The Art of Drawing Digitally yet Elegantly

How to do it on the cheap.

If you are thinking of delving into the world of digital art on a budget and happen to have an old iPad lying around, you are in luck. I have been there and can tell you that you can actually produce professional level illustrations and artwork using just an iPad air and your finger!

I have never owned a stylus although I have been tempted especially with the Apple pencil coming out last year. However I soon discovered it was only compatible with the iPad Pro not the ipad Air. The great thing is, after many months getting by without one I came to the simple conclusion that you can do everything perfectly well with your index finger anyway. Which is the reason why I still haven’t bothered upgrading my hardware.

Now there are a number of apps you can use on the iPad for your illustrations and I tried a few until I found the right one or ones. The apps that I now exclusively use and recommend are Procreate and Adobe Draw. To do a drawing such as the one featured at the top of this post though you need Procreate. Adobe Draw is good for vector art if you are willing to also pay the monthly subscription for Adobe Illustrator but even then you are limited in the type of art you can produce. Procreate is a raster based app which allows more a more free flowing style.

So without further ado lets move on to the tutorial proper.

Firstly you need to download the app from the app store. (here is a link. ) It is a paid app so be aware but It’s dirt cheap compared to monthly Adobe subscriptions and other drawing tablets. It really is well worth it if you’re serious about producing quality art on your iPad.

Once you open up the app you will see a page like this only empty apart from a few built-in example projects done by established artists to show you what type of work you can do. Mine is full of my own various projects as you can see below. The type of work I have produced and made money from using this app ranges from stock illustration to comic book style freelance illustration, even storyboarding for companies making video pitches. 

Gallery Procreate

Click on the + icon in the top right corner to start your own project. Here you can see a few options for your canvas size. I tend to use larger canvases because the resolution is higher. Bear in mind though that the larger the canvas, the less layers you will have for your project. If you are familiar with Photoshop or Illustrator you will be familiar with working with layers. If not, don’t worry. I wasn’t but once I started drawing it became natural fairly quickly. Definitely experiment with different canvas sizes. You can also create your own custom canvas which I often take advantage of.

Choose screen size Procreate

For the image in this post I used a standard square canvas and it starts out looking like this.In the top right corner you have your brush, a finger which I presume to be a smudging tool, (Personally I have never used this.) an eraser and your layers where you can create or switch between layers. To the right of that is a colour picker which I find very easy to use. (hint: If you press and hold any point on the canvas, you automatically select that colour.) In the top left you can return to your gallery, use innumerable tools, play around with effects such as opacity and noise and more as well as use more functions which to be honest I have never needed to use. Finally on the left of the screen you can control the brush size and the brush opacity.

blank canvas Procreate

All in all it is very user friendly.

studio pen Procreate

There are a lot of different brushes to choose from and it is fun to mess around and find out how each one looks. Personally, after lots of trial and error I tend to favour one of the simple pen brushes such as the studio pen for outlines. Below is an example of an illustration I did using one of the sketching brushes. This actually landed me an upcoming gig for Chelsea football club! I have included the layers here to show you a little bit of the process.

Chelsea comic procreate

For the drawing in the post title I used my absolute favourite brush.  The soft airbrush! (hint: lower the opacity of the soft airbrush and you can achieve amazing photorealistic results. I think it’s one of the coolest things about drawing on Procreate.) 

soft airbrush Procreate

The Process (make this a header)

1. The first thing I do is I find an image that I want to work from. One of the great things about working on the iPad is that it is so easy to find and import images into your project. I do this in order to..

2. Trace the outline. On paper the process is totally different but tracing on the screen is so ridiculously easy and quick. (hint: Reduce the opacity of the original image a little so you can see the outline you are making.)

Procreate outline illustration

3. Add some colour! Ironically in this illustration there are only shades of grey. But you know what I mean. To do this, my weapon of choice is the not-so-dangerous sounding Soft Airbrush. If you press and hold any area of the canvas on the original image you can steal the colour for your own use. 

Partially finished Hara Setsuko Illustration Procreate

4.Add detail! This is where the soft airbrush really comes into its own! The trick to shading is subtlety. This is the perfect tool for creating lighter and darker gradients. You just need to reduce the brush opacity to your liking and then you can do this!

closeup detail Procreate illustration

(Article to be continued…sorry so busy with the Youtube channel and of course the drawing!)