Procreate is an iPad app tattoo artists use to create tattoo designs way faster than they could on paper. 

Designing digitally makes it easy to create perfect lines for stencils, present work to clients, and quickly resize designs during an appointment. However, learning how to create art digitally can be really frustrating if you don’t know how to use Procreate.

To help, we’ll be breaking down the basic settings you need to know as a tattoo artist, including how to:

  • Use layers to organize your work
  • Add texture using brushes and create perfect shapes
  • Adjust photos to make better realism references

Get the “Paper” Feel on Your iPad

The screen of an iPad can feel really slick, especially if you’re used to drawing on thicker sketchbook paper. You can make your iPad screen feel more like paper by putting on a matte screen protector.

Using the Procreate App

How to Organize Your Work with Stacks

When you open the app, you’ll see your “Stacks,” which look like mini stacks of paper. You can name and organize these stacks however you’d like. For example, you can have a stack of “Finished Tattoo Designs” or “Art Prints.”  

You’ll also see individual drawings. If you want to stack them together, hold down on one drawing and drag it on top of the drawing you want to “stack” it on top of. You can tap the title of the stack to rename it.

Pro Tip: 

If you have a client getting multiple tattoos, you can keep all their designs in a stack. This way, you don’t need to search through your iPad for all their designs during the appointment.

How to Pick a Canvas Size

Even though you’re designing digitally, you’ll still need to pick the “size” of your paper. If you plan to print off your tattoo design, you’d want your canvas to be the same size as a piece of printer paper (8.5” x 11”).

If you are working with bigger designs (for example, prints and posters), make sure to adjust the canvas to that larger size.

Pro Tip: 

The bigger you make your design, the fewer layers you can use. If you're working on making a design for a poster, you're not going to have a ton of layers, which can make it harder to create a good design. Generally, we recommend sticking to 11”x17” for bigger prints.

How to Use Layers

When you are drawing a tattoo design, you want to make sure each part of the drawing process is on a different “layer.” 

For example, your sketch, your rough draft, and your final design will all have their own “layers.” If you make a mistake while you’re drawing, it’s easy to fix because you’ll only be working on that layer and all the other layers won’t get messed up.

Pro Tip: 

You can lower the opacity of a layer. For example, if you still want to see your red sketch but not have it be so noticeable, you can lower the opacity. To change the opacity, click the “N” on the layer. 

Using Layers to Draw with Flow

We recommend having a layer with a picture of the body part you’re designing for. This will help you include the flow of the body in your tattoo design. 

If you are using a reference image, you can also include that on its own layer.

How to Add Color

If you’re doing a design in color, it helps to have the color on a separate layer so it’s easy to “hide” the color and see just the linework for your plain stencil.

However, if you go and try to color on a new layer without any linework, you’ll be coloring “freehand.” This makes it super easy to color outside the lines:

Incorrect: Adding shading without setting linework as a “Reference.”

Correct: Shading sectioned off by linework.

To make it super easy to color inside the lines, go to the layer that has your linework, double tap it with your pencil, and make it a “Reference.” Then, you can easily add shading and color inside your linework on different layers. 

When you pick an area to fill in, the program won’t let you draw outside the lines. It’ll look like you always color perfectly inside the lines.

How to Use Different Brushes

While you’ll want to use a plain pencil brush to do your sketch (Brandon uses “Perfect Sketcher”), you can use different brushes to add texture and your personal style. You can make your own or buy brushes online.

How to Get Perfect Shapes

If you want to make a perfect circle, all you have to do is draw a circle and hold it. If it’s more of an oval shape, but you want an absolutely perfect circle, you hold down the pen like normal and use your other hand and press a finger on the screen somewhere next to the circle. 

This process will work with other shapes as well.

How to Create Realism Designs

The image above is pretty dark on its own. You can adjust it using the “Hue, Saturation, Brightness” option to see the highlights and any details in the dark areas. 

If you’re doing a realistic tattoo, it can be helpful to have a couple different versions of the image printed off: a dark one, a lighter one, and one right in the middle so you can see all the depth in the image.

The settings you’ll use the most often are saturation and brightness:

  • If you want to make a color design black and gray, turn down the saturation.
  • If you want to see the highlights in an image, turn up the brightness.

Become a Tattoo Artist With the Artist Accelerator Program

Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult. 

The apprenticeship process requires aspiring tattoo artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers. 

That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world. 

Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.

In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again. 

When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world. 

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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