Procreate Character Design: Tips for Digital Characters
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. What is Procreate?
  2. Why use Procreate for character design?
  3. How to set up Procreate for character design
  4. Character design techniques in Procreate
  5. Tips for creating unique and relatable characters
  6. How to add dimension to your characters
  7. Ways to experiment with color and texture
  8. How to animate your character in Procreate

Everyone has a story to tell, and what better way to share your tale than through your own digital characters? The art of procreate character design takes your storytelling to the next level, allowing you to craft unique, relatable characters that bring your narrative to life. Ready to dive in? By the end of this guide, you'll be armed with the know-how to use Procreate to design captivating characters for your digital world.

What is Procreate?

Procreate is a popular digital art app used by both professionals and novices alike. Available exclusively on the Apple App Store, Procreate is the go-to tool for creating stunning artwork right on your iPad. But it's not just about painting landscapes or sketching still life. With Procreate, you get to bring characters to life with the swipe of your Apple Pencil.

Here's a quick look at what makes Procreate stand out:

  • Intuitive Interface: Procreate's clean, user-friendly interface means you spend less time navigating and more time creating. You get direct access to your brushes, layers, and color palettes, right at your fingertips.
  • Powerful Brushes: With over 200 handcrafted brushes available, Procreate gives you the freedom to create any style you can imagine. And if that's not enough, you can even create your own custom brushes.
  • Advanced Layer System: Procreate's layer system is a game-changer for your character design process. It allows you to work on different parts of your character independently, making edits and adjustments a breeze.
  • Animation Assist: Yes, you read that right. Procreate doesn't just limit you to still images. With the Animation Assist feature, you can bring your characters to life by creating your own frame-by-frame animations.

Now that we've covered the basics, let's move on to why Procreate is a top choice for your character design adventures.

Why use Procreate for character design?

While there are numerous digital art applications available, Procreate offers a blend of accessibility and power that is simply unmatched. Here are a few reasons why Procreate is a solid choice for character design:

  • Accessibility: With Procreate, you don't need a high-end computer or expensive software. All you need is an iPad and your imagination. This makes Procreate character design accessible to anyone, anywhere.
  • Flexibility: Whether you're sketching, outlining, coloring, or adding the final touches, Procreate's vast array of tools ensures you have everything you need for each stage of the character design process.
  • Quality: Procreate doesn't compromise on quality. With up to 4K resolution on iPad Pro, your characters will look crisp and vibrant, capturing every detail of your design.
  • Portability: With Procreate on your iPad, you can design characters wherever inspiration strikes — whether that's in a park, a coffee shop, or your own living room.

But don't just take my word for it. Give Procreate character design a shot and see the difference for yourself. It could be the game-changer you've been looking for in your digital art journey.

How to set up Procreate for character design

Setting up Procreate for character design is an easy process. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to get started:

  1. Open Procreate: Tap on the Procreate icon on your iPad to launch the application.
  2. Create a new canvas: Click on the "+" sign at the top-right corner of the screen. Choose the canvas size that best suits your project. For character design, a square canvas often works best.
  3. Choose your tools: Procreate offers a plethora of brushes and pencils. Experiment with them and choose the ones that feel most comfortable for your style of sketching and detailing.
  4. Set your layers: Layers are vital in Procreate character design. They allow you to work on different parts of your character without affecting the rest of your design. You can add a new layer by tapping on the layers panel and then the "+" sign.

And there you have it! You've set up your Procreate for character design. Now, it's time to let your imagination run wild and start designing your character. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don't be afraid to make mistakes, learn, and grow as an artist.

Character design techniques in Procreate

Once you've set up Procreate for character design, the next step is to master the techniques that can help you bring your digital characters to life. Here are some techniques that you might find helpful:

  1. Master the use of brushes: Procreate comes with a variety of brushes that you can use for different parts of your character design. For example, you can use textured brushes for hair or fur, and soft brushes for skin. The more you experiment with different brushes, the more you'll understand which ones work best for your style.
  2. Make use of layers: Layers are a great way to keep your character design organized. You can use different layers for the sketch, the line art, and the color. This way, if you need to make changes to one part of your design, you won't disrupt the rest of it.
  3. Play with proportions: In character design, you don't always have to stick to realistic proportions. Don't be afraid to exaggerate certain body parts to give your characters more personality. For example, you could give your character big eyes for a cute look, or long legs for a stylish vibe.
  4. Use references: If you're unsure about how to draw a certain body part or pose, don't hesitate to use references. You can take pictures of yourself or use online images as guides. Remember, references are tools to help you, not something to copy exactly.

By mastering these techniques, you'll be well on your way to creating stunning Procreate character designs. But remember, the most important thing is to have fun and let your creativity shine!

