Fashion Design Apps for Beginners 2: Procreate

Last week, Doctor T shared a detailed step-by-step tutorial in “Fashion Design Apps for Beginners, Part 1: Adobe Fresco.” In Part 2 of this series, she shares the process of creating a dress design sketch on her MyBodyModel custom fashion croquis by exploring the various tools and features of the Procreate drawing app.

This week we will continue our drawing tutorial series and look at some more advanced features that can be helpful when using a drawing app!  I recently got a My Body Model croquis for my sister, whom I have often sewn for, so today I’m going to use the Procreate app to design a party dress for her.  As before, I will be using my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, which is the platform that Procreate was designed to work with.

You can also try these digital drawing techniques using any free or paid drawing app, and any smartphone or tablet and stylus. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the 9 different apps that I reviewed in this blog post.

An Apple Pencil and iPad Pro displaying dress sketches made with apps for fashion design
Let’s see how to use Procreate with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to design a party dress!

Step 1: Choose your favorite drawing app

Of course, we will start at the very beginning by opening our drawing app.

iPad display of the icons of various apps for fashion design
Open your drawing app to get started.

Step 2: Open a New Document

In Procreate it’s very easy to start a new document using the “+” button.  I’m using all the default settings because I don’t plan on using this anywhere other than for digital media, so I don’t need to make a particularly large image.

Procreate interface highlighting the addition symbol used to start a new project
Start a new document to begin sketching.

Step 3: Import My Body Model Croquis

As with last week’s tutorial, in order to import your My Body Model Croquis, you will need to have it saved somewhere that the app can access it.  Personally, I like to save these images in the Files section of my iCloud storage because it is easy for the app to access. You can also import from your Photos folder.

Interfacing displaying toolbar used to insert a file or photo of a fashion croquis used in apps for fashion design
Use the Tools to import an image or document of the My Body Model Croquis.

Once you have imported your croquis, drag one of the corner dots to resize the image, or use Procreate’s Fit to Screen feature to enlarge the croquis image.

How to drag the image corner to resize the My Body Model to fit the page in Procreate.
Drag the image corner to resize the My Body Model to fit the page.

Step 4: Create a New Layer

As before, we are going to take advantage of the layers feature to build up our final image.  In Procreate, the layers tool is located to the upper right, and when you click the “+” to add a layer, it gives you a lot of options to rename, modify, or copy that layer.

Interface displaying the tools used to add, manipulate, and rename layers in Procreate
Using layers will help us build up to the final image.

Step 5: Select your sketching tool

As with last week’s tutorial, I’m going to start sketching with the pencil tool.  Procreate has a lot of different art tools, categorized by their real-world use.  Within the Sketch category, there are many different styles of pencils, so you might need to experiment to see what you like best.  Personally, I like the “Technical Pencil” because it is very thin and like a mechanical pencil, which is my real work writing utensil of choice.

Interface displaying the Brush Library used to access tools like the Technical Pencil used for drawing in apps for fashion design
Select your Brush type.  I like to sketch my garment design first, so I usually start with a pencil.

This week, I’ve decided to use a colored pencil to help the sketch stand out more from the croquis.  The color controls in Procreate are found in the upper right corner.  I will change colors a lot throughout this tutorial, but every time I do this it is using the wheel in the upper corner or choosing a recent color from the list below the wheel.

Interface displaying the color dot to open the Color wheel selection in Procreate
You can sketch in any color!  While I usually use grey to mimic a real pencil, there is no reason not to sketch in color if it helps you better envision your finished garment.

This week I’m going to sketch a party dress for my sister.  I find the best reference is the line drawings, which you can often find on the brand’s website.

Comparison of the reference garment pattern image to be used when sketching in apps for fashion design and pattern line drawing on the Butterick Mccall website
I’m going to see how Butterick B5882 looks on my sister’s My Body Model.  It’s a fabulous retro style party dress.

Step 6: Start sketching

Since this dress has a bit of detail on the bodice and the skirt, I’m starting my sketch by making a really basic outline of the silhouette.

My basic dress design sketch on my body model croquis, as a first step when sketching in apps for fashion design
This step creates a basic shape of the garment.  We will go in and add more detail after.

Next, I’ll go in and add a bit more detail.  It doesn’t need to look perfect – we can turn off the sketch layer at the end of the process, or we can erase stray lines after we have a better sense of the image we want to make.

How to add and adjust details with the colored pencil tool after the dress silhouette is established, shown drawing a dress on my body model croquis in Procreate
I’ve added more detail to the skirt so that it looks more realistic and lifelike.

Next, I’m going to add more layers so that I can keep the dress, body outline, and hair separate.

How to add and rename layers using the Layers toolbar in Procreate
I like to have the layers be in a logical overlapping order – the dress should be above the body, but under the hair.  This way I can treat each item independently, and rearrange them as necessary for proper layering.  The layers can be easily dragged and dropped to arrange the order.

