How to Make a Vintage Toy Ad in Procreate

How to Make a Vintage Toy Ad in Procreate

In this tutorial, we’re going to learn how to make a vintage-inspired toy ad using the Mid Century Brush Pack for Procreate.

As mentioned before, we’ll be using the Procreate App, (available on the Apple App store) the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil.

For inspiration for my vintage toy ad, I did a bit of research in a book I love, Ad Boy; Vintage Advertising with Character.

If you’re into vintage/retro art, I highly recommend picking up this book. It’s a wonderful source of inspiration, and it’s what helped fuel this tutorial idea. Which brings us to step one.

1. Inspiration/Sketch

Think of a toy you’d like to illustrate. It doesn’t have to be an old toy either. It certainly doesn’t have to be an Ad for one, but for my piece, I’ll be doing just that.

I’ve decided to use the “Yo-Yo” for my toy. A classic toy everyone at some point in their life has tried to master.

Once you’ve nailed down what you’re going to draw, spend some time looking online or in some books for your visual inspiration. Remember, we’re going for “Vintage” here, so Pinterest, Google or a book, like Ad Boy are excellent places to start. You can see the inspiration for my piece, below.

Vintage toy ads displayed on an iPad

2. Set Up/Sketch

Make sure your version of Procreate is up to date and that you’ve installed the Mid Century Brush pack before getting started.

Typically when I’m just going to draw or sketch, I end up using the default canvas, aka Screen Size which is 2,732 x 2,048px.

Once you’ve opened your new canvas, create a new layer and being your sketching.

Rough sketch of vintage toy ad design in Procreate on an iPad

3. Create Your Shapes

When I’ve finished my sketch, and I’m happy with the direction and composition, I lower the opacity of the sketch layer, set it to multiply and lock it. This will be our reference layer for our final drawing.

To do this, highlight the sketch layer in your layers pallet, tap N (which stands for Normal) next to the checked box and lower the opacity using the slide. Below the slide tap Multiply then swipe with one finger to the left, to lock the layer. You’ll notice the N on that layer now reads, M indicating it’s now a Multiplied layer. Underneath your now locked sketch layer, create a new layer. This is where we’ll begin to draw our shapes.

Procreate Layers Panel with Multiply circled showing how to change blending mode on sketch in Procreate on an iPad

While it’s not completely necessary at this stage, you can figure out your color palette before you begin. I typically choose colors at random for shape building and then go back once the shapes are drawn to change the color.

To draw my shapes, I’ll be using the Perfect Gouache brush. This brush is ideal for shape building and inking. There’s a subtle grit to its appearance which is great for the vintage look we’re trying to achieve. It also allows us to do simple color fills once the shape is drawn since we don’t have any open gaps while creating the shapes.


A collection of 15 mid-century art inspried brushes designed to create a variety of illustration styles fast in Procreate.

Filling in colors of face on top of sketch of toy ad design in Procreate on an iPad

4. Lock & Roll

Now that you have all your main shapes drawn let’s Lock em up! When you open your layers pallet, it should look like this: Sketch layer that we locked earlier on top, and shape layers underneath.

Applying alpha lock to layers of toy ad design in layers panel in Procreate on an iPad

We want each layer to have the pixels locked. This will allow us to draw inside these shapes without going outside of them. Select a shape layer and while using two fingers, swipe to the right. This will Alpha Lock the layer. You’ll know it’s locked when the background of the shape in the layers pallet has a checkered board behind it.

5. Line Art

Before we begin the shading/rendering part of the drawing, let’s make sure we have our line art constructed. This is where we are going to add all the details, eyes, ear markings, shoe strings, whatever your drawing needs to make sure it’s giving the viewer the vital information.

There are several great Procreate brushes to use for this step and it’s really all personal preference. If you did your homework, you’ll see that there are all types of approaches to creating line art. Do you want a smooth “Thick to Thin” line variation? Use the Perfect Gouache brush. Do you want a blotty, somewhat inconsistent look to your lines? Use the Blotty Inker. Other bushes to consider for this step are the Wet Inker, Messy Inker, Fat Ink, and the Carbon Brush from The Mid-Century Brush Pack for Procreate.

For my piece, I’ll be using a combination of the Perfect Gouache and Messy Inker.

Create a new layer directly underneath your sketch layer and begin making your lines.

Beginning of toy ad design in Procreate with notes showing which RetroSupply Co brushes are used in Procreate on an iPad

💡Top Tip:

  • Make sure to refer back to your inspiration. Study how the lines are made and most importantly “where” the lines are made. The pieces I’m using as reference only show lines in certain places. Instead of outlining the entire drawing, I’m just using lines for things such as facial features, clothing detail and the two kids on the right which will be outlined only.
  • If you want to make good use of the Apple Pencil, rely on its pressure sensitivity. To make thick and thin lines, press hard or gently. This gives you variation in your lines and makes your drawing visually more interesting.

6. Shade and Texture

Now to the “fun” part. Honestly, while I enjoy the entire process, I get excited when I start to see the piece come together with the shading and texture. If you remember, after we created our shapes, we locked the pixels, so let’s begin to add some shading to our first shape.

