Understanding layers in Procreate was one of the things that seriously changed the quality of my works. This tools is used by artists with almost every project. Learning how to use them is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your digital art skills. I have shared another post about Layers in Photoshop.

In this post, we’ll cover how layers work and the basics of creating and using layers in Procreate.

What is layer ?

With traditional art, you can’t suddenly move your objects behind or in front of other objects. You just decide how things are going to be positioned and draw them down on your paper that way. Then, you can’t change anything. You’d have to redo your artwork from the beginning.

With digital art, things don’t work that way. The layer feature gives you the possibility to draw behind or in front of other elements, to reorganize, move and play around with how they are positioned on your canvas overall. You can even make your objects disappear so that you can focus on your background object without distraction. It lets you work on your art in pieces and easily experiment.

You can think of layers as transparent panes of glass stacked on top of one another, which allow different parts of each layer to show through.

Understanding layers in Procreate

Why to use layers?

At this point, you may be wondering why you even need to use layers. Wouldn’t it just be easier to work with everything in your image at once? The truth is, layers give you an amazing amount of flexibility and control because you can edit each layer independently from the rest of the image. Once you become comfortable with layers, you’ll use them all the time.

– Each of the layers can be edited without affecting the others. This is essential for designers who want to add colors, effects, graphics, and text to their original image without affecting the original image. Otherwise, every single change you made would permanently influence the entire image, and you would have to go back to the beginning of your design if you made a mistake.

– When using layers, it may be helpful to turn individual layers on and off to see how they affect the image.

– The order of your layers in Procreate will determine which layers, and any objects drawn on them, are behind or in front of each other. Layers near the bottom are technically behind any layers on top of them. If you want to move an object behind or in front another object, move it down or up your list of layers.

Understanding layers in Procreate
Understanding layers in Procreate

Understanding layers in Procreate

Understanding layers in Procreate

Understanding layers in Procreate

Where are layers located in Procreate ?

Layers in Procreate are located on the right side of the screen, between the eraser icon and color icon. The layers panel is represented by an icon containing two squares.

Understanding layers in Photoshop

How to create a new layer in procreate ?

If you don’t even know where to start, you can start by creating your first layer.
1. Create a new canvas, or open one that you want to use.
2. Tap the Layers menu (the two squares on top of each other) on the top-right corner of your screen.
3. Tap the plus (+) icon on the top-right corner of the Layers menu.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to select a layer in Procreate ?

You select a layer by clicking on it. You recognize a selected layer by its blue color.

Make sure you have the correct layer selected before you begin drawing or painting.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to select two or more layers ?

If you want to select multiple layers. Here’s how:
1. Open the Layers menu.
2. Swipe the layers you want to select to the right.

Every layer you choose will be highlighted. You’ll then be able to move them around or group them together.

Understanding layers in Procreate

Move a layer above or below another layer ?

Here’s what you need to do:
1. On your canvas, open the Layers menu on the top-right corner (the two squares on top of each other).
2. Press and hold the layer you want to move.
3. Drag your layer up or down to place it above or below other layers.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to create a new group of layers ?

If you’re thinking about using many different layers in one canvas, you should try to create various groups of layers. This isn’t necessary, but it does help to keep your work organized.

1. Open the Layers menu.
2. Swipe right on top of the layers you want to group to select them.
3. Tap on Group.
Now it’s like your layers are part of another folder.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to hide a layer ?

If you don’t want to delete your layer, you can always hide it from your canvas. Here’s what you need to do.
1. Open the Layers menu.
2. Tap on the check mark on the right of the layer you want to hide.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to use the clipping mask in Procreate ?

The Clipping Mask is a neat feature that lets you clip a layer to another layer below it. For example, you could use the Clipping Mask to color your drawing or add details without going over the lines.
1. Open the Layers menu.
2. If you need to, create a new layer, or make sure the layer is above the drawing you want to clip it to.
3. Tap the layer you want to clip.
4. You’ll see a small menu pop up to the left of the layer. Tap Clipping Mask.

You’ll know you did it because the layer above will have a small arrow pointing to the layer below.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to use alpha lock in Procreate ?

Alpha Lock lets you lock a layer so you can’t go over the lines of your layer. But instead of using a different layer, you’re Alpha Locking and using the same layer with your drawing.

1. Open the Layers menu.
2. Tap the layer you want to lock.
3. On the small popup menu, tap on Alpha Lock.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to lock your layer ?

