Procreate is one of – if not the single – most popular apps designed for digital painting on iOS and/or iPad OS. It’s been around since 2011, which is a lot more than most other painting apps, launched more than four years before the release of the first generation Apple Pencil. The developers – Savage Interactive – clearly put a lot of thought, love and care into this product. More than 10 years since release, it’s still seeing regular updates, features and changes. It’s relatively cheap, a one-time payment of 10 USD, compared to Adobe Fresco’s monthly 10 USD subscription. And Procreate is still one of the most well thought-out and fully-featured digital painting apps on the market, as every digital painting app reviewer will tell you.
As a matter of fact, there are a lot of professional artists that proudly use Procreate and don’t feel the need to hide it. For a long time, there was a stigma against portable consumer products like the iPad in the professional field. People would scoff and dismiss anything that wasn’t a 1500 USD Wacom Cintiq Pro. But now, times have changed and cheaper consumer tablets have grown more powerful, accurate and seamless. And Procreate grew naturally with this growth in power.
With the many UI and design changes over the years, it’s no wonder that Procreate also added new sections containing new elements. One of these sections or panels, is the “Adjustments” section, over at the top left, next to the spanner that signifies settings. The icon for this section seems to be a magic wand with a sparkle next to it. Under this panel, there are a lot of options and settings for anyone looking to add some interesting effects to their work.
Of course, there’s the H/S/B adjustment, colour balancing and blurs, but there’s also some interesting effects like bloom, glitch, halftone and chromatic aberration. What we’re looking for is in the bottom subsection, though; Liquify and Clone. Most of the other effects in this section function by applying their advertised effect and letting you control various parameters by swiping horizontally or vertically. Not Liquify, this tool works somewhat like all the other brushes in the paint, smudge and erase tools. You want to use your finger or the Apple Pencil – whichever you have it configured to use – to just draw like you ordinarily would, except this time you’ll be manipulating the painting.
Firstly, you’ll want to choose which shape you want to liquify according to. This can be anything from “push,” “twirl right,” “twirl left,” “pinch,” “expand,” “crystals,” “edge” or “reconstruct,” with two more options at the end “adjust” and “reset.” These last two might appear grayed-out, but that’s because they only come into play once you’ve started using the effect.
“Push” does about what it says on the lid. You can push the strokes of whatever layer(s) you’ve selected around and modify it however seems best to you. This one is the most basic, easiest to grasp and easiest to use. It’s also probably the most versatile one here because the rest of the shape effects can be replicated with just “push.”
“Twirl right” and “Twirl left” are also pretty self-explanatory, you hold on a point and it will twirl or spin the colours around that point clockwise or counter-clockwise respectively. This is really useful for a lot of types of projects, but what I use this the most on is psychedelic backgrounds and imagery.
“Pinch” and “Expand” are opposites of each other. “Pinch” will draw the colours around it towards itself in a straight line as if the painting is on cloth and someone pinched the cloth at that one point. “Expand” does the opposite and pushes the colours around it outwards in a circular pattern. I find both of these are very useful in painting underwater surfaces when viewed from outside the water, and also really useful for backgrounds. From my experience, “pinch” and “expand” are best used in tandem together so as to make a cohesive piece.
“Crystals” is where things start to get really interesting. This one is actually pretty rare since I haven’t seen this type of liquification in any other software I’ve used, or at least not under the same name. Under this effect, the surrounding pixels sort of move outward unevenly in a form of zig-zag pattern, almost giving the appearance of small shards or ‘crystals.’ This can be really useful to give a surface a fuzzy effect, or present small strands of hair or fur. But one interesting effect that this type of liquification can help achieve is a rippling or wave-like effect on the surface of clear water. If you paint rapidly oscillating left-right over a surface, it gets a ripple-like effect rather than the intended crystal shard-like effect.
“Edge” is almost like “pinch” but instead just pulls in the surrounding pixels to a line instead of a point, almost seeming to fold two parts of the painting together. Almost as if the painting is cloth and someone pressed the edge of a thin rigid surface into it. This one can lead to some very interesting results.
“Reconstruct” is again a bit self-explanatory. It just removes the liquification effect over whatever you run it on. For example; if you liquified something and it looks perfect, but is spilling over onto a nearby hard edge, you can draw with “reconstruct” over that edge and it will correct any liquification at that point without messing with the rest of the image.
“Adjust” can allow you to mess with the strength of the effect you’ve applied. Keep in mind that this option only shows up once you’ve actually applied some liquification. “Reset” just resets all applied liquify effects and completely undoes everything until the point where you started liquifying.
Since the four parameters (size, pressure, distortion, momentum) are pretty self-explanatory with their titles, and since you’d only really understand and get the hang of it once you play around with them, I’ll leave that out of this article.