I’ll be starting with the head of my character. I’m going to adjust the color it currently is by making sure that the shape layer for the head is selected, then going to the top left toolbar, tapping the Magic Wand and then choosing Hue, Saturation, Brightness. This is generally how I will recolor a shape either making it darker, desaturated or to change the hue.

Once I’m happy with the color, I’ll use my finger and hold it in place on the shape. If you noticed when doing that the color circle to the right of your toolbar is now that color. This is how you color pick. If we tap that circle, we can select a darker hue of that color. Once we do, that color will be our shadow color.

Adjusting the colors of toy ad design in Procreate using Hue, Saturation, Brightness adjustment  and color picker in Procreate on an iPad

To add the shading and texturing to my shape, I’ll be using the Carbon Tab brush, Grain I brush and the Dry Gouache brush from The Mid-Century Brush Pack for Procreate..

Beginning of toy ad design in Procreate with notes showing which RetroSupply Co brushes are used for shading in Procreate on an iPad

💡Top Tip:

  • Utilize the pressure sensitivity of the iPad and Apple Pencil. These brushes respond well so experiment with pressing hard or gently to see how you can create harsher or more blended textures and strokes.
  • Proceed to shade and color your shapes. If you want to add Highlights to your piece, repeat the steps of selecting the primary color of your shape, instead of choosing a darker hue, go lighter, and use that for your highlights.

7. Utilizing Color Holds & Clipping Masks

Color Holds

Just like how we have our shape layers Alpha Locked, we need to do the same to our line art. I’ll be doing this in a few places, so you can see the benefit of having a variety in color and black lines. Adding color holds also helps break up the line work, letting the dark black stand out in important defining areas and allowing the color holds help the line work blend in areas that major definition isn’t needed.

Toy ad design with notes showing the color holds in illustration in Procreate on an iPad

Clipping Mask

This is a new feature in Procreate, and it’s wonderful! I’m going to add a tongue to my character’s mouth. As you can see the shape I have is black, the pixels are locked, so I’m going to create a new layer directly above the mouth shape layer and draw the tongue.

I drew the tongue on that new layer, then opened the layer tab, tapped the image of that tongue, from the drop-down menu, select Clipping Mask. This allows the tongue to be inside the mouth shape without drawing directing on that mouth shape layer.

You can also Alpha Lock this layer to shade and color as we have been with our previous shapes.

Clipping Mask feature being shown on tongue on toy ad character in Procreate on an iPad

8. Finish this puppy up!

Hopefully by now, you’re well on your way to working through the rest of your drawing. I’m going to share a few tips on how I enhance the vintage feel of my drawing to get it that extra pizazz!

One of my favorite brushes from the Mid Century Pack is the Grain I brush. I wanted my character to pop and bit more and looking back at a lot of vintage ads and illustrations, adding a “texture glow” to a piece draws the viewers attention to it. I created a layer behind the character and used the Grain I brush to do just that.

Toy ad design with notes showing where RetroSupply Co grain brushes are being used in illustration in Procreate on an iPad

If your illustration is looking a bit “too clean,” the Grain II brush is perfect for adding depth to your drawing. In my drawing, the background was looking a bit dull. I used the Grain II brush and added some light and dark textures. I love this brush because the texture is very random which helps digital work look less “perfect.” You can see the difference this brush can make below.

Zoom in to background of toy ad design in Procreate showing use of grain brushes to add interest in Procreate on an iPad

Another fun brush to incorporate is the Rough Halftone Brush. I love this due to its imperfection. This brush can add so much interest to a piece.

I’ve used it to create a shadow underneath my text. The color is picked from the darker background since halftones are used to create the illusion of more color instead of adding more color. Another vintage technique!

Zoom into lettering on toy ad showing use of RetroSupply halftone brush to create shadow in Procreate on an iPad

Dirty up your shapes and line work. While there’s nothing wrong with a clean look, if you want to convey that this piece is “old” then you need to get a little messy! While the Brushes already have a nice tooth and grit to them, I’ve found that by creating a Clipping Mask layer above my line art layer and using the Grain II brush, I can get an even more worn look.


A collection of 15 mid-century art inspried brushes designed to create a variety of illustration styles fast in Procreate.

Zoom in to character of toy ad design in Procreate showing use of grain brushes to add interest in Procreate on an iPad

Lastly, when you finish, you can add a layer at the very top, and use the brushes to create the grain, or folds, lower the opacity or use a blending mode and watch your art age!

Zoom into lettering in toy ad showing grain highlights in Procreate on an iPad

Neat-O! We’re all done! Pat yourself on the back and make sure you show us what you made! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and had fun making vintage art with some digital magic.

Final illustration of vintage inspired toy ad  made in Procreate on an iPad


Cole Roberts is freelance illustrator living in Nashville, TN specializing in kids literature and publications.

Check him out at his website and follow him on Instagram @lifeofcole as well as Twitter @colelovespizza.