One of Procreate’s best features is its abundance of brushes. Learn how to extend your brush library by customizing brush settings.
Brushes, whether they’re calligraphic, charcoal, or artistic, can elevate any given design. With them, you can bring in detail, noise, variation, or texture to any illustration.
Even though Procreate comes with a large variety of brushes, there will always be instances where you need to fine-tune an existing brush or create your own from scratch. With Procreate’s Advanced Brush Settings, the brush options are completely endless.
In this guide, we’ll go over the basics of Procreate’s extensive brush library and settings, how to alter Procreate’s default brushes, how to create your own custom brushes, and how to take your illustrations to the next level by importing existing brushes and by combining brushes.
Image via Artemisia1508.
Procreate Brush Basics
Brushes are one of the best ways to take your illustration up a notch by adding texture, character, and life to shapes, lines, and compositions. Procreate’s brushes mimic various mediums from charcoal to watercolor, adding life to a digital drawing.
Every brush within Procreate can be found by accessing the brush icon at the top-right navigation bar in the program.
Types of Brushes
Procreate’s brush library houses eighteen default brush types, such as:
Sketching: A collection of pencil, pastel, crayon, and chalk brushes. These are ideal for sketching your drawing out and adding subtle hints of texture.Inking: Created to mimic the movement and textures of ink pens and markers. This category is a nice go-to for thicker, ink-style illustrations.Drawing: These brushes add various hints of realistic texture to any illustration and are best used after the sketching phase.Calligraphy: For those who use Procreate for lettering and calligraphy, this is the brush library to use.Painting: Made to mimic paint brushes and the buildable textures from this medium.Artistic: A collection of more intense and scattered texture brushes.Airbrushing: Perfect for giving any aspect of your illustration an air-brushed, gradient glow.Textures: Contrary to the more subtle texture brushes, these brushes lean on the edge of patterned textures.Abstract: Much like the Textures brush library, this collection of brushes is more abstract and patterned.Charcoals: A go-to for many Procreate artists, this brush library adds the perfect level of charcoal textures to any drawing.Elements: Made to mimic the earthly elements, this brush library can add environmental elements to your illustrations.Spraypaints: Much like the name mentions, this library houses spraypaint-like brushes.Touchups: With brushes designed to emulate hair, facial hair, and skin, this library is a handy go-to for portrait artists.Vintage: This vibrant collection of brushes mimics the pop-art and retro styles of illustration.Luminance: Add a flare or glow of light to your designs with this brush library.Industrial: Ideal for background elements, this library emulates the textures of concrete, tree bark, dirt, and metals.Organic: Much like the Elements brush library, the Organic brush collection mimics earthly textures such as grass, leaves, clay, cotton, and more.Water: Created to emulate the combinations of water and paper, this brush library gives your illustrations that realistic element.
Images via Lustrator.
Changing Opacity and Brush Sizes
Not every brushstroke needs to be at 100% opacity levels or brush size. You can dial down the intensity and size of each stroke by going to the left sidebar and adjusting the two vertical sliders.
At the top slider, you can change the brush’s size. Drag the slider up to increase the brush size and drag the slider down to decrease its size.
To change the brush’s opacity levels, adjust the bottom slider upwards to increase opacity and downwards to decrease opacity. Layering different brushes at different opacity layers is crucial to having a multi-dimensional, textured look to your illustrations.
Using just the slider itself can be difficult to make minute adjustments. To make finer adjustments, hold down the opacity or brush size slider, drag your finger to the left, and then drag upwards or downwards.
Image via Anna Kutukova.
Smudging and Blending Brushes
Smudging and blending is essential to achieving a smooth, realistic appearance, especially when painting, drawing with charcoal, and adding highlights and shadows to drawings.
To enable the Smudge tool in Procreate, click on the finger icon next to the Brush icon. With this tool activated, you can blend all components of the selected layer together. Once you click the Smudge icon twice, you can select from various brushes within the brush library just as you can with the Brush tool.
Images via karakotsya.
Erasing what has been drawn is simply a part of the drawing process. With the Eraser tool—located at the top of the interface next to both the Brush and Smudge icons—you can easily erase any component of the selected layer in a specific brush. Select the Eraser icon twice to bring up the brush library to choose from.
How to Adjust Default Procreate Brushes
By default, the Procreate application features a vast selection of pre-made brushes that artists can use for various applications. In the Brush Library, you’ll find charcoal, paint, effects, and even water brushes.
While Procreate’s brush collection is quite versatile, there will be times when you need to make a few tweaks to the default brushes. By adjusting the settings and sliders here and there, the brush appearance can change dramatically.
