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Procreate vs. Photoshop: Battle of the Digital Painting Software

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Read Time: 15 min

If you're a digital illustrator, you've probably thought about the Adobe Photoshop vs. Procreate debate. Which one's better? In this article, we'll compare the two so that you can weigh in on Procreate vs. Photoshop for digital painting.

Do you prefer video tutorials and visual content? The Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel has you covered. You can learn everything about Photoshop vs. Procreate by watching this new video as well:

What You'll Learn

  • The pros and cons of Procreate and Photoshop for digital painting
  • The difference between Procreate and Photoshop brushes
  • How to import from Procreate to Photoshop
  • The cost of Procreate vs. Photoshop
  • Is Procreate a monthly subscription? Is Photoshop?
  • What is the Procreate app?
  • A look at Photoshop for iPad vs. Procreate
  • How to choose the best app for your work

Whether you're looking at Photoshop vs. Procreate for tattooers, developers, designers, or illustrators, this article will give you a roundup of features to consider.

1. What Is the Procreate App?

Procreate is a raster illustration tool. It was released back in 2011, and it is a robust tool that you can use to create beautiful, detailed works of art. From digital calligraphy to thumbnail sketches, Procreate can do it. Tattoo artists, children's book illustrators, sequential artists—many of them enjoy calling Procreate their illustration tool of choice. Personally, I find Procreate to be very pleasant to draw in. It's so easy to sit back and just... draw!

And is Procreate a one-time purchase? Yes! Procreate's one-time payment is often a huge selling point. We’ll discuss that a little more later. 

Procreate AppProcreate AppProcreate App

Interested in more information about this cool app? Take a look at these resources:

1.1 What Devices Can You Use Procreate On?

It's important to note that Procreate is exclusively for the Apple iPad—and you're going to need an Apple Pencil with that. Some artists use other compatible styluses with their iPad, but Apple Pencil tends to be recommended. That means no desktop computers and no Android devices.

Procreate drawingProcreate drawingProcreate drawing

Keep in mind that not every iPad is created equal, so you're going to want to make sure that your iPad is compatible with tools like the Apple Pencil. For example, older models or less feature-rich models may lack this compatibility.

1.2 What Are Procreate's Features?

Don't let the exclusivity on the iPad put you off—Procreate is an amazing tool that can create professional-quality work. For example, it has an in-depth system for layering, brush creation, and customization, and you can work at resolutions appropriate for print. You can export a recording of your process, you can use Photoshop brushes, and you can even export animations.

Procreate is completely viable as a standalone illustration tool for professionals. Its brushes can easily simulate a variety of real media, like watercolor or graphite. It doesn't require much tinkering or know-how to jump in and start drawing either. I consider myself a very picky artist, and I fell in love with Procreate almost immediately. 

Procreate for ArtistsProcreate for ArtistsProcreate for Artists

That said, it's a digital art tool, and I think that's largely how it shines. For example, I'm not normally one for editing photos in Procreate. Procreate photo editing is viable, but it's probably not most people's first choice for that kind of work.

2. What Is Adobe Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is raster graphics editing software—but that is a very simplistic definition of a program that is very, very robust. You've probably even heard of it in popular culture. For example, it's not uncommon to hear someone call a doctored photo "Photoshopped". 

Photoshop artistPhotoshop artistPhotoshop artist

Photoshop can be used for a wide variety of graphical purposes. It's largely for raster-based work. For example, in my own professional work, I've used Photoshop for web graphics, print graphics, screenshots, presentations, surface graphics, graphics for mobile development, and much more. If it's pixel-based, raster work, Photoshop can probably do it. It is often considered one of the biggest names in the world of digital art.

Here are a couple of amazing resources to go more in depth about this software:

2.1 What Devices Can You Use Photoshop On?

Photoshop is available for both PC and Mac. However, it's a good idea to check and make sure that your computer's specifications are a good fit for using Photoshop.

