Ode to Procreate

By Melissa Nguyen

Once upon a time, my floor was covered with nothing but crumpled paper.
So much in fact that I could’ve built a few 5 foot sky scrapers.
It wasn’t until I managed to get my hands on an iPad Pro and pencil last year,
That my digital lettering life took off in full gear!
With just a few seconds with my new toy,
My inner child was jumping around and filled with nothing but joy.
I exclaimed “Procreate! I cannot wait to download!”
There were so many possibilities this program could bestow!
Your interface, so easy to use,
And the magic undo button do I abuse.
Everyday I learned something new,
Like changing a layer’s opacity, brightness or hue.
Thank you Procreate for rocking my world,
and allowing my imagination to unfurl.
Oh Procreate, what would I have done without you?
My pile of crumpled paper would touch the sky, that much is true.

When I first started learning calligraphy and hand lettering almost 3 years ago I was engulfed in the realm of endless art supplies. Overtime these supplies took over my desk space, my drawers, and even my bookshelf. Needless to say, there wasn’t a space in my room where you couldn’t find at least one art supply (there might be some hidden in the closet too or dropped in my shoe). Some days I start the day constrained to my desk, in the corner of my room, drafting on a small project, but then I realize that I made a mistake and start all over again— before I know it, my bin is overflowed, and I am surrounded by crumpled paper. To make matters worse, there’s ink on my hands, my sweatpants, my face and some may have gotten on my dog (who knows how that happens). My workspace becomes, as the millennials would call it, a “hot mess.”

Enter the iPad Pro + Pencil and my introduction to Procreate

When Apple first released the iPad Pro back in early 2016, I had my doubts on how well it could perform and replace the traditional paper and no. 2 pencil or how it could compete with the well known graphic tablets such as those made by Wacom. As a freelance calligrapher, paper and pencil were my go to tools as I drafted layouts before putting ink to paper. Even when Procreate, an iOS art application, was released — now known as a “multi-award winning creative application [that] gives you the power to create beautiful sketches, inspiring paintings and stunning illustrations” — did I still have my doubts. Little did I know what a huge impact it would have played in pushing my hand lettering journey and re-introduce me to the world of illustration.

Unlike other design programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop which took some time to learn basic tools and was costly ($19.99 USD per month for one program) — Procreate was relatively easy to learn within a few short seconds and had a one time fee ($9.99 USD). I won’t go into the basics of using Procreate as there are tons of tutorials, forums, and other websites offering advice on how to use the program such as the Procreate website itself. Instead I will talk about why Procreate makes such a great innovative product — one that not only changed my way of creating art but also embodies the 10 Principles for Good Design by Dieter Rams.

Image Source

As I mentioned in my Ode to Procreate, before using Procreate I found myself surrounded by crumpled paper, almost daily — so much in fact that almost every week I would throw out two large bags full of paper. Which honestly, was so wasteful and definitely not environmentally friendly. What had attracted me to Procreate was how innovative it was, how easy it was to navigate through the program and how easy it was to start creating. With over 50+ amazing brushes preloaded onto Procreate I didn’t have to go searching for brushes to use and was able to start experimenting right away. Each brush is unique, some may add texture and shading to your drawings — while others are smooth, adding weight when you apply pressure with your Apple Pencil — mimicking the effects of using the actual tool (such as a pen, pencil, or paint brush). As soon as I set my desired canvas size and picked my brush, I was ready to start creating.

Timelapse video and illustration created on Procreate. Designed by me (Melissa Nguyen)

What makes Procreate a great product in comparison to other competitive art applications such as Autodesk Sketchbook, Tayasui Sketches, and Adobe Sketches lies in the Design Hierarchy of Needs (functionality, reliability, usability, proficiency, and creativity). A good product is functional (able to do what it is intended to do), it is reliable (performance is stable and consistent), and it is usable (users can fairly easily figure out how to use it and perform basic tasks). What separates a great product from a good product lies in the higher level of the design hierarchy of needs — proficiency (the ability to function at a high level, allowing users to do things that was not previously possible and empowering people to do more and better) and lastly, creativity (aesthetic beauty and innovative interaction).

Although Wacom tablets have dominated the market for some time, what Procreate had done was create a product (that works in tandem with the iPad Pro and Pencil) that was usable by anyone, everyone — anywhere. Not only could a cartoonist create illustrations in the park or a hand lettering artist create a print in their living room but even my 5 year old nephew was able to quickly learn how to choose brushes and create new layers in a matter of minutes.

Screenshot illustration created on Procreate. Designed by me (Melissa Nguyen)

For me, Procreate allowed me to create things beyond my wildest dreams — creating digitalized work and working with features such as masking, quick fill, cut, copy, paste, multiple layers and of course, my favorite feature — the undo button. And though at times I still go back to paper and pencil, I find myself 8 out of 10 times gravitating towards my iPad Pro and opening Procreate whenever I can.

A year in with Procreate and over 500+ files created, I now cannot imagine where my life would be without it — actually I can, I would be buried under a pile of crumpled paper.