Procreate Realism: 5 Techniques for Digital Art
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Create depth with layering
  2. Use blending for smooth transitions
  3. Implement light and shading
  4. Apply textures for realistic details
  5. Employ color theory

If you're passionate about digital art and have been exploring the Procreate app, you might have come across the term 'Procreate realism techniques'. But what does it mean? Simply put, it's about using certain techniques in Procreate that can make your digital art look incredibly lifelike. Let's dive into some of the most effective Procreate realism techniques that can take your digital art to the next level.

Create depth with layering

One of the first steps towards achieving realism in Procreate is creating depth in your artwork, and layering is a fantastic way to do this. Layering helps build complexity and volume in your images, making them more lifelike.

The Basics of Layering

Layering in Procreate works much like it does in traditional painting. You start with the base layer—the "foundation" of your piece—and then add more layers on top to create depth and detail. Here's how it works:

  • Base Layer: This is your starting point. It could be a simple sketch or a flat color.
  • Detail Layers: These are added on top of the base layer. They can include shading, highlighting, and texturing.
  • Top Layers: These are the final touches. They can be used for fine details, or to adjust the colors and tones of the entire piece.

Building Volume with Layering

So, how can you use layering to build volume? It's all about understanding how light works. Creating a sense of depth and volume in your Procreate art requires you to think about how light would hit and interact with the objects in your artwork. By adding layers of lighter and darker colors, you can create the illusion of depth, making your art look three-dimensional.

Tips for Effective Layering

Layering might seem a bit tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can really help your digital art shine. Here are a few tips:

  1. Don't Rush: Take your time with each layer. Remember, each one adds to the overall depth and realism of your piece.
  2. Experiment with Opacity: Changing the opacity of your layers can create interesting effects, adding to the realism.
  3. Use Layer Masks: Layer masks in Procreate can help you control where and how much of a layer is visible, giving you more control over the final look of your piece.

Layering is just one of the many Procreate realism techniques that can elevate your digital art. With patience and practice, you'll soon be creating pieces that are rich in depth and detail, making them look impressively realistic.

Use blending for smooth transitions

Now that we've talked about layering, let's move on to another key aspect of Procreate realism techniques: blending. Blending is like magic—it's what helps you create smooth transitions between colors and tones, making your artwork look more natural and lifelike.

Understanding Blending

In the real world, colors don't abruptly change—they transition smoothly from one to another. That's where blending comes in. It's all about making those transitions in your digital art look smooth and seamless, just like they would in real life. But how do you do it?

  • Smudge Tool: The Smudge tool in Procreate is your best friend when it comes to blending. You can use it to gently smudge colors together, creating those smooth transitions.
  • Brushes: Certain brushes in Procreate are designed specifically for blending. Experimenting with them can give you different blending effects.

Blending Techniques

Blending in Procreate isn't a one-size-fits-all process—it requires a bit of experimentation and practice. Here are a few techniques to get you started:

  1. Gradual Blending: This involves slowly and carefully blending colors together, working in small sections at a time.
  2. Color Mixing: This technique involves mixing two colors together on a separate layer before applying them to your artwork.
  3. Crosshatching: This technique uses intersecting lines and can be used to create a blended effect, especially for more textured pieces.

Blending Tips

While blending might seem intimidating at first, with a bit of practice, it can become second nature. Here are a few tips to help you improve your blending skills:

  • Start Small: If you're new to blending, start with small, simple pieces before moving on to more complex ones.
  • Practice Regularly: Like any skill, the more you practice blending, the better you'll get at it.
  • Experiment: Don't be afraid to try out different blending techniques and tools. You might discover a new method that works perfectly for your style!

Remember, blending is a key part of Procreate realism techniques—it's what helps your digital art look smooth and seamless, just like a real-life scene. So, don't be afraid to experiment and practice. Before you know it, you'll be blending like a pro.

Implement light and shading

Alright, let's shine a light on the next technique—quite literally. To make your digital art shine with Procreate realism techniques, you need to implement light and shading. These elements can give your art a three-dimensional look, making it seem as though it's popping right off the screen.

Mastering Light

Lighting is a game-changer in your art. It can set the mood, highlight important details, and give your work a sense of depth and dimension. Here's how you can work with light:

  • Directional Light: Consider where your light source is coming from. This will affect how the light hits your subjects and creates shadows.
  • Intensity: Play around with how strong or weak your light source is. A strong light can create high contrast, while a weaker light can produce a more subtle, soft effect.

