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  1. Design & Illustration
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How to Create a Stylish Neon Portrait in Procreate

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Procreate is my favorite drawing app available for the iPad.

In this tutorial we’ll be creating a colorful portrait of a beautiful woman, using different painting techniques. We'll take some inspiration from the retro and glamour styles, and we'll use vibrant neon colors to make it stylish.

Let's start!

1. How to Make a Sketch

Step 1

In this tutorial, I'm using an iPad pro with the Apple Pencil and the Procreate 4 app.

First, open the application. Tap the (+) icon in the top-right corner to create a New Canvas. There you can select one of the canvases from the list or create a new one.

create a new canvas

Tap to Create Custom Size and create a 3500 x 4000 px canvas, RGB, 300 DPI

create a new canvas

Step 2

Before creating a sketch, let's find a proper brush for it.

First, open the Brushes tab, tap the Sketching set, and select the 6B Pencil.

choose a sketching brush

Let's modify this brush a little bit. Tap the 6B Pencil icon, and the Settings of the tool will appear. Choose the General settings and change the Size Limits to ~30% Max. It will allow us to have more flexibility in the sketching process.

brush adjustments

Step 3

Let's begin by drawing a sketch.

We already have two layers by default: one layer with the background color and one empty layer. Open the Layers panel, tap "Layer 2", and rename it to "sketch".

rename the layer

Step 4

Now we can start sketching. Usually I make a combination of basic shapes first, where I'm trying to search for the silhouette of the character and her features. Then I refine the sketch, adding a couple more details to give them a bit more character.

I do a lot of rotating of the canvas in the process. You can do it too if you like—just use two fingers and rotate your image or size it.

Also, you can change the Size and Opacity of any Brush tool by moving up and down the sliders on the left side of the screen.

draw a sketch

2. How to Create the Main Shapes

Step 1

First, let's create the Palette of the basic colors.

We have the Colors menu in the top right corner, where we can select the color.

For the Create a New Palette option, click on the (+) icon, and a new area with empty boxes for our new palette will appear. Rename it to "neon".

Now pick the color and tap on any of the empty boxes, and it saves it (tap on the boxes to create the colors for your palette, and tap on them to delete any of them).

create a palette

This way we'll create our own Palette. Basically, we'll choose bright colors for the hair and clothes (place them on the first row), and cold brown colors and nuances of lilac, purple and lavender for the skin (on the second and third rows).

create a neon palette

Step 2

Now open the Layers menu, tap N on the "sketch" layer, lower the Opacity to 50%, and change the Blending Mode to Multiply.

sketch layer properties

Step 3

Let's set a background color by tapping the "Background color" layer, which we already have by default. Select a dark purple color on the Color Wheel.

choose a background color

Step 4

It's time to begin painting.

Create a New Layer for the skin and drag it under the "sketch" layer.

First, go to Brushes > Airbrushing > Hard Airbrush and pick a brown color from our Palette.

select new brush

Draw the outlines of the body, using our sketch as a reference. Now we can fill it with a solid color. Just drag it from the Colors in the top right using your finger, and drop it onto your outline shape. Make sure that your lines are completely closed. Then refine the edges using the Eraser Tool. Choose the Hard Airbrush tool as an eraser.

create the body main shape

Step 5

Using this method, draw the hair and clothes on separate layers. Organize them as shown below.

organize the layers

Step 6

Open the "makeup" layer, and draw eyelashes, eyebrows, nostrils, and the middle line of the lips using the 6B Pencil and a dark brown color.

choose the brush

makeup drawing

Create a New Layer for the eyes and lips on top of the "skin" layer. Fill them with colors using the same brush.

makeup main colors

Step 7

Set the Opacity of the "sketch" layer to 30%, making it more transparent. It's still useful to us in the painting process, but should not be so conspicuous at the same time.

sketch layer properties

3. How to Add Shadows and Highlights to the Body

Step 1

Let's start by adding some volume to the body. Tap on the "skin" layer and select Alpha Lock from the drop-down list. It will help us to paint inside the body shape without crossing this area.

lock in the layer

Now select a dark brown color from our Palette and choose the Nikko Rull brush from the Painting set.

new brush settings

Start creating soft shadows by making strokes on the shadowy area. Change the stroke Size and Opacity in the process until you get the desired shapes. Turn off the "sketch" layer to see the result.

first shadows layer

Step 2

This way, add some deeper shadows using the same brush. Check the result, making the "sketch"  layer invisible.

second shadows layer

Step 3

Let's change the color of the strokes on the "makeup" layer.

First select the layer, and then tap the Adjustments icon and choose the Hue, Saturation, and Brightness from the drop-down list. 

makeup layer adjustments

Change the color, making it darker.  Move the sliders until you get the desired result. 

change a makeup brightness

Step 4

Now let's add some blush to the skin.

