Guidance Counselor: France Belleville Van Stone on Digital Drawing with Procreate

digital drawing with Procreate

Guidance Counselor: France Belleville Van Stone on Digital Drawing with Procreate


Welcome to our first-ever Sketchbook Skool Guidance Counselor blog! Our inaugural guidance counselor is France Belleville-Van Stone, SBS fakulty member and author of Sketch! The Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life.

Question: I see a lot of artists posting #procreate on social media. I’m guessing it’s a digital drawing program, but what does it do? I have an iPad and I’m curious about drawing on it, but I don’t know much about digital drawing.
Angela, Ft. Lee, NJ

France: I’ve had an iPad since 2012, but only last year, when I got my iPad Pro, did I really start doing things with it. Now I find myself drawing on the iPad more than I do on paper.

First, the hardware: The iPad Pro is compatible with the Apple Pencil, whereas the regular (pre-2016) iPad isn’t. If you have a non-Pro iPad, you have a wide range of choices when it comes to what stylus to use, from Adonit to Pencil by Fifty-Three. But in my opinion, the Apple Pencil surpasses all other styluses in accuracy and response. It’s the best stylus out there, which is why I got an iPad Pro.

Now, what app to use? Procreate is by far the one that will make the most out of the Apple Pencil, and vice-versa. The Apple Pencil has a palm rejection feature, which will immediately allow you to rest your palm on your screen while you draw, making the process comfortable from the start.

How does it work? It depends. Do you want to draw from life or from a photo?
Drawing from life, you open a new blank page in Procreate and start selecting tools. Do you prefer a pen? My personal favorite is the ink bleed pen, with its opacity and width of stroke pushed to the max.

You will be amazed at the range of pressure you can get out of the Apple Pencil. If you barely touch the screen with the tip of the stylus, you will get the finest stroke possible. The moment you apply pressure, the stroke will darken and widen. It’s all very instinctive.

If you prefer a pencil feel, go to the sketching tool and play with the HB pencil, the technical pencil, and my go-to, the 6B pencil. Give yourself some time to doodle, don’t take it too seriously, and get acquainted with the tools. Eventually, you will find one or two with which you will feel comfortable.

Drawing from a photo, there is the option of having your original photo on the left side of the screen and opening Procreate on the right side, in split-screen mode. Refer to this Apple support page to find out more about multitasking on the iPad Pro.

I’m not super-literate when it comes to all the bells and whistles of Procreate. But if you spend some time and explore their tutorials (search “Procreate Tutorials” on YouTube to learn more), you will expand your horizons. I have deliberately kept myself blissfully ignorant of all the features that Procreate has to offer so I don’t lose sight of the simplicity of the experience; to me, the screen is a page and I embrace the limitations that it implies.

Now open your iPad and have fun. Here are some of the latest drawings I did with my Apple Pencil on Procreate. To see time-lapse videos of my drawings, click here, and here. If you have any more questions about digital drawing, you can always contact me on my blog at

Got a question for our Guidance Counselors? Email it to

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