Shading Secrets

Shading is the sibling of light—it's all about creating depth and dimension through shadows. Here's how to shade like a shadow master:

  1. Identify Your Light Source: The first step in shading is to identify your light source. The areas furthest from the light will be darker.
  2. Gradual Shading: Avoid sudden changes from light to dark. Gradual shading creates a more realistic effect.
  3. Use Different Tones: Don't just use a darker version of the same color for shading. Experiment with different tones to add depth and richness to your work.

Light and Shading Tips

Light and shading can seem tricky at first, but with a few tips and tricks, you can become a master of light and shadow:

  • Observe: Look at the world around you. Notice how light and shadow work in real life and try to replicate that in your art.
  • Use Layers: Procreate's layer feature is a lifesaver when it comes to light and shading. Use separate layers for different light and shadow areas to make adjustments easier.
  • Practice: It might sound like a cliché, but practice really does make perfect. The more you experiment with light and shading, the better you'll get.

By implementing light and shading, you're not just adding depth and dimension to your work—you're bringing it to life. It's one of the most impactful Procreate realism techniques. So grab your digital brush, and let's illuminate your art!

Apply textures for realistic details

Now, let's get down to the nitty-gritty—literally. Textures are the little details that can make a big difference in your digital art. They bring a sense of touch to your work, making it feel more real and tangible. Let's see how you can add textures to your Procreate art for a realistic touch.

Understanding Textures

Before we start applying textures, let's understand what they are:

  • Surface Texture: This is the actual feel of your art's surface. It could be rough like sandpaper, smooth like glass, or anything in between.
  • Visual Texture: This is what your art looks like it feels like. It's all about creating the illusion of a texture, even though the surface is flat.

Creating Textures in Procreate

Procreate offers several ways to create textures. Here are a few techniques you can use:

  1. Brushes: Procreate comes with a variety of brushes that you can use to create different textures. You can also download additional brushes or create your own.
  2. Layers: You can use layers to add textures. Try using a textured brush on a new layer and then changing the blend mode to see what effects you can create.
  3. Stamps: Stamps are another great way to add texture. Procreate has a range of stamp brushes you can use, or you can make your own stamp.

Using Textures Effectively

Textures can add a lot of depth and interest to your art, but they need to be used effectively. Here are a few tips:

  • Consistency: Keep your textures consistent throughout your piece. If you're using a particular texture for one element, consider using it for other elements too to create harmony.
  • Subtlety: Textures tend to work best when they're subtle. Too much texture can make your art look busy or messy. Less is more!
  • Experiment: Don't be afraid to try different textures and see what works best for your art. Experimentation is key to discovering your own unique style.

Adding textures is a significant step towards Procreate realism. It's like adding the cherry on top of a cake—it completes your piece and makes it more appealing. So, don't be afraid to get gritty with your digital art!

Employ color theory

Colors play a pivotal role in creating realistic digital art. It's not just about choosing your favorite hues—it's about understanding how colors work together. Let's explore how color theory can help enhance your Procreate realism techniques.

What is Color Theory?

Color theory is a set of guidelines that artists use to understand and use color effectively. It involves concepts like:

  • Hue: This is just another name for color. Red, blue, yellow, green—these are all hues.
  • Value: This refers to how light or dark a color is. Adding black to a color increases its value, making it darker, while adding white decreases its value, making it lighter.
  • Saturation: This is about how intense or dull a color is. Highly saturated colors are bright and vivid, while desaturated colors are more muted.

Applying Color Theory in Procreate

How can you use color theory in your Procreate art? Here are a few pointers:

  1. Color Wheel: The color wheel is your best friend when it comes to color theory. It helps you understand color relationships and choose color schemes that work well together.
  2. Color Palettes: Procreate allows you to create and save color palettes. You can use these to keep your colors consistent and harmonious across your artwork.
  3. Color Adjustments: Procreate has powerful color adjustment tools that you can use to tweak the hue, saturation, and value of your colors to get them just right.

Creating Realistic Colors

To achieve Procreate realism, you'll need to create realistic colors. Here's how:

  • Observe: Look at the world around you. Pay attention to how colors look under different lighting conditions, and try to replicate that in your art.
  • Mix: Rarely are colors in real life a straight hue from the color wheel. Mix your colors to create more realistic hues.
  • Shadows and Highlights: Realistic coloring isn't just about the colors themselves—it's also about how light affects those colors. Use shadows and highlights to give your colors depth and dimension.

Color theory might seem a bit complex, but once you get the hang of it, it can transform your digital art. So, go ahead and add some color to your Procreate realism techniques!

If you're looking to improve your digital art skills and create realistic artwork using Procreate, be sure to check out the 'Follow Along: Realism Paint Workshop' by David Shepherd. This workshop will guide you through various techniques and help you master realism in your digital art creations. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from an experienced artist and elevate your Procreate skills!