Create a New Layer on top of the "skin" layer first. Then tap on the "skin" layer and choose Select from the drop-down list. It will allow us to draw on the "blush" layer just inside the body shape.

Choose the Soft Brush from the Airbrushing set, and draw some blush shapes on the cheeks, nose, and neck. Reduce the Opacity of the layer to 40%.

choose new brush

blush drawing

Step 5

It's time to add some highlights to the lightened area.

Create a New Layer on top of the "blush" layer, and rename it to "highlights". Pick a beige color from our Palette, and paint some highlights strokes, using the same Nikko Rull brush. Reduce the Opacity to 40%.

first highlights layer

Step 6

Now create a New Layer again on top of the "highlights". Draw more evident strokes, using the same color and brush. Reduce the Opacity to 40% as well.

second highlights layer

Step 7

Once we're happy with the highlights, we can merge these layers. Tap on the top layer with highlights and choose Merge Down from the drop-down list. Or you can take the two layers (one finger on one, and one finger on the other) and squeeze them together.

merge a highlights layers

Step 8

Create a New Layer on top of the "highlights". We'll add some bright highlights to make the look more expressive. Use the same brush and lilac tint from our Palette. In the end, lower the Opacity to 60%.

new highlights layer

Now create a New Layer again and draw some highlights on the cheekbone, on the corner of the eyes and lips, on the tip of the nose, under her eyebrows, and on the forehead. Use the same color and brush with 100% Opacity. Once you're happy with the result, merge all these layers with highlights, blush and skin into one "skin" layer.

add a gloss to the skin

Step 9

Let's refine the skin a little bit, correcting the roughness of the skin and improving the shape of her face and body. Use the Color Picker Button to select the color you need. You can find this button between the Size and Opacity sliders. 

refining of the skin

Step 10

Now let's add some volume to the eyes.

Start with the white of the eye, adding some brown shadows under the eyelashes. Choose a dark brown color for the top of the iris and a light brown color for the underside. Also add some bright green strokes to the iris.

Next, draw a strip on the edge of the eyelid, adding some shadows and highlights to it.

In the end, add some gloss and twinkles to the white of the eye, the iris, and the pupil.

add volume to the eyes

Step 11

Now we'll get to work on the lips.

Add the shadows first, using dark shades of cherry color. Then add some bright pink strokes and a white gloss to the upper part of the lips. In the end, draw some dark brown shadows on the left part of the upper lip and under the bottom lip, as shown below.

add volume to the lips

Here's how the face of our woman looks at this stage.

face volume

Step 12

Let's refine the face a little bit, adding some deeper shadows to the area above and under the eyes and neck. Also, draw some bright gloss using the lavender color from our Palette.

refining of the face

Step 13

Once we're happy with the volume of the face and body, let's add a texture to make the skin more natural.

Create a New Layer on top of the "skin", and rename it "skin texture". Choose the Splatter brush from the Spraypaints set and pick a brown color. 

new texture brush

Apply Select to the "skin" layer. Using the max size of the brush, draw some strokes, spraying tiny spots on the skin area. Reduce the Opacity to 20%.

face texture

Now create a New Layer again on top of the "skin texture". Draw some freckles and moles, using the same brown color and the Nikko Rull brush. Add them randomly to the nose, cheeks, forehead, and shoulders. Reduce the Opacity of the layer to 50%.

draw the freckles

Step 14

In the end, let's draw some falling shadows from the hairstyle. Create a New Layer for them on top of the "skin". Add some dark shadows to the forehead under the fringe first. Lower the Opacity to 65%. Then, on a New Layer, draw some deep pink reflections using the Soft Brush. Reduce the Opacity to 35%.

draw the falling shadows

4. How to Create a Neon Hairstyle

Step 1

Let's start forming the hairstyle.

First, make the "sketch" layer visible. Also reduce the Opacity of the "hair 2" layer to 50%.

lower the hair opacity

Now lock in the "hair 1" and "hair 2" layers by activating Alpha Lock. Use the Soft Brush to draw some blue strokes at the edges of the main hairstyle shape. Also add some pink to the edges of the hair on the "hair 2" layer.

forming hairstyle volume

Step 2

Create a New Layer on top of the hair layers. Use the 6B Pencil and blue color to draw the lines of the strands of hair, styling separate locks. In the end, turn off the "sketch" layer.

create separate locks

Step 3

Use the textured brush Nikko Rull and cyan color from our Palette to add some bright spots to the inner part of the hairstyle. Then pick a pink color and draw some gentle textured strokes of the highlights.

add shining to the hair

This way, add a lilac touch to the locks.

add highlights to the locks

Step 4

Apply Select to the "hair 2" layer, and create a New Layer on top of it. Pick a cyan color and draw some short, bright strokes, imitating shaved hair. Also use a blue color to draw the shadows from the upper hair and the area behind the ear.

add volume to the locks

Step 5

Lock in the "hair lines" layer by activating Alpha Lock. Use the same brush with pink and blue colors to shade the hair lines, according to the principle "pink to pink, blue to blue."