Photoshop IllustrationPhotoshop IllustrationPhotoshop Illustration
An illustration created in Photoshop

It's not a small program—it's a rather chunky installation, and working with large files can require a modern and/or powerful system. For example, if I'm drawing an 11" x 14" illustration at 300 ppi and my layer count starts getting high, those are the moments I'm thankful for a powerful workstation. 

Photoshop illustrationPhotoshop illustrationPhotoshop illustration

Photoshop is also available for iPad. However, it isn't necessarily well loved by some artists and designers. There are no guides, no Pen Tool, no Shape Tool, and more—there are just a lot of "missing" features. I don't regularly use Photoshop for iPad, and I probably won't until it's further along in development and more of the "normal" features are included. It's disappointing, but hopefully someday this will be different. 

2.2 What Are Photoshop's Features?

Why are these features in Photoshop such a big deal? Well, there are a lot of them. For many artists and designers, they’re a regular part of their workflow. For example, there are filters, effects, and plugins. There is also ease of use between the other members of the Adobe Creative Cloud family, like Illustrator and InDesign. When I’m doing motion graphics work in After Effects, for example, I often have Photoshop open to help with any image edits I need to make in the middle of my workflow. If I’m working with raster imagery, I’m probably working with Photoshop.

Photoshop Image EditingPhotoshop Image EditingPhotoshop Image Editing

That said, Photoshop can be an amazing illustration tool. The brushes have extensive options, and there are so many brushes out there to download—everything from cloud brushes to foliage brushes, hair brushes, comic brushes, watercolor brushes, and more. Photoshop also includes Kyle’s Brushes: a very popular set of brushes that now come included with the software.

Photoshop BrushesPhotoshop BrushesPhotoshop Brushes

3. Procreate vs. Photoshop

So, in some regards, looking at Photoshop vs. Procreate can feel a bit like looking at apples and oranges. They’re both fruits, they can both make a pretty good pie, but the taste is pretty different. If you like apples, oranges aren’t going to hit the spot in the same way. For example, Photoshop vs. Procreate for tattooers might be different than someone who specializes in assets for game development.

Let’s take a look at how Procreate and Photoshop measure up when compared to each other.

Adobe Photoshop vs ProcreateAdobe Photoshop vs ProcreateAdobe Photoshop vs Procreate

3.1 Procreate vs. Photoshop: Pricing

This is a big factor for a lot of us: the price tag. So how do Photoshop and Procreate measure up when it comes to the investment?

  • Adobe Photoshop requires an ongoing subscription. This is often considered a downside, especially when there are so many other digital illustration options out there, like Procreate, Affinity Photo, and Clip Studio Paint. None of them come close to Photoshop's ongoing price tag—you cannot buy Photoshop outright, and if you end your subscription, you lose access to Photoshop.
  • Procreate has a one-time fee of US$9.99. Yes, that does sound really surprising in comparison. Not only is it a low-cost, one-time fee, but it's had regular updates included in that price tag too. 

If you're looking for a competitively priced option for digital illustration, Procreate is a very strong choice. You're getting a lot of content and functionality for a low, one-time price tag. 

3.2 Procreate vs. Photoshop: Tools and Hardware

Keep in mind, however, the issue of tools and hardware when comparing Photoshop vs Procreate. This is also a factor to keep in mind when it comes to your overall investment:

  • Procreate requires a compatible Apple iPad device and an Apple Pencil (or stylus). There is no other alternative on that.
  • Photoshop primarily requires a desktop computer, and computers with lower specs may have trouble handling higher-resolution work. When drawing, you'll need a graphics tablet to draw and take full advantage of things like pressure sensitivity.
  • Photoshop does, however, have an iPad version as well, although it lacks features.

3.3 Procreate vs. Photoshop: Learning Curve

Which is easier to use, Photoshop or Procreate?

