First thoughts with Procreate

Hey! This is certainly a change of pace! But I recently picked up the iPad Pro and after a series of tweets talking up how I was handling Clip Studio, someone asked me to try out Procreate and describe my experience with it!

Let's begin with some context: I'm a comic artist and sometimes freelance as a colorist. When I use digital art programs, I'm primarily working with Clip Studio for a lot of my process. That means the whole gauntlet: layout, pencils, inking, coloring and lettering. I don't digitally paint and have only recently begun working on the iPad Pro.

A big reason for the iPad purchase was because I had heard how well Clip Studio had ported to the tablet. As I explained, I'm extremely familiar with the program for comic work. Although the subscription fee of 30 dollars a year wasn't attractive (I paid 30 dollars flat for Clip on desktop when it had a sale!), because I already knew the program, I was confident I'd be getting my money's worth.

This is all to establish that, when asked to experiment with Procreate, I came in extremely biased.

And what it means when I say I changed my tune the second I started drawing in Procreate.

One thing that really required adjusting in Clip Studio was the pressure sensitivity. It took quite a bit of fussing with to get something approaching what I wanted. I initially wrote off some of the discomfort as adjusting to drawing Straight-To-Screen for the first time.

But as soon as I used the pen tool in Procreate- there was a massive difference. Like- my first few lines and literally said 'woah'. It was that noticeable. 'Butter' is the phrase I've used over and over with friends when describing the experience. It's a smoother, and more satisfying feel when drawing in Procreate. I don't think it's a pressure sensitivity thing-- I think it's literally in how it detects pen movements.

To test, I started out with a semi intimidating project to help teach myself the program: a character index for Godslave.

Penciling and inking feel great in this program. It's also very clear that while Clip Studio's program feels like a direct port from desktop, Procreate is a program built with mobile in mind. The built-in touch 'undo/redo' buttons on the sidebar, the amount of functions that are activated by types of screen touches (you drag three fingers down the screen to pull up copy/paste/cut).
It's no joke that I audibly gasped when I found out how to make a straight line (you draw a line- as squiggly and bent as you like, hold the pen down at the end of stroke-- and it'll snap to straight on its own. I also recently figured out it does the same with curves!). That immediately sold it to me as the program I'd be inking the graphic novel in. With the summer coming, I desperately want a way to take my work outdoors or at least somewhere more window-friendly.

Procreate has been my #1 drawing tablet program these last few weeks. Which if you follow me on social media- is probably obvious. Procreate's default recording function while you draw makes work SUPER fun to share and I think a really clever feature to have. It was funny- I follow a healthy chunk of artists on instagram. A lot of whom have posted the same 'recorded drawing' feature several times the last year or so. And it wasn't until I got the program that I realized it was from Procreate!

I will say-- the one thing I don't know I'll ever do with this program: Coloring.

Procreate has the same god-blessed feature that Clip Studio has: it can detect shapes you've made in line art. If you flat comics on a regular basis, you know how important that is. Being able to take a paint bucket tool, drop a color and have it land in one specific shape(rather than the whole dang page) is invaluable. Procreate can do this, but not to the same extent. It's a much slower process than Clip. That's an important enough asset that might keep me resubscribing every year. Which- I think makes sense? 

I don't believe Procreate was built with multiple panel, multiple character and detailed backgrounds in mind. Rather than comics, Procreate feels like it was built for digital painting and illustration. Which is great, and it does that great! This is less a criticism and more recognizing my tools serve certain functions. 

If you're thinking of picking up Procreate, be prepared to look up tutorials. A lot of the program is fairly intuitive and only takes about an hour to sit with to get the hang of. But there are some quick functions that aren't hidden in tabs or menus. Instead, they're in touch screen tricks you likely wouldn't pick up on your own. The copy/paste trick, color picker, paint bucket and straight line trick were all things I specifically had to google.

I've only had the program for a little under 2 weeks- so there's still a lot I'm learning and need to look up (can you move the layers around? Can you make the 'maximum size' on a brush bigger?) but I've been thoroughly enjoying myself. I don't know if I'll renew my subscription on the Clip Studio next year or not. Clip Studio eclipses Procreate when it comes to comic specific tools. Perspective rulers, lettering, bubbles, panel specific editing- the list goes on.

But when it comes to just drawing, Procreate shines. And that's a big reason I picked up the iPad in the first place. I wanted a mobile digital sketchbook, that would make sharing my work online easier and more streamlined. 

The decision to invest in the iPad was not an easy one. As a freelancer, it was hard to reconcile dropping that kind of money on what I considered a 'luxury item', for work or not. It took a year of pining, encouragement from my partner, and stumbling onto a financing program before I took the plunge. And the first night with fussing with Clip Studio pen settings- I was genuinely concerned I'd made a mistake.

It's no exaggeration that, personally, Procreate has cleared up a lot of those doubts.

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