Using Layers in Procreate

Several people who follow this blog have enquired as to how I use Procreate app to make these abstract images. Today I’ll talk a bit about how layers work in Procreate and how I used them in this new drawing. To help in understanding this, I’ve made several screen shots (what the iPad looks like as I’m working in Procreate). They show the relative position (higher or lower in the stack of the layers) and the contents of individual layers.

My working method for this drawing was to create the background color layer first.

This background becomes the bottom layer in the stack. It was created by making large geometric shapes in closely related colors and then using the smudge tool (4th from the top right-hand) to roughen the edges making a more nebulous layer of color.

Over the background, I added a few layers of additional colors and textures as shown in the following screenshots.

I combined layers and used the adjustments menu to blur the colors
Additional layers of color and texture on top of the background
This screen shot shows the position of that layer in the stack. It’s labeled as “Layer 5” and highlighted in blue. The background (layer 1) and layer 10 are also visible in this screen shot. Notice that there is a check mark in a white box indicating that they are the active layers. All other layers when this screen shot was taken were not visible even thought they were completed.

When I was satisfied with the look of the background layers, new objects were created on separate layers and added to the composite image.

Various shapes are created on a higher layer in the stack
Lines are added for variety
The position of the previous two shots are shown here as layers 6 and 8. I should explain that the layers can be moved up or down in the stack. That is why the numbered layers shown above are not in numerical order.

So, to recap my working method, I add elements over the background and shift layers as needed, keeping elements that work well and eliminating those that don’t. (The discarded elements, of course, are not show in the screen shots.) When all of the assembled layers and their contents are working to my satisfaction, the drawing is done.


Once the drawing was completed, I used iColorama app to make alterations in the surface texture and coloration of the drawing. Below are several of the results of those experiments.

Surface texture added in iColorama – this tends to flatten the overall image
Altered line textures added
Altered texture and color
After using a “watercolor” filter in iColorama
Another “watercolor” filter with more pastel colors
A radically different version, simplified and almost monochromatic – notice how the objects stand out from the blurred background

Author: Jeff Gold

I'm a retired musician (oboist) now living in Vermont and exploring various avenues of art, urban sketching, life drawing, block printing and digital abstractions.

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