Tips for creating unique and relatable characters

Creating distinct and relatable characters is what makes your Procreate character design stand out. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  1. Know Your Character: Before you start sketching, create a backstory for your character. What's their personality like? What do they love and hate? By understanding your character on a deeper level, you can make design choices that reflect their character traits and make them more relatable to viewers.
  2. Express Emotion: Conveying emotion in your Procreate character design can make it feel more alive. Use facial expressions, body language, and even clothing choices to show how your character is feeling. Is your character happy, sad, angry, or surprised? Show it through your design!
  3. Be Consistent: Consistency is key in character design. If your character wears glasses, for example, make sure they're present in every image of that character. Consistency in design helps to establish and reinforce the identity of your character.
  4. Experiment With Styles: Don't be afraid to experiment with different design styles. Maybe your character looks great in a cartoonish style, or perhaps a more realistic approach suits them better. Trying out different styles can lead to unique and interesting designs!

Remember, the most impactful characters are the ones viewers can connect with. So, above all, make sure your Procreate character design is a true reflection of your character's personality!

How to add dimension to your characters

Creating a flat character is a breeze, but adding dimension to your Procreate character design takes it to another level. It's a bit of a challenge, but definitely worth the effort. Here's how you can achieve this:

  1. Shading: Adding shade to your characters is the quickest way to give them a 3D look. Darken the areas where light doesn't hit directly, and lighten up the areas that are exposed. This will give your character a three-dimensional appearance, making them pop off the screen.
  2. Use of Perspective: Play with perspective to give depth to your character. Show parts of the character that might be hidden from a front-on view, like the sides or back of the head. This can give a sense of depth and reality to your character.
  3. Texture: Adding texture to your character can also provide a sense of dimension. Try adding different materials like fur, scales, or clothing textures to various parts of your character's body. This not only adds depth but also brings a unique element to your Procreate character design.
  4. Gradient: Gradients can also give the illusion of depth. A smooth transition from a dark color to a light one can make flat objects appear as if they have volume.

Remember, adding dimension to your characters is more than just making them look 3D. It's about bringing them to life, making them feel real and tangible, even if they're just on the screen. So, don't shy away from experimenting with different techniques to add dimension to your Procreate character design.

Ways to experiment with color and texture

Color and texture play a vital role in defining the visual appeal of your Procreate character design. They can set the mood, convey emotion, and even tell a story without a single word. So how do you experiment with color and texture? Here are some tips:

  1. Color Theory: Understanding color theory can be a game-changer for your character design. Warm colors can evoke feelings of happiness or anger, while cool colors can convey calmness or sadness. Try different color schemes like monochromatic, analogous, or complementary to see what works best for your character's personality and the overall mood of your design.
  2. Textures: Experimenting with different textures can give your character a unique look and feel. Procreate offers a wide range of brushes that reproduce textures like fur, skin, hair, and fabrics. You can also create your own customized brushes to achieve the exact texture you want.
  3. Color and Texture Combinations: Don't be afraid to mix and match different colors and textures. A rough texture with a soft color can create an interesting contrast, while a shiny texture with a bright color can make your character stand out. The key here is to experiment until you find the perfect balance.
  4. Gradients: Using gradients can add depth and dimension to your color and texture choices. Gradients can help create a smooth transition between different colors or textures, making your character design more visually engaging.

Remember, there's no right or wrong when it comes to experimenting with color and texture. The more you play around with them, the more you'll discover what works best for your Procreate character design. So go ahead, let your creativity run wild!

How to animate your character in Procreate

Animation brings life to your Procreate character design. It's like the cherry on top of your character creation process. But how do you animate your character in Procreate? Here are some steps to guide you:

  1. Sketch your character: Start by sketching your character in a neutral pose. This will be your base frame for the animation.
  2. Create new layers for each movement: For every movement that you want your character to make, create a new layer. For example, if you want your character to wave, create separate layers for each stage of the wave.
  3. Use Onion Skinning: Onion skinning is a feature in Procreate that allows you to see a faint image of the previous and next frames, making it easier to create smooth animations. To use this feature, go to the layers panel, tap on the frame thumbnail and select 'Onion Skin Frame'.
  4. Preview and Adjust: Once you've created all your frames, preview your animation by tapping on the play button. If a movement doesn't look right, you can always go back and tweak the layers until you're satisfied with the result.
  5. Export your animation: When you're happy with your animation, you can export it in a variety of formats. Go to the actions panel, tap 'Share', and select the format you want. Procreate supports exporting animations as GIF, MP4, or HEVC.

Animating your character in Procreate can seem daunting at first, but with practice and patience, you'll see just how fun and rewarding it can be. Now, you're not just a character designer, but an animator as well. How cool is that?

If you're passionate about character design and want to improve your skills in Procreate, don't miss the workshop 'Creating Characters: The Design Process' by Kit Buss. This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and techniques to create stunning digital characters in Procreate, taking your character design skills to new heights.