Looking to perfect your still-life drawing game? This easy Procreate tutorial is here to help! Read along for a simple yet comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to draw potatoes digitally using iPad Pro.
Digital drawing continues to thrive as an exciting medium 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 realistic potato drawing Procreate tutorial will break down the process of illustrating on a tablet and set you up with the basics of this amazing app. We’ll use how to draw potatoes as our example!
How to Draw Potatoes: 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 everyday things around your home, like a potato, 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.
Sketch A Potato Drawing In The Kitchen
One of the best ways to become an expert on how to draw potatoes is by visiting your local farmers market. At my favourite farmers market in Toronto there is an urban farmer who grows beautiful heritage varieties.
The Inca in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes between 8,000 to 5,000 BC. In 1536, the Spanish conquered Peru, discovered the culinary versatility of the potato, and sailed bags of them back to Europe.
It is said there are more than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes, mostly found in the Andes. They come in many sizes, shapes and colours. While you can make a potato drawing using the common Yukon Gold or Russet varieties, it’s fun to eat and sketch eye-catching purple potatoes or pink potatoes.
We suggest purchasing a variety of potatoes for your drawing. A diversity of colours, shapes and textures helps make a still life vegetable portrait more interesting. Be sure to arrange the potatoes on your kitchen counter to photograph in ample natural light.
You’ll of course need to eat up those potatoes once you’re finished drawing so why not cook one of our popular potato recipes?
Some of our favourites include Bolo de Caco, Cheesy Bacon Potato Skins, Tater Tot Poutine, Culurgiones Sardinian Cheese & Potato Stuffed Pasta, Vegetarian Malai Kofta, Kartoffelknödel German Potato Dumplings, Pkaila Tunisian Butter Bean Stew, Chupe de Quinoa, Portuguese Bean Soup, Ajiaco Cubano, Roti Canai Curry and Tartiflette Reblochon.
Potato Drawing Procreate Tutorial
The humble potato. A rather plain, yet versatile starchy plant food that is ubiquitous in many diets around the world. Especially loved for its simplicity and its long shelf life throughout cold winters, the potato hasn’t always been celebrated for its beauty or as a subject of art.
Our procreate tutorial on how to draw potatoes is about to change all that! A potato is in fact a brilliant subject for still life drawing. Still life drawing utilizes non-living, everyday objects that are good at holding still, as subjects to practice drawing techniques like light and shadow, colour, shape and texture. And what better for these purposes than a potato, really?
Deceptively simple at first glance, but with a striking amount of detail upon closer examination, there’s more to a potato than meets the eye (pun intended).
Luckily for you Procreate makes recreating telltale potato features in your drawing fun and easy. And this procreate tutorial on how to draw potatoes will break down the process into separate steps that will have you creating still life potato masterpieces 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 Potatoes 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. Or you can use the square view that combines the two. 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.
How to Draw Potatoes 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 don’t have any potatoes handy, there are plenty of images online for you to choose from. It’s a good idea to chose one that is copyright free and there are several websites that have large libraries of free images.
I took my reference image myself in my kitchen. I included two Yukon Gold potatoes (my favourite variety to eat and one with a nice yellow flesh), one whole, and one cut in half to include the interior texture as well. I arranged them on a small bamboo cutting board in a spot where they were well-lit and that I could take a nice clear photo.
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.
How to Draw Potatoes Step Two: Rough Sketch
Now you are set up to start drawing potatoes! The first step is to do a rough sketch of your drawing and all of its major features as a guide for colouring it in. For this outline I used the technical pen brush under “inking” in the brush menu, because it gives a nice clean line. Your sketch does not need to be perfect by any means. However it is meant to be a drawing guide to work from, so take your time and adjust until you get the proportions and placement of all the features where you want them.
You can adjust the size and position of different elements in your guide drawing by utilizing the “lasso” tool. That is the tool in the top left menu that looks like the letter “S”. Tap it, and then make sure “freehand” is highlighted in the bottom menu. Then you can use your Apple Pencil to draw around the part you want to adjust. For example, one of the potato halves that you want to by slightly bigger, closer to the centre, or tilted a bit further. One you’ve traced around that potato half, tap the cursor tool in the top left menu and you’ll see a bounding box appear which you can use to make those adjustments.
Later, once you’ve finished using your guide you can take it out of view by turning off its visibility in the layers menu. Just unclick the checkbox on the layer in its drop down menu (third tool from left in the top right menu).
How to Draw Potatoes Step Three: Blocking Out your Shapes
The next step will be blocking out the shapes of the potatoes and the cutting board with a solid colour. You’ll do this on a new layer. To create a new layer tap the “layers” icon in the top right menu and then tap the “+”. Next tap, hold and drag the new layer underneath the sketch layer in the drop down. This way you’ll still see you sketch layer overtop of it as a guide.