  • Adobe Photoshop can be an intimidating program to jump into, especially if your goal is to draw. It's jam packed with features and content, which is good, but can also feel like overwhelming "bloat" to some users. There are a lot of features that may not apply to your drawing process at all.
  • Procreate is considerably easier to use, right out of the box, for drawing and sketching. However, if you're doing extended graphic design work, Procreate lacks some of what Photoshop packs. 

From my personal experience, I've often found new students to be quite overwhelmed with Photoshop. As an illustrator, I tweak and change my brush settings actively while I’m drawing in Photoshop; the flow, the opacity, the pen pressure. Procreate, in my opinion, just doesn’t have the same sense of overwhelm. You can just draw, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the software lacks depth. In my opinion, it just feels easier to jump in and make something beautiful, even custom brushes, in Procreate.

3.4 Procreate vs. Photoshop: Overall Features

Features are really an aspect where Procreate and Photoshop differ. It all comes down to one important fact: what you’re looking for.

Photoshop DrawingPhotoshop DrawingPhotoshop Drawing
Example of a textured illustration created in Photoshop

For example, while editing photos in Procreate would be possible, it just wouldn’t be my go-to choice, personally. Procreate photo editing is viable, but Photoshop packs so many photo editing features, many of them top of the line in the industry. For example, some of Photoshop’s selection tools, and their developing AI, are really impressive.

If I’m looking to do some concept sketches, with the freedom to do so on the go, Procreate is an amazing choice. Photoshop doesn’t normally give me that flexibility. On many occasions, when inspiration strikes, I'll reach for my iPad and jot down sketches in Procreate.

Procreate drawingProcreate drawingProcreate drawing
Example of a textured illustration drawn in Procreate

If you’re basing your choice purely on features in terms of quantity, Photoshop is a clear winner. However, you might not need all those extras, and that could be a win for Procreate for you. If you're here for the iPad, Photoshop vs. Procreate is probably a win for Procreate too. Photoshop for iPad has that subscription again, and is Procreate a monthly subscription? Nope. 

3.5 Procreate vs. Photoshop: Brushes

Brushes are a huge topic of discussion and creation with digital artists. So how do Photoshop and Procreate measure up when it comes to brushes?

Both Photoshop and Procreate have robust brush customization. While they differ, they’re both quite powerful and packed with features. 

Procreate BrushesProcreate BrushesProcreate Brushes
One of the many Procreate brushes on Envato Elements

Procreate can import and utilize Photoshop brushes. This means that Procreate users can benefit from the large selection of Photoshop brushes out there, even if it's not quite the same as Photoshop. 

Photoshop BrushesPhotoshop BrushesPhotoshop Brushes
There's a huge collection of Photoshop brushes on Envato Elements too.

When it comes to Procreate vs. Photoshop brushes, I would call it a tie. I find Procreate brushes a bit easier to work with, but I also find Photoshop brushes to be feature-rich, and there are so many Photoshop brushes out there to take advantage of.

3.6 Procreate vs. Photoshop: File Formats

So, file formats—this is essentially how you can save and/or export your work. This really depends on how you plan to use your work. 

Procreate supports a large number of file formats, including .procreate, PSD, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, PDF, MP4, HEVC, OBJ, and USDZ.

Photoshop supports over 28 image formats, not counting the additional 3D or video-related formats, including all of the above from Procreate, except OBJ and USDZ. That's huge

Photoshop's native file is a PSD file, which is also compatible with Procreate. It's the primary file format that preserves all of Photoshop's features. This is interesting because it means you can jump between Photoshop and Procreate, rather than choosing one or the other. You can generally import from Procreate to Photoshop and back again.

