Drawing mountains can seem tricky, but this Procreate tutorial is here to help! Read along for a simple yet comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to draw mountains using an iPad Pro.
Digital drawing is only becoming more and more ubiquitous in the world of art. Many famous illustrators have created truly remarkable work using Procreate on iPad Pro, and now it’s your turn to try out the amazing tools this artistic medium has to offer.
This Procreate tutorial will break down the process of drawing on a tablet and set you up with the basics of this amazing app, using how to draw mountains as our example.
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How to Draw Mountains: Drawing on iPad
I’m a Toronto illustrator who specializes in book illustration, portraiture, editorial illustration and exhibition design. Over the last few years the digital medium has become an important drawing tool for me and a integral part of my illustration process overall.
If you are new to digital drawing I am sure you’ll be amazed, both by how easy it is to pick it up, and by the new range of drawing potential it provides. Creating illustrations of things like majestic, snow-capped mountain ranges with an Apple Pencil on iPad Pro allows for new and advantageous ways of creating layers, texture, and dimension, and is also really quite fun.
Draw Mountains When Traveling
As any fan of Bob Ross is aware, mountains are a pretty popular subject for drawing or painting. In many way mountains are a worldy touchstone for people across the globe, crossing cultures as symbols of strength, spirituality, wisdom and awe. And with such remarkable beauty it’s easy to understand why. The seemingly unreachable and other-worldly mystery of these geologic wonders may also be a reason that for many people, capturing them in art seems like a difficult task.
One of the best ways to learn how to draw mountains is by lacing up your boots and embarking on a hike to a nearby nature reserve. In Canada awe-inspiring mountain ranges perfect for an iPad illustration retreat include The Rockies British Columbia and Alberta and Laurentians in Quebec.
If you’re a budding sketch artist you might want to plan an artsy vacation to visit some of the world’s most famous mountain ranges. Some of our favourite mountains to draw can be found in Mount Hood in Oregon, Zermatt in Switzerland, Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Bariloche in Argentina, Gunung Bromo in Indonesia and Milford Sound in New Zealand.
Like so many visually complicated things, when broken down into pieces or layers the complexity tends to dissipate. And this procreate tutorial on how to draw mountains will break down how we see mountains into separate steps that will have you drawing these snow-capped beauties in no time.
Not to mention, the Procreate methods you’ll practice using in this tutorial will create the benefit of adding many exciting new tools to your art arsenal!
Procreate Tutorial: How to Draw Mountains with iPad Pro
Let’s first get set up with a new canvas in Procreate. When you first open the app you’ll be in the “gallery” where all of your artworks will be visible. Tap the “+” in the top right of the screen and a menu will appear where you can select your canvas size.
To choose your dimensions click “create custom canvas” and enter them (in mm, cm, inches, or pixels). You can simply select “screen size,” however I recommend going bigger so that you have the option to print your finished piece with a nice resolution.
For my mountains drawing I’ve created a 22″ x 29″ canvas. For a canvas this size I’ve gone with a resolution of 150 DPI. If you go too big the maximum number of layers you can have in your artwork can be too few for our purposes.
Now it’s important to explore and familiarize yourself with Procreate’s basic tools. Starting with the toolbar on the top right of your canvas.
- The Brush Tool: This is the tool with which you draw/paint. Tap it to open your Brush Library. Procreate’s brushes are categorized in a list down the left side of the drop down menu. Tap any of these to see your brush options in each category. Choose what you like and then tap the brush icon in the toolbar again to close the menu. Now get scribbling! Try a few different brushes and use different pressures and angles of the Apple Pencil – it’s remarkably realistic in its response to your hand.
- The Eraser Tool: It does exactly what you think it does! Tap it and you’ll open an identical Brush Library as tapping the brush tool. Try a few and see how it erases your scribbles.
