Paint Like You Mean It
Update 9/1/13: The last two updates of Procreate since this review have been incredible. It now features a Select Tool, some copy/paste functions, and they added their premium brushes for free. If you are hesitating at all over whether to buy this app, stop waiting. Get it now.
Procreate has evolved into one of the most popular art creation apps on the iOS system today. It boasts an intuitive interface, a simple-yet-innovative brush creation system, and an active and helpful online community. On a personal note, it is my primary painting app, and I use it for nearly all my art creation on the iPad, along with my Pogo Connect stylus.
The idea behind Procreate is to have an App capable of painting fast, yet also able to handle the small details and nuances that take most paintings from “nice layout” to “wow, awesome.” The performance is impressive, it is indeed very fast at laying down color and manipulating with a stylus or a finger. The App will set you back five bucks, but it comes with more brushes than you would expect, a whole six sets (48 brushes in all!) and they range from pencil to painting as well as subtleties like textures. And though Procreate offers nine more brush sets for purchase at $0.99 each, you probably won’t need to purchase them unless you feel the need to support the creators because the App comes with its own innovative Brush creation system.
Each brush is composed of two elements; shape and texture. This helps give each brush its own unique feel, and I set about taking pictures of textures I found around me (wood grain from a table, my own blue jeans, even rusted jagged metal) and quickly became immersed with different brush combinations.
Seasoned artists should quickly pick up on Procreate’s features, and many have already shown just how impressive the App can be when it comes to creating beautiful art:
Even amateurs like me can get in on the action, like with this painting I did of a 400+ year-old bonsai tree named “Hiroshima Survivor:”
It is worth noting that, just like any tool, Procreate will not do the work for you. You still need to know basic elements of painting like composition, color picking, and lighting. That being said, there are a few things about Procreate that struck me as negative, though to be fair they are pretty minimal and don’t hurt its final score too much.
It’s a little too “painterly” sometimes, especially when it comes to erasing. Often I would paint a large swath on the canvas with the intention of erasing it into a certain shape only to find (much later in the process) that I had left behind a few tiny artifacts which, while initially barely visible, are now making my faces look old or my boat look like a paper bag. It’s easy enough to direct-paint over the small mistakes, and there are workarounds I learned for the early blocking-in process (like temporarily setting a layer to multiply to emphasize artifacts for easier extermination), but all of these things feel like extra steps to someone who’s used to Photoshop.
The other issue I had was with color mixing. I searched and searched but couldn’t find a reasonable way to mix the colors onscreen the way I am used to doing when painting in Photoshop. Smudge doesn’t work, opacity doesn’t work, and the load controls are buried in the brush settings and don’t act the way that I’m used to.
The color-picker works fine, and is fairly intuitive, but I’m still pretty weak on palette harmonization, and onscreen mixing is a pretty common technique even for professional digital painters and designers, so it seems weird that it was left out. Again, maybe someone out there has a good and non-time-wasting way to do this, and if so, I’ll happily edit this section of the review, but for now it seems that Procreate is just one tool shy of being as useful to me and other amateurs as it could be.
A Robust Community
The typical response from the Procreate Community when someone complains that Procreate lacks this or that feature is to claim that adding more tools would make Procreate slow, just like the other iPad art Apps (their claim, not mine). They have added their own ingenious workarounds, usually hinging on a custom brush, which they provide and share freely among one another.
While I admire the community for their share-and-share-alike mentality and extreme helpfulness, I have to say that a workaround in itself implies that something is missing. While Procreate doesn’t make any claims to having every tool you’ll ever need, some simple settings like being able to draw a straight line or even some better blending when using “softer” brushes doesn’t seem like too much to ask when other painting programs have been providing these tools for decades. Again, none of these negatives cost them more than half-a-point here or there in their star rating, and maybe I’m just not a good enough artist to make the most of this App yet.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the creators, who really put together a solid painting App. Despite its limitations, it’s still my go-to painting App and frankly, I love it!
- User-friendliness – 4.5
- Functionality – 5
- Aesthetics – 4
- Performance – 4
- Honesty – 5
Overall: 4.3 Stars!