How to Make a Retro Monster Illustration in Procreate

How to Make a Retro Monster Illustration in Procreate

In this tutorial, we're going to show you step-by-step how to create a cut-out monster mask illustration.

Here's what you'll learn in this tutorial:

We'll be making this illustrated mask of a spooky grave digger in Procreate but these concepts easily transfer to Photoshop, Illustrator, or even Affinity.

The History of Cut-Out Halloween Masks

Halloween originated in northern Europe as a pagan celebration to signify the change in season. It is also sometimes associated with All Saint's Day. In the early 20th century, Halloween began to be celebrated as a spooky holiday in the United States.

However, the mass production of costumes, masks, and the concept of "trick-or-treat" was a result of the post-war economic boom and demand created by large marketing agencies.

Count Chocula Cut-Out Mask on cereal box

This resulted in mass produced cut-out masks that appeared on the back of boxes for food products like Kellogs cereal and, perhaps most popular, General Mills cereals like Count Chocula.

Packs Used to Make This Image

Robin made this illustration in Procreate with the brush packs below. However, you can easily make something similar in Photoshop, Illustrator or Affinity. Just click the navigation or search bar to find similar packs.

I’ll be using these packs along with an Apple Pencil on Procreate, using a 9.7” iPad Pro.

1. Sketching

To begin, I always start on real life paper with a yellow pencil (to build my basic shape), red pencil (to sketch my character’s basic features), and blue (to refine or create more clarity).

I use a pretty large drawing pad with a good amount of tooth to the page. I like to start this way because my drawings are made with quick, natural feeling strokes. I feel this lets my finished image retain a more organic, “believable” quality.

I’ve chosen a graverobber as my subject for today’s mask. First, I sketched a rough thumbnail of what he might look like. Then I took that idea and drew my larger concept sketch using what I like about the character but, organizing his features a little better.

A rough thumbnail sketch of a grave robber in red pencil and larger grave robber sketch in blue pencil

Then, I drew the mask’s title. I looked at some old western movie posters, horror posters and pulp novels for inspiration.

Sketch of Graverobber text in red and yellow pencil

After that, I doodled a couple vignettes to go next to him. This’ll give my character a bit more identity beyond just what I’m telling you he is in the title on the piece. I’ve included a tombstone for environment and snatching a ring from a skeleton for what his actions might look like.

Sketches of grave and skeleton hand in red and yellow pencil

2. Creating the Image's Canvas

In Procreate, I start by creating a custom sized canvas. I’m going with a square shape because it views well on platforms like Instagram and Twitter and because it should suit our main image’s shape. Make sure to create your canvas at 300 dpi so it can be a high quality if you choose to print it later!

I made the background color yellow and imported an image of old paper to give it an aged feel. RetroSupply Co has a great selection of these in their Paper Boy Paper Texture Templates. Go into the old paper’s layer properties and change its blending style from Normal to Multiply. As we continue, make sure this layer stays above all the others. This will make sure to give all the layers underneath the same effect, ensuring that your image looks like it all lives on the same paper.


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3. Import Your Sketches

Take pictures of your sketches, as flat and well lit as you can, using your iPad.

Resize and position each one where you want them to appear on your final piece. Make sure these layers are above your background color and under the old paper texture.

Go into your layer properties and set your blend style to Multiply again and turn the opacity down so your sketches don’t distract too much while you are inking them.

Photograph of sketch layed over paper texture in Procreate

4. Ink!

Create a new layer above your sketch layer. This is where we’re going to do all our main inking at. What we create here will determine where all of your other color layers go, based on this line work.

Inked drawing of grave robber over photograph of sketch and paper texture in Procreate

I’m going to be using RetroSupply’s Ramen Brush, found inside Standard Ink Pens for all of my line work here. I’ll use one thickness for all of my main line work and then turn down the thickness, using the slider on the right side of the canvas, for any detail lines I decide to add.

I like the Ramen brush for this because it so closely resembles the look and feel of the liner brushes I use in real life. It’s edges are a little rough and has great randomized imperfections based on the way you hold your Apple Pencil, the pressure you use and how quickly you make your strokes.

Ink drawing of grave robber over paper texture in Procreate


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5. Cut Lines

Using RetroSupply’s Dash Pen (found in The Complete Mid-Century Brush Collection), let’s outline our character and the insides of the eyes. Don’t get too close to the character or too complex, so as not to distract from all the beautiful line work we’ve done.

Drawing of grave robber head with cut out lines around it on top of paper texture

6. Add the Vignettes/ Secondary Color

Place your vignette sketches where you want them and ink on a separate layer, as we did with the main image. Now, create a new layer, underneath their line work. This is where we will begin placing our secondary color.

Grave robber drawing with grave vignette sketch in the top left corner on top of paper texture

Using red and the Sea Sponge brush found in The Complete Mid-Century Brush Collection, dab an area of color that envelopes the line work in your vignette. Now, go to the eraser tool and select the Ramen Brush. Erase the areas of sponge that you don’t want there, so as to create accents to the vignette.

Grave robber drawing with two smaller vignette drawings in the upper corners

I’ve erased the tombstone, hill and shovel on one to make the red sponge represent the sky and set the lines apart from the page. On the other, I erased both of the hands and made little dollar signs and a shine off the ring with negative space.