If you’re done with a layer, it’s good practice to lock it, so you don’t accidentally ruin anything in it. Here’s how you can do it:
1. On your canvas, open the Layers menu.
2. Slide the layer you want to lock to the left.
3. Tap on Lock.
You can later repeat these steps to unlock it and use it if you want.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to duplicate a layer in Procreate ?

You duplicate a layer in Procreate by:
1. Dragging the layer you want to duplicate to the left
2. Click ”duplicate”

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to delete a layer in Procreate ?

You delete a layer in Procreate by:
1. Slide the layer you want to delete to the left.
2. Hit ”delete”.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to change the layer opacity ?

If you want your layer and everything you drew on it to be more translucent, you can reduce the opacity of your layer from the Layers menu:
1. Open the Layers menu.
2. Tap on the letter that’s next to your layer’s name. By default, it’s the letter N.
3. Adjust the opacity by dragging to the left or right side of the slider.

You can also tap with two fingers on the layer you want to change and then slide your finger to the left or the right side on your canvas.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to change the background color in Procreate ?

To change the background color in Procreate, do the following:
1. Open the layers panel by clicking the layers icon in the top right corner.
2. Click the background layer.
3. Choose a color.
4. Hit ”done” or tap anywhere outside the color panel to finish.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to delete the background layer in Procreate ?

You cannot delete the background layer in Procreate. You can, however, turn the background layer off by unchecking the visibility box.
1. Open the layers panel by clicking the layers icon in the top right corner.
2. Uncheck the visibility box of the background layer.

If you want to export your artwork with a transparent background you need to save your image as a .PNG. .JPEG doesn’t support transparency, so your transparent layer will show up as white.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to name a layer in Procreate ?

You name a layer in Procreate by:
1. Tap the layer.
2. Select rename.
You can also write a name with your apple pencil. After completing step 2 simply start writing!

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to merge layers in Procreate ?

Merging two layers (or more) means you are adding them to the same layer.

To merge layers in Procreate you simply pinch those layers together. You can do this with as many layers as you like.

Another way to merge layers is by using the merge down button. Merge down merges your selected layer with the layer beneath it. To merge down you:
1. Select a layer.
2. Tap this layer to reveal the layer options.
3. Tap ”Merge Down”.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to flatten ?

Flatten is only available when working in a group layer. Flatten flattens, or merges, everything that group contains.
To flatten a group, you:
1. Select group.
2. Tap group to bring up layer options.
3. Hit flatten.

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to export layers from Procreate to Photoshop ?

You can export layers from Procreate to Photoshop by doing the following:
1. Go to actions (wrench icon on the left).
2. Go to ”Share”.
3. Click PSD.
4. Choose where and how you want to save it.

Understanding layers in Procreate

Why is procreate only letting me have a few layers ?

Your layers may be limited due to a canvas that is too large. The larger your canvas size, the fewer you can have layers. If you want more layers you’ll need to adjust your canvas size.

Understanding layers in Procreate

What are blend modes in Procreate ?

Blend modes are modes that can be applied to a layer which interacts with the layer beneath it. They are located on each layer represented by a letter or letters. By default, it’s set to ”N” (normal). Tap ”N” or any of the other letters to bring up the full list of blend modes.

Pretty much no one knows what most blend modes do. Just try every blend mode until you find a pleasing result. The outcome may surprise you!

Understanding layers in Procreate

How to move a layer to another canvas ?

Yes. You can move a layer from one canvas onto another. It’s easy to do too, but you’ll need to use both hands for this.
1. Open the Layers menu.
2. Press and hold the layer you want to move.
3. Drag the layer out of the Layers menu.
4. Tap Gallery on the top-left corner of your canvas (while still holding the layer).
5. Select the canvas where you want to move your layer to. You can also open a new one.
6. Drop the layer on the new Layers menu.
What’s cool about this is that if you drop your layer in the library, it’ll automatically create a new canvas with that layer. You can also move more than one layer by selecting multiple layers at once.

Understanding layers in Procreate

Understanding Layers in Procreate

Understanding layers in Procreate

That’s all for now! It’s important to understand layers in digital art, as this will define the quality of your work. As an illustrator and designer, I work with Procreate often and I always use the layers. There’s a lot more to learn from Procreate, but if you’re just starting out, focus on playing around with the settings and have fun.

I hope that this post about understanding layers in Procreate was useful! If there is anything else you’d like to know about it feel free to ask me.

I share a lot of illustrations using Procreate on my Instagram, and if you still have time, check out my other posts here.

Understanding layers in Procreate