Procreate: 5 Tips for Complex Compositions
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Use layers for detailed elements
  2. Apply grid and guides for alignment
  3. Employ clipping masks for shading and texture
  4. Utilize blend modes for lighting effects
  5. Experiment with brushes for dynamic results

Diving into the world of Procreate can feel like stepping into a candy store for the first time. You're surrounded by a plethora of features, options, and tools that can make your digital art journey a breeze. But, when you're trying to create a complex composition in Procreate, it can feel a bit daunting. It's like trying to build a Lego masterpiece without a guide. That's where this blog comes in. We'll explore five handy tips to make procreate complex composition building a smooth and satisfying process, just like savoring your favorite candy. Let's start with our first tip: using layers for detailed elements.

Use Layers for Detailed Elements

Imagine trying to paint a detailed mural on a single canvas - sounds tricky, right? That's where layers become your best friend in Procreate. They allow you to segment your artwork into manageable parts, giving you greater control over your complex composition. Let's see why and how:

Why Use Layers?

  • Greater Control: With layers, you can alter one part of your image without affecting the rest. Forget about the fear of ruining your entire composition with one wrong brush stroke.
  • Easy Edits: Need to change the color of that background? No problem! Just select the layer and adjust as needed. It's like having a magic eraser that can undo any unwanted changes.
  • Organized Workflow: Layers help you keep track of different elements in your composition, making your Procreate workspace tidier than a freshly cleaned art studio.

How to Use Layers?

Using layers in Procreate is as easy as flipping pancakes. Here's how:

  1. Select the layers panel on the top right corner of the screen. It's the icon that looks like two squares stacked on top of each other.
  2. Tap the + button to add a new layer. You can add as many layers as you need, but remember, each layer is like a pancake. Stack too many, and it might topple over!
  3. To edit a layer, simply select it and make your changes. You can also rearrange, merge, or delete layers as per your composition needs.

There you have it! A simple yet effective way to add detail to your Procreate complex composition building. Now, keep these tips in your artist's toolbox and get ready to layer your way to a masterpiece.

Apply Grid and Guides for Alignment

With layers under your belt, let's move on to our next strategy: using grid and guides. Think of them as the chalk lines that architects use when designing buildings. They help you keep the elements of your Procreate complex composition perfectly aligned. Let's delve deeper:

Benefit of Grids and Guides

  • Alignment: Grids and guides act like a visual ruler, helping you keep every element of your composition in its right place. This way, every stroke you make will be as precise as a watchmaker's touch.
  • Proportions: They help maintain the proportion of your drawings, ensuring that your giant elephant doesn't end up looking like a tiny mouse.
  • Consistency: By guiding your strokes, grids and guides help maintain consistency across your masterpiece. They're like the conductor of your art orchestra, ensuring every part plays in harmony.

How to Apply Grids and Guides?

Applying grids and guides in Procreate is as simple as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Here's how:

  1. Tap on the wrench icon on the top left corner of your screen. This will open the Actions menu.
  2. Select the Drawing Guide option under the Canvas settings. This is your ticket to the world of grids and guides.
  3. Customize your guide! Whether you want a standard grid or a funky radial one, Procreate has got you covered.

Now, with grids and guides in your Procreate toolbox, you can create complex compositions that are as well-aligned as a choir in perfect harmony. So, go ahead and let these guides lead the way to your next art masterpiece.

Employ Clipping Masks for Shading and Texture

Next on our journey of Procreate complex composition building is the use of clipping masks. Imagine clipping masks as your personal art chameleons. They can take on the shape of any layer beneath them, adding depth, shading, and texture to your composition. So, let's explore how they work:

What Do Clipping Masks Do?

  • Depth: Clipping masks allow you to add depth to your drawings. They're like make-up for your art, highlighting and contouring the right places.
  • Shading: They're your magic wand for adding shadows, giving your flat drawings a 3D life.
  • Texture: With clipping masks, you can jazz up your artwork with any texture you fancy, from rough brick walls to fluffy cotton candy clouds.

How to Use Clipping Masks?

Applying clipping masks in Procreate is as easy as pie. Here's the recipe:

  1. Create a new layer above the layer that you want to add depth, shading, or texture to. This new layer will be your clipping mask.
  2. Tap on the new layer to open the layer options, then select Clipping Mask.
  3. Start drawing on your clipping mask layer. You'll see that your strokes only appear on the shape of the layer beneath it.

Now that you've unlocked the power of clipping masks in Procreate, your complex compositions will be as vibrant and detailed as a bustling cityscape at night. So, ready to bring your artwork to life?

Utilize Blend Modes for Lighting Effects

Let's march forward in our Procreate complex composition building expedition. Blend modes are the unsung heroes of the digital art world. They're like the supporting characters in a movie that add depth and drama to the story. So, let's shed some light on blend modes and how to use them for lighting effects in Procreate.

What Are Blend Modes?

  • Spice: Blend modes add that extra spice to your art that makes it pop. They mix colors and tones in unique ways to create effects that you can't achieve with regular painting tools.
  • Lighting: They are your trusty sidekicks for creating realistic lighting. You can use them to cast a warm sunrise glow or a cool moonlit shadow on your art.

How to Use Blend Modes?

Unleashing the magic of blend modes in Procreate is a piece of cake. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the layer options by tapping on a layer.
  2. Select the Blend Mode option. You'll see a list of all the different modes available, from Multiply to Color Dodge.
  3. Experiment with different modes to see which one gives you the desired lighting effect. Remember, there's no right or wrong choice here, it's all about what suits your art best.

And voila! With the power of blend modes, your Procreate complex compositions will shine brighter than a diamond in the sky. So, are you ready to light up your digital art world?

Experiment with Brushes for Dynamic Results

Alright, it's time to pick up your digital brush and let's dive into the world of Procreate complex composition building. Brushes can be the game-changer in your artwork, adding that dynamic touch that brings your composition to life. So, let's roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty with some brush experimentation!

Why Experiment with Brushes?

  • Variety: When you experiment with brushes, you open up a world of variety. Procreate offers an array of brushes from inky pens to painterly strokes. Each brush can add a unique texture and style to your art.
  • Originality: Customizing brushes or creating your own can set your work apart from the crowd. It's like having a secret ingredient in your art recipe that no one else knows about.

How to Experiment with Brushes?

Don't worry, you don't need to be a mad scientist to experiment with brushes in Procreate. Here's a simple guide to get you started:

  1. Open the Brushes panel in Procreate. You'll find a treasure trove of brushes waiting to be explored.
  2. Try out different brushes on a new layer. Notice how each brush affects the look and feel of your composition. Some brushes might surprise you!
  3. Dare to mix and match. Sometimes, using two or more brushes together can create interesting effects that one brush alone can't.

So, go ahead and unleash your creativity. With the right brush, your Procreate complex composition building journey can turn into a fun-filled art adventure. Who knows, you might just discover your new favorite brush!

If you're eager to learn more about creating complex compositions in Procreate, don't miss the workshop 'Composing Complex Illustrations using Basic Shapes' by Juliet Schreckinger. This workshop will teach you how to break down complex subjects into basic shapes, making it easier to create stunning illustrations in Procreate.