- The Colour Tool: This is your colour palette. Tap and it will open in its default view of “Disc.” Use the outer wheel to select colour, and the inner circle to select lightness/darkness. When you’ve chosen the colour you want to use, tap the colour icon in the toolbar again to close the menu. Again, do some scribbling! Choose a variety of brush and colour combinations to get a feel for the colouring process.
- The Smudge Tool: This is used to blend colours and create gradients. This tool has the same effect as taking your finger to pencil on paper and rubbing it to blend. The smudge tool mimics the real thing fairly well but it does take some getting used to.
- The Layers Tool: You can use this menu to create multiple layers on your canvas, and select between them. How to do this, and the benefits of layers, will be best understood by following through my own example here in this Procreate tutorial.
Then there are the slider toolbars on the left side of your canvas.
- Brush Size: The top slider. Tap, hold and move up and down to adjust the size of your brush tip. A preview window will open up to help guide you. This slider is used for your brush, smudge and eraser tools in the same way.
- Brush Opacity: The bottom slider. This works the same way as the brush size slider, but is for brush opacity.
- Undo/Redo: Under the sliders you’ll see these two buttons. Tapping the undo button will undo the last stroke you drew/erased. Vice versa with the redo button. This is a very useful tool you’ll probably use a lot. You can also undo by tapping once anywhere on your canvas with two fingers.
There is also the toolbar in the top left of your canvas. For these tools I will point them out and explain them along the way as we need them. In particular the lasso tool will be utilized quite a bit in this drawing tutorial, as it lends itself just marvelously to the details you’ll find in mountains.
How to Draw Mountains Step One: Choosing a Reference Photo
If you can take your reference photo yourself, great. You can use the iPad itself to capture a good photo if you happen to have it with you on a rugged mountainous adventure. If you won’t be travelling to any such vistas in the near future though, you can also find many great reference photos online. Just be sure to choose copyright-free photos if you plan to do a fairly direct copy. There are a number of good free image websites from which to choose good quality photos. For my mountain drawing I chose a few images from Unsplash.com.
I chose photos that show some snow-capped peaks, lighting that has portions of the mountains in darkness for contrast, and some that show ridges at further distances. All things that can add great dimension to your mountain drawing.
How to Draw Mountains Step Two: Background Shapes
The first thing to do before you get to drawing, is setting up your reference photo to work from. A great option with iPad Pro is that you can keep your photo open in a window beside your Procreate canvas while you work.
To do so, tap and hold the bar at the bottom centre of the screen in Procreate, then slowly pull up the iPad menu (if you swipe too quickly you’ll close Procreate).
Once the menu is up, tap and hold the photos icon, and drag it to the left side of the screen (or right side, for the lefties out there!) Pull it past the edge of the Procreate window and drop it there and tada, you have both open at the same time. You can also adjust the size of the photo window by holding and sliding the side bar of the window.
For this mountain drawing we are going to have a range of mountains in the foreground, and one in the background, further away. The first step is to draw an outline of the range that is further back. Take a look at your reference photo and try to emulate the variation of the outline of the mountain tops. This is a very forgiving thing to draw as mountains are pretty random and naturally asymmetrical. For this outline I used the “technical pen” tool under “inking” in the brush options drop down, because it gives a nice clean line.
The next step is to fill in the range with colour. Procreate makes it easy to do this by tapping and holding the colour icon in the top right corner of the page, dragging it to the area you want to fill, and releasing there. This trick only works if there are no breaks in your line through which the colour can “escape.” Leaks, so to speak. So if your entire page fills with your colour, tap the screen with two fingers to “undo” and then take a closer look at your outline to find where the colour is leaking through, and close it up.
Next you’ll draw your second range of mountains that are closer to us. For this it will be helpful to draw it on a separate layer from your first range to make it easier to edit them later. To add a new layer tap the “layers” icon in the top right toolbar (the two squares) to open the “layers” menu, then create a new layer by tapping the “+”. Draw your second mountain range in the same way as the first, but for this choose a tone of your colour that is a bit darker. A more vibrant less faded version of your colour will give the impression that this row of mountains is a lot closer than the one behind it, creating a nice amount of depth.