3.7 Procreate vs. Photoshop: iPad

When it comes to Photoshop vs. Procreate on the iPad, I personally consider it no contest. I’d pick Procreate every time. Photoshop on the iPad just lacks so many features, even from the exclusive perspective of an illustrator. I can manage my brushes, but I don’t have the robust customization and options I have in Procreate. While it is nice to be able to easily jump from desktop to iPad in Photoshop, it’s just not enough to compete with Procreate.

photoshop vs procreate for tattooersphotoshop vs procreate for tattooersphotoshop vs procreate for tattooers
Photoshop vs. Procreate for tattooers, illustrators, and designers tends to be an easier choice on iPad: Procreate. Photography by gpointstudio

If iPad is your tool of choice, I’d give Procreate a shot. The cost of Procreate wins here again too, as Photoshop for iPad, again, requires a subscription and lacks many of Photoshop's features.

4. Procreate: Pros and Cons

Drawing in ProcreateDrawing in ProcreateDrawing in Procreate

4.1 Procreate Pros

  • The cost of Procreate is competitive. Is Procreate a one-time purchase? Yes! Is Photoshop? Nope. Looking at Procreate, a one-time payment is a huge advantage.
  • Procreate is amazing for illustration on the go. I can do concept art on my couch or on a plane if I want to. This mobility does not sacrifice quality either—you can create beautiful, high-resolution artwork in Procreate.
  • Procreate imports and exports most of the popular raster image formats. This means that Procreate generally “plays nice” with most graphic design applications.
  • Procreate can open and save Photoshop PSD files. This is a huge selling point for me, because it means I can use Procreate in my existing workflow if I want to.

4.2 Procreate Cons

  • Procreate is largely an illustrative tool. This isn’t bad, but it’s not going to have all of the raster image editing features you see in Photoshop. If you need those features, Procreate isn’t a complete Photoshop replacement.
  • Procreate is exclusively on the iPad. This means that if you’re lacking the tech, you lack access. While Procreate itself is very competitively priced, the cost of a high-end iPad with an Apple Pencil can really add up.

5. Photoshop: Pros and Cons

Photoshop IllustrationPhotoshop IllustrationPhotoshop Illustration

5.1 Photoshop Pros

  • Photoshop is packed with features. If you need to work with pixel-based, raster imagery, Photoshop can probably handle the job.
  • In many circles, it is considered one of the most well-known industry standards when it comes to digital art. It can be a great addition to your resume, if you’re a creative professional. Many times, in my career, I have turned to Photoshop—and knowing it has helped me land opportunities.
  • There are mountains of Photoshop resources out there on the Internet. Whether you're looking for brushes, actions, or templates, there’s just so much to choose from. 
  • There are some wonderful Photoshop brushes out there, and they can mimic almost any texture or media. On a personal note, I love my Photoshop brushes. I've customized and collected them over years of illustration work, and I consider them an essential part of my toolkit.

5.2 Photoshop Cons

  • Photoshop’s price tag is a big con for a lot of creative professionals. A monthly subscription is not the most appealing option out there. However, Photoshop does get continually updated, so it's not like there isn't a team of people out there working hard to make the software bigger and better.
  • Photoshop has a lot of features, and a lot of them might not be applicable to someone who's only here for illustration. You just might not need all those extras—and for newcomers, they can be overwhelming.

6. Which Would You Choose: Procreate or Photoshop?

So who wins the Adobe Photoshop vs. Procreate battle for you and your work?

Procreate vs PhotoshopProcreate vs PhotoshopProcreate vs Photoshop

In the end here, make your choice based upon your needs as a creative professional. If you're dabbling in more than illustration, Photoshop's extended features may be of good use to you. If you're primarily looking for a tool that only specializes in illustration, Procreate might be the fit for you.

Personally, I really enjoy using them both—and even using them together. 

Learn More About Procreate

There's even more to learn about Procreate here on Envato Tuts+! Why not dig into one of our free tutorials and start drawing in Procreate today?

Learn More About Photoshop

You can also learn about illustration in Photoshop here on Envato Tuts+. There are so many free tutorials, from basic drawing to fine art illustration. Try a free Photoshop painting tutorial today.

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