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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Digital Painting

How to Paint a Spirit Day Inspired Illustration in Procreate

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Spirit Day, celebrated in October, is about supporting the LGBTQ+ community and taking a stand against bullying. We'll show some support for this day and its cause in this Spirit Day inspired illustration tutorial. 

Please note that Procreate is required for this tutorial, as well as a compatible pen. This tutorial was created using an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil. My setup includes an extra wide pen holder/cushion for added support and a matte screen protector, to give the screen more tooth.

1. How to Create a Sketch in Procreate

Step 1

First, let's start with a New Canvas. Select the Plus Sign in the upper, right-hand portion of Procreate. We'll select Create Custom Size.

Creating a New Document

Step 2

Now, input your desired dimensions. I worked at 10 inches by 8 inches. I like to work at 300 dpi, so it's a resolution appropriate for printing. 

Setting the Custom Canvas Size

Step 3

When creating the sketch, I like to use the 6B Pencil under Sketching. It has a lovely texture and is generally great to use, right out the box!

Example of 6B Pencil

Step 4

Here's a look at my settings for my 6B Pencil. You'll notice that I didn't stray far from the defaults, although I do like to raise the Size Limits

I also like to create a new Color Palette for myself, so I can quickly save any colors I might want to reference later. You can do so by clicking below the Color Wheel. To Save a Color, simply click within your palette. 

6B Pencil Settings and the Color Wheel

Step 5

Create a New Layer by clicking on the Plus Sign in the Layers Panel. I like to keep my artwork on a separate layer, so it's easier to manipulate as I go along.

In this case, I drew each character in a different color. This helps me block out where the different parts of the body are and how they interact with each other. 

Again, you can select different colors via the Colors Panel. In the screenshot below, it is the green circle (as I have green selected).

I wanted to draw a hug to visually symbolize support and love. I thought a wing might be a fun addition, as support and compassion can feel heaven-sent, when dealing with something damaging, like bullying. 

Example of Initial Sketch

Step 6

I created another Layer to experiment with other aspects of the illustration, like the clothing and hair.

Example of Sketch Progress

Step 7

Once I was pleased with my work, I Merged my Layers and then Lowered the Opacity of the Combined Layer

Combined Sketch with Lowered Opacity

Step 8

Now, using my rough work as my guide, I began to draw a more refined sketch on a New Layer, on top of my initial work. 

I hesitate to call this "line art" because I like to paint on top of my lines. This is just a stylistic choice; I enjoy continually painting on top of my work and manipulating it that way. That's the method we'll experiment with in this tutorial. 

Creation of the Refined Sketch

2. How to Add the Initial Colors in Procreate

Step 1

Once I've finished my refined sketch, I like to alter the color of the lines. In this case, I thought I might like them a little lighter. 

Click on the Adjustments Icon in the upper left-hand side of Procreate. Then, select Hue, Saturation, Brightness. This will bring up three sliders that you can use to alter the Hue, Saturation, and Brightness of the selected Layer

Adjusting the Line Color

Step 2

When adding my initial colors, I like to do so on top of my lines. Here, I've created a New Layer and set its Blending Mode to Multiply. Notice how the color also alters the color of the lines. 

Adding Initial Colors

Step 3

Proceed in the same fashion for the other colors in the illustration. I often like to separate each color on its own Layer, as it makes it easier to adjust them if need be. 

Adding Color on Independent Layers

Step 4

Once I'm happy with my color choices, I like to Flatten all of them into one Layer. This helps prevent some color overlap that was giving me undesired results on my lines.

Final Color Choices

3. How to Paint a Background in Procreate

Step 1

Now, let's create a simple background. First, I started by Creating a New Layer below the character artwork. Fill this Layer will a blue color. You can do this by selecting the Layer and then choosing Fill.

Adding Initial Background Color

Step 2

I wanted to set these characters against the sky, because I thought that would help illustrate a free and uplifting feeling. 

Under Organic, I chose the Cotton Brush. We'll use this to paint some clouds. 

Selecting the Cotton Brush

Step 3

Create a New Layer between the layer containing the character art and the layer with the blue fill. 

Using the Cotton Brush, create the basic shapes of our clouds. Notice that my Brush Opacity is around 50%. I used a light blue color that is a little lighter than the background.

Creating the Basic Shapes of the Clouds

Step 4

Create a New Layer above the one we just worked on. Raise the Opacity of your Brush, and begin adding lighter values. 

Adding Light Values to the Clouds

Step 5

Next, Create a New Layer above the one we just worked on. This time, I used the background color to create little "gaps" between the clouds. Again, this is all using the Cotton Brush with its default settings.

Finishing Touches to the Clouds

Step 6

Once I was happy with my clouds, I Merged my Layers. Again, you can do this by selecting the Layer you want to Merge and choosing Merge Down.