Then turn off Alpha Lock, choose the 6B Pencil, and draw separate thin blue hairs. In the end, add some gloss to these hairs using cyan.

add volume to the lines

5. How to Add Volume and Texture to the Clothes

Step 1

Let's start with the earrings.

First, choose the Soft Brush from the Airbrushing set and a green color. Apply Alpha Lock to the layers with earrings and draw some green shadows.

add volume to earrings

Now turn off Alpha Lock. Select the new Lightpen brush from the Luminance set, choose a lime green color from our Palette, and draw some shining strokes on the edges of the earrings.

add shining to earrings

Step 2

Now let's move to the dress. Make the "sketch" layer visible first. Then lock in the "dress" layer by activating Alpha Lock.

Using the Nikko Rull brush, draw two lime color strokes to decorate the edges of the dress. Also use a pink color for the underside of the dress. Then, using the Soft Brush, add some lilac tints to the cloth.

Turn off the "sketch" layer. Pick the Nikko Rull brush again and draw some cyan highlights and purple shadows, forming the creases of the dress.

add volume to the cloth

Step 3

Now let's add some texture to the fabric.

Create a New Layer on top of the "dress" layer. Select the Newsprint brush from the Retro set, and draw some pink strokes on the creases and on the area of the shoulders.

Create a New Layer again and draw some green strokes on the highlights area. Then, using the Eraser Tool, make some vertical stripes on top of them.

In the end, on a New Layer, draw some lime green and yellow dots on the green texture.

add texture to fabric

Step 4

Take the Selection Tool, and select the area of the dress we want to make a little darker. Then go to Adjustments > Curves, and pull the right slider down a little.

work with curves

Do the same for the creases, as shown in the screenshot below.

work with curves

In the end, using the Nikko Rull brush and a dark violet color, draw some vertical stripes deep in the folds.

create the folds

6. It's Time for the Final Touches

Step 1

Let's add some necessary details.

First, create a New Layer for reflections on top of the "eyes/ lips". Apply Alpha Lock and Select to the "skin" layer.

Now pick the lilac color and draw some shapes of reflections mostly along the left side of the body. Use the Nikko Rull brush with 60% Opacity for it. Draw more saturated strokes on the edges of the body shape.

add purple reflections

Step 2

Create a New Layer for the rim light on top of the "makeup", and deselect the "skin" layer.

Pick the cyan color and the 6B Pencil brush to draw vivid strokes on the left side of the face. Add some gloss to the eyebrows, eyelashes, and the tip of the nose as well.

add cyan gloss

Step 3

In the end, we have to add some reflections from the earrings.

Create a New Layer for the green reflections under the "reflections" layer. Pick the Nikko Rull brush again and draw some green and yellow shapes on the cheeks and chin.

add green reflections

7. How to Create an Abstract Background

Step 1

We already have the basic dark purple color on our default background layer. Let's add some texture and a pattern to make our image more stylish.

Create a New Layer on top of "Background color". Pick a new brush, Nebula, from the Luminance set and a blue color to add some mistiness to the background. Reduce the Opacity of the layer to 60%.

create a purple nebula

Create a New Layer on top of the blue nebula and add some pink splashes as well, reducing the Opacity of the layer to 60% too.

create a pink nebula

In the end, pick a dark main color from the background and add a splash to the bottom right corner of our canvas. Pick the Eraser Tool with the Soft Pastel brush and make some holes in the blue and pink shapes, diffusing their density.

lower the nebula density

Step 2

Let's create a simple pattern for the decoration of our background.

First, turn off the "background" and all nebula layers. Create a New Layer on top of them. Pick the Hard Brush from the Airbrushing set and tap on the canvas, making perfect dots. using a grid on the canvas will help you to place them at equal distances from each other. 

create dots

Now let's duplicate this row of dots. Tap Transform in the top panel, swipe down with three fingers, and the menu will appear. Choose Copy + Paste and we'll get these dots on the new layer. Move them down and to the right. As a result, we'll get them in staggered order. Merge these layers into one.

duplicate the dots

merge layers with dots

Duplicate this layer using the same principle.

duplicate the row of dots

Now let's flip our four rows horizontally. Just tap Transform in the top panel and choose the first icon in the bottom panel. Move them to the right side.

flipping horizontally of pattern

Step 3

Let's add some texture to the dots. Apply Select to the layer with the dots. Create a New Layer on top of it and choose a new brush, Burnt Tree, from the Charcoals set.

new brush for texture

Pick the pink color from our Palette and use the max size of the brush to cover our dots with texture. Turn off the first layer with blue dots. Now we have clean, textured pink dots. Reduce the Opacity of the layer to 55%.

add texture to the dots

Great Work! We're Finished!

I hope you've enjoyed the process and the final result meets your expectation!

Good luck, and don't be afraid to use your imagination and create something beautiful!

final result
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