Step Three: Details
Now that you have your base layers of colour, it’s time to start adding the details that will really capture quality of the mountain landscape. And these sorts of details lend themselves very nicely to drawing using Procreate’s lasso tool.
Taking a close look at my main reference photo, I can see that the faces of the mountain peaks are composed of blocks of colour and tone that are layered on top of one another in rugged shapes. It may look very complicated at first, but with every layer you add, you’ll find it gets easier to understand what is what and how to recreate it.
To get you started we are going to add some blocks of lighter colour on a couple of the peaks that will indicate that the light is coming from one side, creating a good base for your three-dimensionality. To do this, create another new layer in the layers menu, and then select the lasso tool from the top left menu. The icon looks like the letter “S”. Ensure that “freehand” is highlighted in the bottom menu, and then you can start tracing out your shape. The line you create with this will be dotted, and you can lift your Apple Pencil any number of times and keep drawing the line (you don’t have to complete it in one “stroke”).
Once you have a complete shape, tap your brush menu and choose a brush with more of a rugged texture to draw with. This is an easy way to create a more realistically gritty texture that will make your mountain drawing look more dynamic. For my drawing I chose “Carbon stick” under the “Charcoals” submenu of brushes. This shape you’ve just drawn will be where sunlight is hitting the mountain so next select a tone of your colour that is quite a bit lighter than the base colour.
I also recommend maximizing your brush size using the slider on the left side of your screen. Then go ahead and “paint” over your shape. You’ll notice right away that the colour you add remains confined to the dotted line of the shape you just drew. Amazing! This is a great way to map out complicated shapes and then easily fill them with a nice texture and variations in light a dark.
Now the rest of the drawing can be done using this same technique, by layering up shapes of colour that create the rock faces, edges and snow cover on your mountain peaks. This is where you can take your time and really get lost in the drawing process as you slowly build up dimension until you are satisfied that your drawing does indeed look like mountains.
On my drawing the next set of shapes I added were mostly ones that indicated the variated rock faces of the lit side of the mountain. Followed by a much bright layer of snow around the peak, and then some very bright highlights where the sun was reflecting off the white snow. Take your time with this part. Here is where it’s a good idea to pay close attention to your reference photo to try to mimic how these shapes flow and work together. At first glance it may seem very random but the more you look and draw the more you’ll see how there is a certain flow and pattern to the rocks that give it the correct look.
Remember if ever you want to undo a certain stroke, just tap the screen once with two fingers. You can go back as many strokes as you like this way, Procreate remembers everything!
- Alpha Lock – Sometimes you may want to adjust the colour of an entire layer rather than just a portion that you trace out with the lasso tool. A handy way to do this is to use the alpha lock tool. The alpha lock “locks” that layer so that you can only draw on top of what has already been drawn. To lock your layer open up the layers drop down and swipe the layer you want to lock to the right with two fingers. A checkerboard pattern will appear on that layer in the menu. To unlock it just swipe again to the right with two fingers. I utilized this a couple of times in my mountain drawing in order to add some subtle variation in tone to my base mountain shapes.
- You can zoom in and out by “pinching” the screen with two fingers. Don’t forget you can zoom in for areas with small details. You can also rotate the canvas using the two-finger pinch (rather than turning the iPad itself around, an inevitable habit when you’re used to turning your piece of paper around – there is an easier way!)
- Making corrections – After you have finished a detail in your illustration, you may realize that it’s perhaps not quite the right shape, or the proportions were a little off. An amazing feature of Procreate is that rather than erasing and drawing it again (a lot of work!) you can instead isolate a portion of the drawing and stretch it. To do this, you can use the lasso tool again to trace around the area you want to stretch. Once you’ve done that, tap the cursor icon (the fourth icon in the menu at the top left of your screen). This will create a bounding box around the area you want to manipulate. From there you can stretch the area how you like using the pull points. Once you have it where you want it tap the cursor icon again.
