accessing the Selection Tool: To access it, tap on the "S" icon at the top of the screen. You'll then see several options appear at the bottom.
  3. Types of Selection: You have three types of selections: freehand, automatic, and rectangle or ellipse. Freehand lets you draw your selection, automatic selects areas based on color, and rectangle or ellipse give you geometric selections.
  4. Editing with the Selection Tool: Once you've made your selection, you can adjust it by tapping and dragging the selected area. If you need to resize or rotate it, tap the arrow at the top of the screen to use the Transform Tool.

So, if you're not using the Selection Tool yet, give it a try. It's all about the details when you're aiming to create standout character designs. And who knows? This might just be the tool that takes your digital character design in Procreate to the next level. Are you ready to make some precise edits?

If you enjoyed our blog post on "10 Procreate Techniques for Better Character Design" and want to learn more about using Procreate for your artwork, we highly recommend checking out Vicky Catalan's workshop, 'Intro to Procreate: Drawing with Digital Tools.' This workshop will teach you the fundamentals of using Procreate and help you enhance your character design skills with digital tools.