Grave robber drawing with two red accented vignette drawings in the upper corners

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7. Title

Using the same red and our Ramen Brush, I ink the outline of the GRAVEROBBER title on a layer separate from its sketch. Then, using the same brush, I color in all the letters. After that, I will use the Ramen Brush as an eraser and erase away little holes and accents throughout the lettering. This creates the look of cracked wood or maybe torn paper. Very spooky!

Process of filling in grave robber text with red and erasing hole accents

8. Fills

Create a new layer underneath your main image’s line work. Now, tap the selection tool in the upper left of your screen. Make sure it is set to Freehand (rather than Automatic, Rectangle or Ellipse) and draw or tap an outline around where you would like your color fill to go. Tap the grey dot at the beginning of your line to create your selection. Now, select a color to use from the tool in the upper right. Once you have the color you’d like selected, leave the color menu. Hold your finger on your color dot in the upper right and drag it into your selected area. Drop the color to fill.

Grave robber drawing with green colored face

Use the eraser tool to remove any accents you’d like from the fill area. I erased the eyes and teeth. Since I want this to look like it was printed on yellow paper, I will not be adding any white.

Keep creating new color areas and repeating this step until you have all of your line work filled.

Drawing of grave robber will filled line work on top of paper texture

When I’m doing this, I try to keep the amount of colors I use to a minimum. Use the same few colors throughout the entire piece so as to stay true to the “vintage, cheaply printed” look we are going for.

9. Color Accents on the Mask

In the layers menu, tap the layer that has the color of the face in it. Tap again and a menu will pop up on the left. From that menu, hit Select. Now create a new layer. Leaving this face area still selected, we’re going to add a few color accents on the face. Keeping the face color selected will make it so we don’t make marks that land on any other areas.

Procreate layers panel with face of grave robber layer and freehand tool selected

I’m going to use a more vivid, yellowy green to stand out against the pale green face we’ve given him. First, using the Grain I brush from the The Complete Mid-Century Brush Collection, I will go around the eyes. Then, I will go under the cheek bones and add a bit to his bottom lip. This gives the appearance that his skin is actually quite greenish when the light hits him just right, rather than making all of his skin this more vivid green.

Grave robber face with texture brushed around his eyes in Procreate

Next, I take a darker green and the same brush and just go around his eyes to make them look more sunken in.

10. Texture

Now we get to the fun, gritty stuff. Time to really make this image feel like it lives on the page and has really been through the ringer!

Starting with the hat’s grey fill layer, use the eraser tool with the Parchment Paper Grain brush from Lo-Fi Subtle Grain & Noise Brushes. Lightly erase just enough to make the hat’s color is a bit worn away. I also used the Fine Scratches brush in The Complete Mid-Century Brush Collection to erase a bit. Just enough to make it feel like the screen that color would have been printed with had some dust caught in it or it gunked up.

Zoom of ink being erased from hat of grave robber using subtle brush in Procreate


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It’s important to think about the imperfections we’re making during all this and how they might be made, so as to make the piece more believable as something printed in the physical world.

Go through your layers and keep subtracting this way until they all look decently worn in the same fashion.

Now, starting with our red layer, let’s add a bit more grime. Using Attic Mildew and Cotton Grain again from the Lo-Fi Subtle Grain & Noise Brushes, go through and add little areas of grime. These would generally appear on the edges of the paper or near the edge of fills in the printing process so, let’s try to keep them around there.

Grungy ink added in red on top of grave robber text

11. Halftones

The DupliTone Halftone Brush Pack is a great way to add a little more depth without adding any more color to this piece. In the black layer, I’m just going to add a few shadows on his face with the 30% Rough Halftone brush.

Brush Library Panel with halftone brush selected in Procreate


DupliTone halftone brushes make it easy to add authentic halftones and shading that look like they came straight off a 1950s printing press.

Add a shadow cast over his eyes by his hat, across his ears by his cheekbones and under his bottom lip. I’ve also added some halftones on his hat, a shadow on the grave’s edge and a little extra shine coming off the ring in the vignette.

Grave robber drawing with halftone shading added  in Procreate

12. Finishing Details

Zoom out and check over your whole piece all together. Does it read well? I added some last minute touches to help the title feel less separate from the top portions of the piece. I freehanded some subtitle lettering, a little pair of scissors and added a little more grit using the same methods as we’ve discussed above.

Grave robber drawing with free handed lettering above grave robber title

13. Offset

This step is totally optional but, something I like to do when creating work that’s meant to appear old and cheaply printed.

Go into your layers and tap and hold on one of your fills. Drag it on top of another fill. This should create a new group. Keep dragging and dropping your fill color layers into this group but don’t add your line work.

Layers Panel in Procreate with New group selected

Now, select the group of fill colors. Click on the arrow cursor tool in the upper left of your screen. Move the fill colors so they’re slightly off register with the line work in your art. This gives the appearance that things weren’t exactly aligned correctly during the printing process and, I think, makes the whole piece a lot more fun and gritty.

There ya have it! Now that we’ve created a sketchy looking paper Halloween mask, why not print it out, cut it up and scare the living daylights out of someone!? Happy haunting everyone!

Grave robber cut out paper mask drawing over paper texture created in Procreate


Robin Banks is a self-taught artist and illustrator living in Salt Lake City, UT.

Robin has been a RetroSupply resident illustrator since 2019.

Their work can be found on Instagram @ramenbanks or on their web store