Step 1: Bring up Brushes Library
Start off by opening up the Procreate program. Create a new canvas, then click on the brush icon at the top of the screen. The Brush Library will open up a vast collection of default brushes to choose from in your composition. Scroll through the categories on the left side of the library and see the brush preview on the right side.
Before we get straight into customizing a brush, look through Procreate’s brush selection and get a feel of the type of brush you’d like to alter. I like to adjust the sketching, inking, or calligraphic brushes because I happen to use those brushes most in my compositions. In this tutorial, I’m going to change the appearance of the Narinder Pencil to behave more like a textured solid brush.
Duplicate the brush before editing by swiping left on the selected brush and hitting Duplicate. You’ll see a new brush pop up on top of the original brush with a small brushstroke icon.
Duplicate Narinder Pencil brush.
To further organize your custom brushes, scroll all the way to the top of the categories on the left and hit the plus sign icon. You can then drag-and-drop any custom brushes into the new section.
Step 2: Edit Stroke Properties and Taper
Once you’ve found a brush to customize, click on the brush preview to open up the Brush Studio. On the left, you’ll find multiple sections: Stroke Path, Taper, Shape, Grain, Rendering, Wet Mix, Color Dynamics, Dynamics, and more. Each section contains sliders that can be used to customize the appearance of the stroke and its behavior.
The first panel in the Stroke section is the Stroke Properties. Spacing, Jitter, and Fall Off are all properties that affect the spacing of the source image used to create the stroke.
Spacing alters the spacing between each plot point, while Jitter changes the spacing that is offset from the stroke line. Fall Off creates a stroke that will fade in intensity over time.
Within those properties, you’ll also see the StreamLine function. This tool stabilizes your stroke appearance and is optimal when using Procreate for hand-lettering purposes.
Stroke properties for Narinder Pencil
Beneath the Stroke Path panel is where you’ll find the Taper menu. This menu shows sliders that impact the appearance of the taper at the end of the brush stroke. Use the Pressure Taper option when working with the Apple Pencil, or the Touch Taper when working with your fingers.
Classic Taper applies the taper effect to the overall brush. The remaining sliders customize the taper amount, size, opacity, pressure, and tip. Experiment with these sliders and test out the custom settings by drawing within the Drawing Pad.
Step 3: Alter Shape Source Properties
Brushes in Procreate begin as a single shape. That single shape then repeats over the course of the stroke to create a brushstroke. The Shape section will alter how the source shape behaves when drawn out.
Underneath the Drawing Pad is the Shape Source box. This determines the base of your brush and how it’ll appear when drawn out. While the default source is a soft circle shape, you can also import a photo, file, or select from Procreate’s Source Library.
Select your shape source for your brush.
The Shape Behavior panel contains sliders to edit the scatter and rotation of the brush shape. Scatter pertains to the orientation of the brush within the stroke. A higher value of Scatter creates a textured brush, while a lower value of Scatter creates a streaked effect.
The Rotation slider affects the brush’s rotation and how it responds to directional change. This slider is extremely useful when creating a calligraphy brush due to the varying weights as you draw upward or downward.
In the Shape Properties section, you’ll find Randomized and Azimuth with on and off switches. Turn the Randomized function on to create a different shape direction at the beginning of each stroke. Turn Randomized off to base the shape direction off of the beginning stroke. The Azimuth property enables the brush shape to follow the perpendicular angle of the Apple Pencil.
Shape Filtering affects the rendering of the brush shape. Improved adds anti-aliasing, Classic applies earlier versions of filtering, and None takes away all filtering. The best option for a clean brush appearance is the Improved filtering.
Step 4: Adjust Grain Effects
In Procreate, the brush stroke acts as a strand of singular shapes. Within the shape holds the grain. Think of the brush’s grain as a paint roller, as the brush is drawn on the canvas, the grain changes in direction and size.
Within the Grain panel, you can customize the Grain SourceGrain Behavior, and Grain Filtering. Much like the Shape Source, the Grain Source enables you to import a photo or file, or select from the Source Library to texturized your brush further. The darker the grain source, the more solid your brush will appear.
Grain behavior panel.
The Grain Behavior section contains four properties that can impact the overall brush behavior: movement, scale, zoom, and rotation.
Movement impacts the amount the grain rolls. When set to Stamp, the grain will remain stagnant, and when set to Rolling, the grain will roll throughout.
Scale impacts the scale of the grain inside the brush stroke. Zoom affects the amount of zoom dependent on brush size. The Rotation slider allows the grain to move in a certain direction.
In the Grain Filtering section, you’ll find buttons for None, Classic, and Improved. Just like in the Shape section above, the Improved option applies more detail to the grain.
In addition to these elements, you can also adjust the Rendering, and Wet Mix can be applied to customize how the brush strokes interact with each other, as well as how the brush interacts with color. The Blend Mode option contains twenty modes to choose from. For most brushes, Normal is the best choice. Luminance Blending creates the brightest value when color is applied to a brush.
