Become a Children’s Book Illustrator: Can I Illustrate a Book in Procreate?

illustrate a book in procreate.jpg

Let’s be dramatic and say that the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, along with Procreate, changed the way people make digital art. Not only that, it made digital art much more accessible. These days you just need an Apple Pencil-compatible iPad and you can start creating art right away!

That’s pretty amazing.

But can you illustrate an entire children’s book in Procreate?

Well, there are two answers to that question: yes and maybe.

If you don’t use a lot of layers in your digital art, then yes, you can probably illustrate a children’s book in Procreate. Jess Keating, magical unicorn author/illustrator person, illustrates her graphic novels for kids in Procreate and she loves it! She uses a bold style of art, without a ton of texture and doesn’t run up against layer limits in Procreate as often as I do.

Wait! What do you mean layer limits?

Procreate limits the number of layers you get on each canvas. The number of layers is determined by how much memory your iPad has, how big your canvas is and what dpi your canvas is.

Generally, the bigger your canvas the fewer layers you’re going to have.

Again, this isn’t a problem if you a) don’t have a style that uses lots of layers or b) manage your layers really REALLY carefully.

For someone like me who uses lots of layers to create texture and depth, Procreate’s layer limits are a problem. That’s one of the reasons that I use Procreate for the early parts of my process, but finish my illustrations in Photoshop.

What about working in batches?

In children’s books, you’re creating art that requires consistency across many pages. Consistent character design. Consistent colors, textures, line weight, etc. Something that makes that easier is working in batches.

For example, you might illustrate one character’s shirt on every page all at the same time, making sure that the colors and pattern match up on each page or spread. In Photoshop, you can open several documents at once and work in batches. In Procreate, you can work on one document at a time, which will slow down the process.

Again, this goes back to style and technique. If your style is more straightforward, not being able to work in batches may not slow you down too much.

Will art directors accept Procreate files?

Whether you love it or not, Adobe CC is still the industry standard in publishing. You’ll be expected to deliver art in an acceptable format, usually .psd, which is no problem because Procreate lets you export in a variety of file formats.

But because publishers are definitely going to be looking at your art in Photoshop or InDesign, it’s a good idea to check your files in Photoshop before sending them off.

Most children’s book illustrators who illustrate in Procreate still do a final art check in Photoshop before sending their art files off. Why? Because who wants a nasty surprise when discovering that the color doesn’t look the same in Photoshop as it did in Procreate? No one does!

Final Thoughts

Whether you can illustrate a children’s book in Procreate or not depends on your art style and also on your style of working.

What I love about Procreate is that it makes digital art more approachable. It’s a good place to start, for sure! Maybe one day you’ll outgrow Procreate and want to switch to Photoshop + a big pen display like a Cintiq.


  1. Catarina says:

    Hi Steph!
    I’ve done 3 Children’s books in Procreate so far, and it’s just like you say, I became really good at managing my layers and don’t use lots of texture, the style is simple for sure. The consistency across documents (each document is a spread) is the hardest part, for that, I create a template doc with my color palette (besides dropping it in the color menu) that I can duplicate. As for characters, I create a character sheet that I can reference whenever I need it. That said I ALWAYS send the finals to Photoshop for color and size verification, and I have my Indesign opened during the entire book process to check consistency and flow. I put several elements in the same layer as long they don’t touch (it’s easier to make selections) and I use masks a lot. I don’t usually run out of layers but if I do and need to merge layers, then I duplicate that document before I do it (always save a copy). Procreate is my comfort zone nowadays but I agree, would love to make the jump to a Cintiq. I am also curious to try Astropad to use photoshop on my Ipad. Thanks for your insights!

    • Hey Catarina! Thanks so much for sharing this! I know folks are going to find it super valuable to read about your experience too!

      I used to be such a mess at managing my layers in Photoshop and would end up with HUNDREDS of them ? These days, I do the same as you and keep things on the same layer as long as they aren’t touching. But you know I dig layering colors and textures in clipping masks so I still end up with about 100-200 layers per spread.

      Honestly, I think if I’d started illustrating in Procreate, I wouldn’t be so fussed making books in it. But I started in Photoshop and it’s just soooooo much quicker for me.

      We’ve just got to find what works best for us, but be willing to try new things sometimes too, right 🙂

  2. Julien Chung says:

    Catarina’s comment definitely helped me! I start with Illustrator and use Procreate for certain textures in my book illustrations. I then finish up in Photoshop. I am also using it as a sketch pad and for producing sketch or painterly style editorial illustrations for my employer. Next: I would like to learn to use the animation tools in Procreate.

    • Catarina is a treasure and such a talented artist! I love Procreate for various bit and pieces of my book illustration process, but overall Photoshop is just so much faster for me. I think we all just have to find what works best for us though 🙂

  3. Jamie says:

    Boom! Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks

  4. Laura says:

    Hi there! Excellent points, awesome article! Might I add that Clip Studio Paint (Formerly Manga Studio) is also a cheap option, it also has the advantage to exist both in ipad/androif app and classic office computer (apple for me) app! I highly recommend it! Even if it’s true that I still have to have an Adobe account (and paying for it) and Photoshop, and usually use it to check and send the finished files…

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