The Ultimate Guide to Mastering Procreate Brushes

by Nicole Mauloni August 29, 2019 1 Comment

The Ultimate Guide to Mastering Procreate Brushes

One of the best things about Procreate is the abundance of Brushes available.

Not only the ones that comes bundled with the app, but the custom brushes from artists all over the world including Procreate brushes from RetroSupply and the Procreate forum brushes.

There’s something to suit every style. The theme of a Procreate brush pack can even influence your work and push you creativity to new places. It’s an exciting and energetic community to be part of!

Being able to edit Brush preferences opens up even more opportunities. If you can customize a brush, you can make powerful changes to suit specific needs. This article will look at the most useful properties that control brush behavior.

Are you just getting started with Procreate? Here are some Procreate articles and resources for beginners.

An Important Note

Master Procreate Brushes -  Duplicate Brush

Before you start making changes, it’s a good habit to create a backup of the brush first. This protects your original version in case you wish to revert back later. To do this open the brush panel, swipe left on the brush thumbnail and choose ‘Duplicate’. You can also re-name it by tapping on the thumbnail to open its preferences, then tap on the title at the top.

The following tips can apply to both custom and default Procreate brushes. 

Push the Size Limits

Mastering Procreate Brushes - change size limit

Changing your brush size is a simple matter of adjusting the slider on the left side of your screen. But there are limits to this range and there may be times you wish to exceed them.

For example, you might wish to paint a background texture but the grain starts behaving differently at scale. Or you may need to edit a liner brush to produce finer detailed lines. The solution is easy too once you know where to look.

As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to keep a backup of your original brush before making any changes. Once you have your duplicate ready, tap on it to open the preferences.

You’ll see the different category icons at the bottom of the brush panel. Tap on ‘General’ to access the ‘Size Limits’ settings. Increase your ‘Max’ range (or decrease your ‘Min’ to make it smaller). Paint on your canvas to preview the changes as you go.

Precision Strokes with StreamLine

Master Procreate Brushes - Streamline Setting

The StreamLine setting corrects your curves by reducing any wobble in your strokes. It is particularly useful for precision drawing. A majority of brushes come with a certain amount of StreamLine built-in, but you may want to a adjust this amount.

To access the StreamLine settings, open the ‘Stroke’ preferences tab in the brush panel. You’ll see the StreamLine slider in the first set of options under ‘Stroke Properties’.

The more StreamLine you add, the more stroke stabilization you’ll get. It can feel a little strange at first, so test as you go to find the amount that feels right for you.

You can reduce the Streamline or remove it altogether if you prefer. Move the slider all the way the left until you see ‘None’.

Change the Procreate Brush Shape and Grain Source

Master Procreate Brushes - Change Source Images

There are two core elements controlling the properties of a Procreate brush. These are ‘Shape’ and ‘Grain’.

The ‘Shape’ is the container for the Grain ie. whatever texture you set for the ‘Grain’ will be ‘stamped’ within the Procreate brushes Shape. The Procreate Handbook describes the Grain source like this - Think of the Grain as a paint roller. When you paint a stroke, the Grain is rolled onto the canvas'.

You can access these images under the ‘Source’ tab of the brush preferences. Tap on the image area to import your own custom file (via Dropbox or iCloud) or choose ‘Swap from Pro Library’ to use an image from the existing Procreate collection.

You can even paste a source image directly from your clipboard by holding a finger down on the image area.

Reminder: It is especially important to backup the original brush before editing source images. Once you change the image, it is no longer accessible (unless it's from the Procreate Library). You won’t be able to reinstate the previous version if you change your mind.

Tips for Creating Source images:

  • Compatible formats for custom images are JPEG, PNG, TIFF and GIF.
  • 100% black will be transparent and 100% white will be solid. Anything in between will be semi-transparent
  • Use 1:1 ratio image dimensions (Procreate will auto-stretch images to fit a square ratio)
  • Make your grain images a seamless pattern wherever possible

Personalize the Pressure Curve

The Pressure Curve in Procreate

Another preference that is worth experimenting with is the 'Pressure Curve'. As the name suggest, the Pressure Curve controls the way your Apple Pencil responds to pressure.

You can edit settings within an individual brush, as well as the global Apple Pencil behavior. We’ll look at the global settings today, to find the right pencil pressure to match your style.

I find it easiest to use a sketching brush when tweaking these values. The ‘RSCO Dixon HB 2’ from the The Complete Mid-Century Procreate Brush Collection is a perfect example - it has an obvious opacity change with pressure. Or the standard 'Technical Pencil' that comes with Procreate would work well too. 

To edit the settings, open the ‘Actions’ Panel and the ‘Preferences’ tab. Tap on ‘Edit Pressure Curve’ to open the pressure graph. The curve is set at a 45° angle by default.

Try making a few very light strokes on the canvas, and work up to darker markings. If it feels like you need to press very hard to see your strokes, increase the start of the curve to a sharper upwards angle. You can add more nodes higher up the curve too, but increasing the first area will make the most significant change.

Don’t be afraid to play around as you can always hit the ‘Reset’ button to revert to the defaults.

For more information on the Pressure Curve, see page 356 of the Procreate Handbook.

Tilted Pencil Shading

Apple Pencil Tilt in Procreate

You’ll find settings for ‘Apple Pencil Tilt’ under the ‘Pencil’ tab within the Brush Settings. Adjusting these controls allows you to simulate shading when using the Pencil on an angle (as you would do with a real pencil).