Merging the Cloud Layers

4. How to Add the Initial Shadows

Step 1

Now, let's decide where our light source is and add some initial shadows.

To do so, Create a New Layer on top of the character art. Set this Layer's Blending Mode to Multiply. At this point, I don't really worry about things being perfect. Instead, I just messily experiment with color and placement. In this case, I used a light purple color. 

Adding Initial Shadows

Step 2

To clean up those edges, however, we can use Procreate's Selection Tools. Select the Selection Icon, highlighted below in blue. With my character artwork Layer selected, I chose Automatic, and then selected the background area. 

Selecting the Background Area

Step 3

This is what my selected work looks like. Now, I can easily erase the content outside of this area. Note that my Shadow Layer is selected now, as that's where I wanted to remove extra content.

Cleaning up the Initial Shadows

Step 4

Moving forward, I'm going to use the Soft Pastel Brush a lot. It has a really nice texture to it, and I like to use it for softer edges in the composition. 

Looking at the Soft Pastel Brush

Step 5

Please note these other key points, now that we have all the basics laid out. 

Procreate makes it very easy to "pick up" color, and I do this often while I'm painting. Just touch and hold, and a circle will pop up, as shown below. In this example, I've picked up the brown in the character's hair.

The Brush Size and Brush Opacity are also a very important part of my process. I highly recommend experimenting with them and adjusting them regularly!

Color Selection Brush Size and Brush Opacity

5. How to Refine and Blend in Procreate

Step 1

At this point, I'm ready to start refining my work. In areas like the face, I like to keep things softer and smoother. I used a Soft Pastel Brush to do so. 

Personally, I like to achieve a soft look in two ways. First, I adjust the Brush Opacity and take advantage of the pen's sensitivity. Secondly, I continually lift mid values as I paint and use them to blend.

For harder edges, I like to go back to my 6B Pencil Brush. For example, I used this brush on the eyelashes.

Painting the Face Area

Step 2

I applied this premise to the skin areas, as I generally like to portray them as smooth. You'll see that I also did so in the afro textured hair. The only difference here is that I used rounder strokes and did less blending in those areas.

Painting the Skin Areas

Step 3

Clothing folds, however, are different from skin. My work is stylized, so there's room for interpretation, but folds tend to have a harsher presence, in general. In this case, I want to maintain some harsher edges and a little less softness. 

I achieved this using the Soft Pastel Brush with varied Size and Opacity. However, if I need a harsher edge, again, I like to go back to the 6B Pencil

Painting Folds

Step 4

However, this raises the question: "How do you know where folds go?" I generally like to think about the basic shapes that the cloth is wrapped around. For example, arms are generally cylindrical shapes. Therefore, the folds should look as if they naturally fall in a way inspired by this shape, as illustrated in pink, below. 

Visual Depiction of Where folds Might Fall

Step 5

The second character (in the background) has a different hair type. I'd like it to look straighter, so I want it to have visible strands. To start this off, I created a New Layer and used a 6B Brush to begin to define the direction the hair flows and falls on the head.

Defining the Hair Direction

Step 6

Then, Create a New Layer with the Blending Mode set to Add. I used a Soft Pastel Brush and a light brown color to place down some initial highlights. 

Placing Initial Highlights

Step 7

Finally, Create a New Layer and use it to build and refine the hair. I like to "pull" color directly from the illustration, so I know I'm using colors inspired by what I've already drawn. Keep the direction of the hair in mind; these lines and shapes should flow with it and not be haphazard.  

Refining the Hair

6. How to Add the Finishing Touches

Step 1

Now, on to the finishing touches. I wanted the foreground character to wear a heart earring that visually relates to the LGBTQ+ flag. This would further visually communicate the Spirit Day message. I drew this using a 6B Pencil Brush.

Adding in Finishing Touches

Step 2

Then, I wanted to push my shadows a little further. I did so on a New Layer with the Blending Mode set to Multiply. I used a light purple, again, as I did initially. 

With these added values down, I could place even more refinement on top, on another New Layer. This is great for minor tweaks like cleaning up lines and edges.

Adding in Additional Values

Step 3

I also wanted to push the lighter values further, too. So, I created a New Layer and set its Blending Mode to Add. Then, using a Soft Pastel Brush, I applied large, soft areas of color, using a light brown.

Adding in Addition Light Values

Step 4

Finally, let's take a look at the wing. Select Alpha Lock to maintain the Layer's edges. With this selected, I could easily use a Soft Pastel Brush to apply whites and blues to this area. 

To soften it, however, I applied a slight Gaussian Blur in the Adjustments Panel, as shown below. Make sure to Turn Off the Alpha Lock first!

Coloring and Softening the Wing Area

Awesome Work, You're Done!

We've created a Spirit Day inspired illustration—I hope it inspires you to create your own works, as well as spread love and compassion, not only on Spirit Day, but every day!

Final Illustration

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