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TIP – to create believable dimension, give components of your drawing that are further away a duller, more faded looking colour. Reserve brighter colours and details for components that are closer or that you want to stand out.
TIP – To return to a colour you’ve already used, tap with one finger on the area with the colour you want to reselect, and hold. A magnifying circle will pop up and you can move that to the exact colour spot you want. Lift your finger and it will select that colour for your brush.
Congrats! You’ve Completed our Procreate Tutorial!
You’ve now mastered how to draw mountains!
If you’re someone who draws or paints a lot, you know it’s possible to keep going and going and tweaking and tweaking into eternity. And truthfully Procreate makes falling into this even easier. The up side, however, is that you can leave the piece alone for a time, and then very easily pick up where you left off, without having to get all of your paint and supplies out.
All that said, you will know when it’s done, and for a satisfying finish to your digital drawing experience, you can utilize one of my favourite Procreate features – timelapse video. By default, Procreate records your entire drawing process (you can opt to turn this off, but really why?) You can play it all back in high speed when your drawing is complete. It’s a fun thing to watch and a fantastic thing to share with curious fans of your art. If you’re a freelance illustrator, find that offering a timelapse video of your clients’ work acts as a competitive advantage. And better yet, offering a video that showcases the creation of your mountain drawing requires no additional time or money.
By using this Procreate tutorial as your step-by-step drawing guide for how to draw mountains, I’m sure you will be very satisfied with your result. Once you’ve gone through the motions from start to finish you can experiment and settle into your own process. This medium has so many possibilities that you can really let your creativity run wild. So dive in, go digital and have fun!
How to Draw Mountains: Illustration Apps
This story offers a step-by-step Procreate tutorial on how to draw mountains. It’s important to note that there are several other drawing apps you can use on iPad Pro when drawing mountains. Here are just a few:
- Notes: The Apple sketch app that comes with your iPad! Simple, easy to use for quick sketches, free and fast. Though for serious drawing you may want to seek apps with more robust options/tools. Price: FREE
- Adobe Illustrator Draw: This app is for creating vector graphics, with a very intuitive interface. It can also sync with Adobe’s Creative Cloud, meaning you can transfer your work between the iPad and desktop no problem. Price: FREE with Creative Cloud subscription, monthly plan prices vary.
- Inspire: Fast and nicely responsive, with a huge variety of customizable tools, and over 80 brushes. Great for beginners and intermediates alike. Price:$13.99 CAD, $27.99 for Pro Version.
- Procreate: Easily one of the most popular drawing apps, it works seamlessly with Apple Pencil, is highly responsive and offers an excellent variety of tools, all presented in a terrifically simple interface. Price: $13.99 CAD
Procreate Tutorial: The Benefits of iPad Pro
- The process is very similar to drawing using traditional methods on paper. You’ll be delighted by how intuitive it is, and how for the actual drawing part, you don’t need to re-learn anything.
- Streamlined process. All of your supplies – camera, reference photos, paper, pens, pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener, paint and paint brushes, are all combined into one place – iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil.
- The ability to undo when your pen stroke wasn’t quite right. You can also edit certain elements after the fact. The thickness of that piece is too much, I don’t quite like the colour I used here. All of that can be fixed!
- The ability to work in layers, drawing or colouring over or under certain elements without worrying about accidental erasing or colour contamination.
- You aren’t tethered to your desk, you can get comfy and work wherever you like. And that includes outside your own home too.
- Easy transferability/sharability of your art. Your finished product is already in a format that you can add to your illustration portfolio online, share on your social media, etc. No need to arrange a high quality scan or professional photograph.
- The ability to replicate elements, (for patterning, for example) rather than needing to hand-draw the same thing over and over.
If you’re a freelance illustrator looking to up your game, getting familiar with this medium will benefit you tremendously. And if you are an amateur who just loves to draw, looking to have fun creating mountain drawings, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil can help you do things you might not have thought possible.
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