12 Best Procreate Drawing Exercises to Improve Crucial Skills

One of the best things you can do for your art career is to learn the tools you have available to you on Procreate device. There are more than 200 brushes available on the app, but there are millions of settings combinations you can use for each brush.

It’s ludicrous, I know, but if you want to create with the iPad and Procreate, you’ll be a whole lot better as you learn as much as you can about all the settings you can tweak.

A great way to learn to use Procreate at a high level is to watch professional artists walking you through how they create art. The other way is you can take it upon yourself to start learning different drawing exercises that will help you improve your skills as an artist. Here are 12 great ones.

1. Basic Shapes and Lines

Start with drawing basic shapes like circles, squares, and triangles, ensuring your lines are smooth and confident. Use different brush sizes and experiment with pressure sensitivity to see how the Apple Pencil responds. This foundational exercise helps you understand line quality and control, which are essential for more complex drawings.

With over 200 different brushes in ProCreate, this should take you about a week to finish this exercise! Use it to help you get better. Don’t blow it off like it’s no big deal. Make the effort and you’ll really get something out of it.

I typically cover a page in a couple of hundred shapes. I usually draw the same shape over and over on a page, but sometimes I mix them up. If you did 200 triangles, 200 squares, 200 circles for each brush, you’d have drawn over 120,000 shapes. This may seem like a lot, but if you want to get good, what are you willing to put into it?

2. Shading Techniques

Use the various brushes available in Procreate to practice different shading techniques. Try cross-hatching for texture, stippling for subtle gradients, and smooth blending for a polished look. Play with opacity and layer modes to see how they affect your shading. Understanding these techniques will enhance your ability to create depth and volume in your artwork.

The Best Procreate Brushes for Shading

Here are some specific brush names to get you started, including both free (default) and paid options: At the moment, the basic paid app is only $12.99 USD.

Free (Default Brushes) Procreate Brushes Good for Shading

  • Soft Shading
    • Soft Brush
    • Rounded Brush
  • Hard Shading
    • Hard Brush
    • Sparkle Brush
  • Pencil Shading
    • 6B Pencil
    • Chalk
  • Textured Shading
    • Soft Tapered Brush
    • Noise Brush (for subtle texture)

Paid Options (Many Available Online)

  • Soft Shading
    • “Essential Shading Pack” by Illustrerateria (includes brushes like Recycled Paper, Charcoal, Munched Paper)
    • Look for names with “soft” or “shading” in the title
  • Hard Shading
    • “Gouache Shader Brushes” (creates a more textured, blocky shade)
    • Look for names with “hard” or “defined” in the title
  • Pencil Shading
    • Many brush packs focus on pencils, so variety is wide. Look for terms like “realistic pencils” or “sketching pencils”
  • Textured Shading
    • Look for brush packs with names like “grunge brushes” or “texture brushes”

3. Layer Exploration

Layers are a powerful tool in Procreate. Start by drawing a simple object on one layer, then add shadows and highlights on separate layers. Use the opacity and blending modes to create realistic effects. Experiment with clipping masks and layer groups to keep your work organized. This exercise helps you master layer management and non-destructive editing.

If you’re a traditional artist, and have been for a while, this layers concept can really drive you mad for a bit until you wrap your head around it. To be honest, I’m still trying to understand fully what is going on.

4. Texture Studies

Select different materials like wood, metal, fabric, and skin, and try to replicate their textures. Use a variety of brushes and adjust their settings to match the texture you’re aiming for. Practice blending and layering colors to achieve a realistic look. This will improve your ability to render diverse surfaces and add more realism to your art.

If you only draw people, go ahead and try to draw a tree, a shiny stainless steel or bright 24K gold wrapped car. You’ll stretch your boundaries and potentially learn something else that you can incorporate into your art.

5. Color Theory Practice

Create color wheels and practice blending colors to understand color relationships. Try using complementary colors for vibrant contrast, analogous colors for harmony, and triadic colors for balance. Experiment with Procreate’s color harmony tools and palettes to see how different combinations affect the mood and impact of your artwork.