I’m also going to keep playing with color as well – using a peachy brown for my sister’s skin tone and a light brown for her hair color.

How to use a different color to distinguish the parts of the body not hidden by the dress sketches in apps for fashion design
Using different colors can help make the early sketches really pop.

Playing with the brush features of size and opacity also help get the feel of the sketch just right.

How to adjust of brush size and opacity in Procreate
Using the brush controls is extremely helpful in getting the details of a sketch the way you want them, as well as controlling the proportions of everything in the sketch.

Don’t forget that you can erase anything you don’t want to keep!

How to use the eraser tool to remove unwanted lines in Procreate or other fashion drawing apps
The eraser tool is located next to the draw tool in Procreate.  Very convenient!

Step 7: Color it in

I really like the inspiration dress from Butterick, so I’m going to copy the idea to mix print and solid fabrics.  Although my sister looks great in red, she really loved purple, so I’m going to use that as the solid color.  While I could use my colored pencils to fill in the sketch, I think I’m going to play around with the other tools offered in Procreate.

How to create a new layer for coloring in the fashion design drawing in Procreate
It’s really critical to use new layers when you start to color things in.  You don’t want to accidentally erase any of your original outline sketches!

Don’t forget that you have a lot of brush tools at your disposal!  If you don’t like the way one looks, erase it and try something else.

How to select a different Painting brush in the Brush Library
Test out lots of tools to figure out which are your favorite. Don’t forget you can control brush properties with the sidebar sliders.

For the “print” fabric of the dress, I’m going to play with some of Procreate’s coolest brush designs.  In the “Vintage” category, there are a lot of pattern brushes that can be really helpful in creating quick sketches of print fabrics.

Interface displaying the Vintage brush option in the Brush Library in Procreate
Procreate has some really fun pattern brush tools.  It is really helpful for creating print fabric designs!

I also make sure to do several passes with the brush set to different sizes and different opacities to create a more textured looking print design.

How to use various brushes with different settings to create intricate designs with Procreate and other apps for fashion design
Doing multiple passes with different settings of the same brush can create a more intricate design.

Step 8: Final outlines

I really want the dress to pop, so I’m going to ink the outline of the dress sketch using one of the “Inking” pens in Procreate.  Of course, I’m going to make sure to use a new layer!

How to add another layer for an ink outline of the clothing sketches in Procreate and other drawing apps
Make sure you’ve started a new layer so that you don’t accidentally merge the ink layer that will be part of the final sketch with the pencil sketch that will be turned off.

Procreate has lots of ink brushes available too!  I tested out several before settling on one that I liked.

Interface displaying the various Inking brushes available in the Brush Library in the Procreate app
I liked the way the Studio Pen brush looked after testing out a few options.
Interface displaying the adjustment of opacity to create the right contrast for the dress sketches
I also played around with several of the settings to make sure that I was getting the right width and opacity.  

Step 9: Export your image

Finally, it’s time to share!  I’ve turned off the My Body Model original image as well as the pencil sketch of the dress.  I really wanted the dress to be the focus, so I’ve left the traced outline of the body and the hair as-is with the colored pencil sketches.  I’ve also left the model faceless to really emphasize the dress.  The last step to export your image to share or use it for garment planning.

These are the tools to export and share an image from Procreate and other apps for fashion design
The export settings in Procreate give you a lot of options for how to save and share your design.
Interface displaying the save options in Procreate
Choose where you want your image to go.  I like to Save the image to my pictures, because then it easy to share with others or import into other apps.  You might also want to save the image in to a folder in your files, on a Google Drive, or where ever your cloud-based images are stored.

And that’s it!  We are now ready to share our image – and I’m ready to show my sister the party dress I designed for her!

Final outfit drawings on my MyBodyModel fashion drawing croquis as examples of results from digital fashion illustration with Procreate and other apps for fashion design
I think my sister will really like this design!


And that’s how you use Procreate!  As you can see, many of the features are very similar to those available in Adobe Fresco, though Procreate has a lot more brush options, which are grouped more by how the tool would be used in real life.  Procreate also offers the really fun Vintage pattern brushes, which are great for drawing print fabrics.  Although Procreate might be a bit more complex, the steps are very much the same as we saw in the more basic tutorial.  Once you have the basics down, it really is more about experimenting with different tools and seeing what sort of styles and aesthetic you like to create.  And now that we’ve seen how to create a garment, next time we’ll take it one step farther and see how to create a full wardrobe!

Are you ready to give digital fashion drawing a try on your tablet? Check out MyBodyModel’s step-by-step video course for beginners, “Digital Paper Dolls” at Illustrated Style School and learn to draw digitally on your tablet using the free app, Autodesk Sketchbook for iOS (Apple) or Android.

For more digital inspiration, check out these posts:

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In Fashion Design Apps for Beginners Part 2, Doctor T creates a dress design fashion illustration sketch on her custom fashion croquis with the iPad Pro sketch app Procreate.

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