The sliders that here control the attributes of the Tilt are : Angle, Opacity, Gradation, Bleed and Size.

The Angle slider is when the Pencil Tilt starts to affect the stroke. The slider goes from 0° (the pencil is flat on the iPad screen) up to 90° (the pencil is vertical to the iPad screen).

You can also change the Opacity settings for Pencil Tilt. If the value is set to ‘None’, the change in tilt will not impact the brushes opacity. When set to ‘Max’, the brush opacity will fade off dramatically.

Gradation makes a gradient from the tip of where your pencil touches the screen to fade off at the base. Changes to this value will adjust the intensity of the gradient, or you can remove it altogether by setting it to 0.

Bleed effects the detail of the stroke. If you increase this value, you will see less detail when using lighter strokes.

Size, as you can imagine, controls the brush size for the tilted stroke. In most cases, it makes sense to have this increase.

You can also try the toggle for ‘Size Compression’. This will try to replicate how a traditional pencil would look.

Note: These settings only available with the Apple Pencil.

Brushes Taper Settings

Procreate Brush Taper settings

Brush Taper refers to the brush size reduction at the start or end of a stroke. The taper amount is impacted by a variety of different factors (such as brush dynamics), however the ‘Stroke Taper’ settings modify this directly.

Firstly, check that you have turned off the toggle for ‘Classic Taper’ within the ‘General’ tab. Most brushes have this turned on to protect from dramatic changes with the 4.2 updates.

You’ll find the Stroke Taper settings under the ‘Stroke’ tab. There are two sets of controls. ‘Pressure Taper’ (for using the Apple Pencil), and ‘Touch Taper’ (using your finger). We’ll be looking at the ‘Pressure Taper’ settings, though they both function the same way.

You’ll see two sliders side-by-side for ‘Amount’. The first one affects the amount of taper on the start of the stroke and the second affects the stroke end. If you tap the link icon, these will move together to reflect the same value.

You will need some percentage given to the ‘Size’ slider to see these changes. The ‘Size’ controls the amount of taper applied to your stroke. A higher value will produce a more obvious change at the stroke ends.

The ‘Opacity’ slider controls changes to the opacity of the stroke where there is a taper. At a higher value, you get a more obvious reduction to the opacity.

‘Pressure’ is a new control. At higher values, you’ll get a stronger taper to your stroke ends when you apply more pressure.

The ‘Tip’ slider controls the shape of the tapered endings. A ‘Sharp’ setting (all the way to the left) will produce a very pointed end tip. If the slider is set to ‘Blunt’ (all the way to the right), the tip will be more rounded.

When ‘Tip Animation’ is set to ‘Off’, the taper is applied when you lift your pencil from the canvas. When set to ‘On’, the taper is applied to as you paint.

Taper settings don’t suit every brush. In the right situation however, it can add more realism to your strokes. You can proactively set off the taper effect by using a ‘flicking’ motion as you finish a stroke.

Create your own Blend Brush with Wet Mix

Procreate Brushes Wet Mix Setting

A 'Blend' brush is different to a normal brush in that it mixes and drags existing colors around. It picks up the paint that is already on the canvas and blends it using the brushes shape and grain settings.

Having a few blend brushes in your toolkit can be very handy for adding a more realistic textured look to your designs.

The most recent 4.2 update introduced ‘Wet Mix’ brush settings. You can utilize these controls to transform existing painting to blending brushes.

The ‘Smudge Tool’ offers a similar effect, but it doesn’t give nearly as much variety or control. By adjusting a few of the Wet Mix brush settings, you can easily create your own!

Under the ‘Dynamics’ tab, you have panels for ‘Normal’, ‘Glazed’ and ‘Wet Mix’. Tap on the ‘Wet Mix’ panel. This gives slider controls for Dilution, Charge, Attack, Pull and Grade.

As mentioned earlier, a blender brush interacts with the paint on the canvas rather than adding more. The first slider for ‘Dilution’ is the main setting that affects the paint amount. With this value set to ‘Max’, the brush will no longer apply any paint.

So if you are creating your own blending brush, you would want Dilution set to ‘Max’. Note: Leave setting the Dilution for last so you can see the effects of the other adjustments.

The ‘Charge’ value will impact the amount of paint applied to a brush. If set to ‘0’, the paint will run out very rapidly.

‘Attack’ is designed for the Apple Pencil. The higher value you give to this, the more variation in the shape of your stroke when applying pressure.

The more you press down, the more the brush shape is applied to your stroke - as it would in a real life brush.

The ‘Pull’ slider works in partnership with the Dilution slider. It affects the amount of paint you will pull around the canvas.

Try playing around to see what effect you like best. As long as you keep a backup of the brush, there’s no harm in experimenting!

Please Note : Making edits to purchased brushes is fine for your own use, but you do not have permission to redistribute or sell these.

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Nicole Mauloni
Nicole Mauloni


1 Response

Jane Whisler
Jane Whisler

January 12, 2020

Retro,Supply,and Ms. Mauloni,

I can’t thank you enough for writing and publishing this. As you mention the new brush possibility’s seem overwhelming and since I was already felt intimidated, your clear information will make Procreate more fun to use. I’d like to “ geek out” enough to make minor adjustments, if just to find out how it works. Groovy , inspiring design to go along with it,too.
Much appreciated and enjoyed!

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