This is another one that new artists tend to not know at such a high level. Some people love color theory, but most people just know a little bit which is enough to get by. Some ignore it completely. Up to you, but better artists know it inside and out. And backwards!

6. Perspective Drawing

Draw objects in one-point, two-point, and three-point perspective to understand how to create depth. Start with simple shapes and gradually move to more complex scenes. Use Procreate’s drawing guides to help with perspective lines. Mastering perspective will enable you to create more dynamic and realistic compositions.

If you have had enough of simple shapes, choose something like a cup of latte coffee to draw in different perspectives. Choose slices of pizza. Choose something a bit more complex than simple shapes. It will keep your interest high as well.

7. Gesture Drawing

Set a timer for 30 seconds to two minutes and sketch people or animals in motion. Focus on capturing the movement and flow rather than the details. Use loose, expressive lines to convey energy and action. This exercise helps you develop a sense of rhythm and spontaneity in your drawings, making them more lively and dynamic.

This is something many artists never really do in their art, or have ever even practiced before.

Seriously, if you do these exercises, you’re going to challenge yourself and become a better artist for it. Can’t you see it?

8. Composition Studies

Draw small thumbnail sketches to explore different compositions. Experiment with the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing techniques. Focus on the placement of elements to create balance and guide the viewer’s eye through the artwork. This practice will enhance your ability to create visually engaging and well-balanced compositions.

We have a digital book on taking great photographs, if you write and ask us for it on this Contact page, we’ll send you a free copy! We’ll have to find it first, but promise.

9. Digital Photo-Realistic Painting

Choose a reference photo and paint it as realistically as possible. Pay attention to color accuracy, lighting, and details. Use different brushes to achieve various textures and effects. Layer your painting to separate different elements, and adjust the opacity and blending modes for realistic transitions. This exercise helps you develop your painting skills and familiarize yourself with Procreate’s tools.

Let’s be honest, getting familiar with ProCreate’s tools is something that can take months of study. Most people don’t know a fraction of what is avaiable. If you do, you’ll be far ahead of other artists who only use what they have to.

This is another one of those suggestions that, once implemented, will have you creating art in new ways that your competition simply cannot match because they didn’t put in the effort.

10. Build Your Own Custom Brushes

Explore Procreate’s brush settings and create your own custom brushes from the ones you love. Adjust the shape, grain, and dynamics to achieve specific effects.

Test your brushes on different surfaces to see how they perform. Creating custom brushes helps you understand the flexibility of Procreate’s brush engine and allows you to tailor these tools to your unique style.

Using a photograph of a fish’s scales, I created a custom fish scale brush that ads a light fish scale pattern over the entire fish. This one brush saves me at least an hour for every fish drawing or painting I do!

Custom brushes are especially good for patterns that you would otherwise painstakingly create line by line.

11. Procreate Animations

Start with a simple animation, like a bouncing ball or a walk cycle. Use Procreate’s animation assist feature to create and manage frames. Experiment with timing and easing to make your animation smooth and realistic. This exercise helps you get comfortable with Procreate’s animation capabilities and understand the basics of frame-by-frame animation.

Even if you don’t want to produce movies because yu can’t see a point in it, you should try because if you get comfortable enough doing it, you can make mini videos to use to highlight your art on social media ilke you’re Instagram, Facebook, or even YouTube Shorts.

12. Study the Masters

Choose a piece of art from a master artist and try to recreate it. Analyze their use of color, composition, and brushwork. Pay attention to how they handle light and shadow, and try to replicate their techniques. This exercise allows you to learn from the masters and incorporate their techniques into your own work, improving your artistic skills and understanding.

Better yet, pull up a YouTube video of an examination of one of your favorite artists and get a break down of everything an expert sees in their work. Then try to reproduce it as closely as you can using your medium of choice – traditional or digital.

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