Procreate for iPad App Review

Procreate is designed for sketching, drawing, and painting

Businessman in office working on digital tablet
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Procreate is a powerful digital sketching and painting app designed specifically for the iPad. Procreate offers exceptional performance, an elegant user interface, powerful layers support, stunning filters, hundreds of brush presets (including pens, pencils, and abstract tools), and the ability to import, create, and share custom brushes. The app supports Apple Pencil and iCloud Drive, and it records each brushstroke as you work, so sharing your work by video is seamless.

To use the current version of Procreate, your iPad must run iOS 11.1 or newer.

Procreate Pros

Procreate reviews online are consistently positive. Procreate has been named an Apple Design Award winner and an App Store Essential.

  • Highly responsive with zero stroke lag
  • Exclusive perspective blur
  • Gaussian and motion blur
  • Hue, saturation, and brightness settings
  • 64-bit color
  • 128 brushes, each with 35 customizable settings
  • Work saved automatically in the background
  • Right- or left-handed option for user interface
  • Supports large canvas sizes up to 16k by 4k on iPad Pro 12.9"
  • Opens PSD, TIFF, PNG, PDF, and JPEG files
  • 250 levels of undo and redo
  • Records your drawings as videos that can be exported in full HD

Procreate Cons

This app doesn't have many cons; the following cons are more of a wish list:

  • No animation tools
  • No free version to sample the app
  • Only available for iPad (although the company offers the less powerful Procreate Pocket for the iPhone)
  • Reading the handbook necessary to optimize use of the app

Procreate User Interface and Performance

Procreate's user interface is relatively simplistic. The most striking thing about the app is not the depth of its features but how responsive and fluid it is to work with. This is due to the high level of performance as well as a well-thought-out user interface that doesn't get in the way.

Unlike many mobile painting apps, there is zero stroke lag when painting in Procreate. You'll appreciate this responsiveness if you enjoy working with a smudge tool for blending colors. For more precision, you can enable the streamline feature to automatically correct your strokes as you draw. When you rotate the iPad, the canvas stays in place, but the user interface rotates so that the tools are always oriented to your drawing position.

Like Adobe Photoshop, Procreate includes a selection tool that allows you to outline areas of your drawing for editing without affecting the whole canvas. Since Procreate records your drawings in real time, you can impress your friends with time-lapsed animations of your work when it's finished.

Procreate Brushes and Layers

Procreate comes with hundreds of brush and tool presets, and you can also create your own custom brushes directly on the device. To create custom brushes, you import images for the brush shape and texture and then set the parameters of the brush attributes, such as spacing and rotation. You can share your custom brush presets and import new presets from other users.

The active Procreate Community forum is a good place to find and share custom brushes.

When it comes to working with layers, Procreate provides a great deal of flexibility for merging, locking and working with blending modes. The maximum number of layers is limited by the canvas size.

Procreate and Third-Party Devices

Procreate supports only Apple Pencil on iPad Pro with tilt, azimuth, accumulation, and flow settings. If you have a different iPad, you can use these pressure-sensitive stylus pens:

  • Adonit Jot Touch 4, Jot Touch Pixelpoint, Jot Script, and Jot Script 2
  • TenOneDesign's Pogo Connect 1 and 2
  • Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus 1 and 2, Bamboo Fineline 1 and 2
  • FiftyThree Pencil 

Getting Help in Procreate

Help for Procreate is available through an in-app quick start guide, as well as a detailed handbook you can download from within the app. Links are provided for the Procreate Community forum, online tutorials, and customer support.

Procreate vs. Photoshop

Procreate is similar to Photoshop in how it handles layers, but it's better optimized for the iPad. Fortunately, Procreate supports Photoshop files, so you can import your PSD files and continue working on your tablet. Procreate also makes it easy to share files and open them on non-Apple devices.

All in all, Procreate offers many of the same features as Photoshop at a much lower price. Although no free version is available for experimenting, a onetime cost of $9.99 is more appealing than Adobe's annual subscription fee. While Procreate has a small learning curve, it's a good alternative to Photoshop for artists who primarily work on their iPads.