7 different ways to color your art in procreate

Creating digital art with the Procreate app makes drawing and coloring super easy. If you need to color your Procreate artwork, there are many ways to do it. Whether you’re adding texture, contouring or shading, we’ll teach you how to add perfect color to your work. Enhance your Procreate artwork with color in seven different ways.


1. Color between the lines

This first technique is the most basic: treat Procreate like a coloring book. Once you’ve drawn your outline, color it like you would as a kid. You can be as messy or as clean as you want.

You can use this technique on the outline layer or on a new layer. If you’re coloring on the outline layer, your strokes of color will go over the top of the outline if you’re a little messy. By coloring on a separate layer, you can keep the outline intact, even if you color outside the lines.

This technique is great when using brushes that mimic colored pencils, markers, or felt-tip pens. These are some of the best Procreate brushes you should try.

2. Drag from the color picker

When adding block color to parts of your artwork, drag directly from the Color picker is one of the fastest and easiest ways. Use the Generate Color Picker tool to choose your color from the spectrum or palette, then drag your finger or Apple Pencil from the color swatch to the closed area where you’re adding color.

If your outlines are clean, it will fill the entire space with one color. However, if your outlines aren’t smooth – which is what happens with certain brushes – you may be left with a small white border just inside the outline.

3. Color the layer below

As mentioned in the previous method, if your outline brush is not smooth, you may get a white border within the outline when you drag a fill color into the space. The brush texture can also prevent a closed loop from filling. To avoid that, add a new layer below the outline layer and use a smooth brush like Monoline from the Calligraphy set to draw around the outline.

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Draw directly below the outline making sure your color outline forms a closed loop even if your outlines have gaps so you can successfully fill it. You can lower the opacity of your brush to keep the effect of the top layer visible.

Then all you have to do is drag from the Color picker to fill your colored outlines on the layer below. It will fill without white borders. You can keep the layers separate or merge them.

4. Use Alpha Lock to Recolor Your Line Art

Sometimes when drawing the outlines you want them in a different color. If you’re already happy with the line work, you don’t want to redraw the whole thing just to change the color.

The easy solution to recolor your line art in Procreate is to use Alpha lock. This works the same way as a clipping mask, but without using an extra layer. On your outline layer, swipe the layer to the right with two fingers to enable Alpha Lock. You’ll see the background of the layer’s thumbnail become transparent, represented by a white and gray frame pattern.

Change your color with the Color picker, and with a brush, simply color over your contours. You can recolor the entire outline or color over specific areas if you just want to change or add color to select areas. When you’re done, swipe the layer right again with two fingers to remove Alpha Lock.

5. Use a reference layer

By setting your outline layer as a reference, you can fill new layers with color only in specific areas. Just like dropping the color into the drawn space, this works the same way, except you add the color to an empty layer instead of inside the outlines.

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Tap your outline layer and choose Reference. “Reference” will appear below the layer’s title until you turn it off. Then open a new layer by tapping + in the layers panel. Drag the new layer below the outline layer and leave the new layer selected.

Then drag your chosen color from the Color picker in the room you want to color. You can add multiple colors to the same layer or add a new layer for each color. All layers below the reference layer, as long as it is enabled, will work in this way.

This function does not work for spaces that are not drawn as closed loops, such as the subject’s hair in the example. And you should also note that this feature will only work if the outline is made with a smooth brush and not a textured one.

6. Using automatic selections

You can use the Selection tool to dictate an area to be filled with a color. You can use this on the same layer as the outline or on an empty layer below it.

Start by selecting the outline layer, then tap Selections (the S-shaped icon) > automatically. Ensure that To add is highlighted instead of Delete. Then tap the blank space you want to color; it turns bright blue. At this point, you can choose whether to keep your color on the same layer or on its own. If you want to add a new layer, do so now and select it.

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Select the Color picker and choose your intended color. Then drag it to the blue selected area – or if you opened a new layer, drag it to the area that doesn’t have translucent stripes covering it. Tap Selections to turn off the selected area and leave your new color neat.

7. Using Freehand Selections

Steps 5 and 6 only allow you to drag color in a closed loop, but if your illustration style leaves gaps in the line work, it means you won’t be able to drag color into space using these techniques. Like the Auto Selection tool, there is also a freehand selection tool.

Freehand selection works the same way, except you can draw the selection wherever you want and then fill the entire selection area with color. Again, you can draw the selection on the outline layer or on a new layer. The outline remains visible even if your selection goes over it. If your outline is using a texture brush, it’s best to make the selection on a new layer below.

After drawing your closed loop selection, drag the color of the Color picker to fill the area with color. Press Selections tool to deselect.

This technique is great for drawing shadows and highlights on your artwork and for filling areas without a full outline. Now that you know the solution to this problem, check out our guide to other common problems with Procreate and how to fix them.

Add color to your reproductive art

After reading these tips, you’ll never again wonder how to add color in Procreate. You can color between the lines like a digital coloring book or add shadows for realistic artwork. Procreate is a versatile drawing tool that makes it quick, easy and fun to convert your art from a black outline to a colored masterpiece.

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