Step 5: Define Brush Dynamics
As a brush is being applied to a canvas, the intensity of the stroke can vary based on its speed or direction. The Color Dynamics and Dynamics sections affects the appearance of the brush while it’s being drawn. Both size and opacity can be manipulated in this section to create really unique results.
First up, you’ll find the Brush Rendering options: Normal, Glazed, and Wet Mix. Normal allows the stroke to build up over time with Opacity and SizeDynamicsGlazed enables the brush to behave much like Photoshop brushes without building up over time. Wet Mix creates a “wet look” to your brushes and is an ideal setting for paint-specific brushes.
Step 6: Customize Pencil Pressure and Tilt
The Pencil menu pertains to users that work with an Apple Pencil. As you draw out a shape, apply more pressure to create a larger stroke. Pressure can also determine the opacity, bleed, and smoothing options of the brush. Set these values to Max to have your brush react when you apply ample amounts of pressure. Set to 0% to keep your brush properties the same no matter the pressure.
Adjust Pencil Pressure settings.
Tilt your Apple Pencil on the screen and you’ll see a difference in how the brush applies to the canvas. Adjust the Angle amount to set the point at which the tilt affects the stroke appearance. This slider then affects the remaining properties: opacity, gradation, bleed, and size.
Set to Max to see the stroke change in appearance drastically when set to a certain angle. Or, set to None if you don’t want the tilt to impact the brush stroke.
Step 7: Set General Brush Options
The last step in editing default brushes is in the Properties and About sections. This is where you can change the brush’s preview, overall behavior, size limits, orientation, and blend modes. In the About section, you can change the brush’s name.
The Brush Properties panel is where you’ll find options to change the name and alter the preview in the brush library. Utilize the Preview slider to change the brush preview size, and use the Stamp Preview to show the source image of the brush.
Select Orient to Screen to enable a changing brush orientation as the screen turns.
Beneath the Brush properties panel is where you’ll find the Brush Behavior menu. The Size and Opacity Limits sections impact the maximum and minimum sizes and opacity of the brush when in use.
Step 8: Test out Customized Brush
After finalizing your brush settings, go ahead and test out your new customized brush in the canvas. Adjust the brush size and opacity using the sliders to the left of the canvas.
Apply color to your brush using the Color menu, and experiment with the blend modes in the Layer section.
Test your new brush.
Creating Custom Brushes from Scratch
Now that you know how to edit default brushes, it’s time to make your own brushes from scratch. Customizing your own brushes gives you more options in how you want your brush to appear on the canvas, rather than using the sources of the default brush.
Step 1: Set Brush Source
Start off by heading to the brush icon and creating a new brush by selecting the plus sign at the top-right of the Brush Library.
The brush’s Source section is where you can change its overall appearance. In this section, you can alter the Shape and Grain Source to determine the brush appearance.
Shape and Grain Source.
The Shape Source determines the container for the brush, while the Grain Source applies the texture to that shape. From each panel, you can Invert the Shape or GrainSwap from Pro Library, or Insert Photo.
You can use Procreate’s library of shapes and textures for your custom brush, or you can add in your own photo. I used Bonobo for the shape and one of these free fifty distressed textures for the grain.
Step 2: Adjust Brush Settings
Using the steps mentioned above, adjust the brush settings to your preferences. Test out the brush settings by drawing within the box in the Advanced Brush settings. You can always alter your brush later on, if needed.
Customize Grain Behavior.
Step 3: Experiment with New Brush
Head back to the main canvas and test out your new custom brush. For textured brushes, I like to layer them over solid shapes and backgrounds, then adjust the blend mode and opacity in the Layers menu.
Apply your custom texture.
Importing and Exporting Brushes
While Procreate provides a vast selection of default brushes, there are also more additional brushes to choose from outside of Procreate. Head to the plus sign icon, then hit Import to add brushes from other sources. Brush files must be .ABR (same file type as Photoshop brushes) or .brush types.
Every imported brush will automatically move towards the top of the Brush Library section. You can also hold down the name of the imported brush, then move up or down, as needed.
To export your brush, head to the specific brush, swipe left and select Share. From here, you can export to your preferred application, AirDrop, or save to your iPad’s own files.
Combining Brushes with Dual Brush
If the power of one brush wasn’t enough for your illustrations, try combining two different brushes with Procreate’s Dual Brush command. Go to a specific brush category, then swipe right on two different brushes. These brushes must be in the same category for this command. Select Combine at the top of the Brush Library.
From there, you can select the combined brush and edit its individual components.
Combine and edit each brush to elevate your illustration.
Mockup image via Koliadzynska Iryna.
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