Now you are going to trace out the outline of your potato shapes, and then fill that outline with a colour. I chose the “technical pen” tool again from the inking menu for this stage because it has that nice smooth edge. To determine which colour to use, I took a look at my potato reference photo and tried to match it generally to the “average” colour tone of each piece. Now using your sketch as a guide, trace the shape of the potato until you have a fully enclosed shape. Then tap and hold the colour icon in the top right again to pull and “fill” the shape with that colour.
Once I had done the three potato shapes I blocked out the cutting board using the same method, but on another separate layer to make editing it later possible without interfering with the potatoes.
How to Draw Potatoes Step Four: Underlying Gradients
Now that you have your base layers of colour you can start “painting” and adding layers of colour to build up the texture and details of your potatoes. Take a good look at your reference photo and try to see the underlying gradients of light a dark tones beneath all of the finer details.
Using the same method as with the background you can roughly paint out lighter and darker areas and then blend and smooth them out using the smudge tool. For this part I chose the “Tamar” brush under “painting” in the brush menu, because it naturally creates a texture that is similar to the texture on the potato skin.
Procreate has a couple of features that make this blending part a lot easier. Firstly, you can utilize the lasso tool again to isolate an area that you want to paint. This means you can freely paint on your selected area without any colour bleeding past the isolation, giving you a nice sharp edge.
This worked very will for the potato halves to isolate the skin from the interior. Select the lasso tool and trace out the area of your shape that has the skin. Then rather than tapping the cursor tool, tap the painting tool instead and then you’ll be free to paint and smudge just the skin.
The second feature is the alpha lock. If you “alpha lock” a layer, you can only paint on what already exists on that layer. Meaning when blending out some colours you don’t need to worry about your smudges coming past the edges of you blocked out shape. In my potato drawing this worked well for the whole potato, as the skin was continuous across the whole shape.
To alpha lock a layer, open the layers menu. Using two fingers, swipe the layer you want to lock to the right. If you’ve done it successfully the layer thumbnail will get a checkered background. To un-lock the layer at any point simply swipe it with two fingers to the right again.
Potato Drawing Step Five: Highlights and Lowlights
Once you have the underlying tone gradients complete you can start adding in the finer details. I recommend doing these on another new layer so you can edit them without messing up the gradients you’ve already created underneath. This is where is is helpful to zoom in and take a good look at the variations in spotting and patches of roughness along the potato skins.
Feel free to experiment with different brush tips for different effects. For example, to create some of the spotty dirt patches, I selected the “wet acrylic” brush, increased the brush size to the size of the patch I was drawing, and then just tapped the brush once to create a fairly realistic looking “spot.”
The interior potato flesh also has a lot of variation in colour, especially in the centre and around the edges. Just keep adding and smudging those colours until you get the effect you want.
For the cutting board I wanted to create a woody texture, without having to painstakingly draw out all of the wood grain. I did this by choosing a brush that had what looked like a fairly streaky quality, again the wet acrylic brush. After alpha locking the base colour layer for the board, I did a single long stroke across the board, and held my pencil down at the end of the stroke. If you hold it down long enough, Procreate snaps your stroke to a perfectly straight line that you can pivot and place where you want. Doing this with the streaky brush created a variegated wood grain texture that came across fairly convincingly. I did more strokes like this across the board (but not too many) using slight variations in their colour and letting them overlap slightly.
How to Draw Potatoes Step Six: Final Details
The final details I added to my potato drawing were spots, eyes, shadows and scratches on the cutting board. Again, all of these were on separate layers to make editing easier. For the spots, pay attention to the difference in darkness of spots in different areas. When I zoomed in I saw that in fact most spots had a dark centre with a lighter ring around them. Recreating these differences rather than making the spots all the same tone across the whole potato will help give you a more realistic look. Take your time here and try to get lost in the drawing process.
For the shadows, again start on a new layer positioned below the potatoes, but on top of the cutting board. Draw out your shadow shapes with a clean-edged brush (like the technical pen) and fill them in with a dark, nearly black colour. Then you can use the layer’s opacity to make them slightly transparent to let the texture of the cutting board come through.
To do so open the layers menu, then tap the “N” on the shadow layer. Then you can adjust the slider to the transparency of your liking. For my shadows I also adjusted the opacity of the eraser tool (the slider on the left side of your screen) and took out a bit more in certain places to help the shadows better match the reference photo.
To add the scratches I selected a rough brush (“tamar” again under “painting”) and brought the brush size down to nearly its smallest level using the slider on the left side of the screen. I then used the same trick by drawing a stroke and holding down the pencil until the stroke went straight, emulating a knife scratch on the board.
And finally, I selected a background colour for my drawing that I thought complimented the tones in the foreground. When you open the layers menu there is a “background layer” at the bottom. You can simply tap it and select a colour from the colour wheel there.
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!
- 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.
- 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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You’ve Completed our Realistic Potato Drawing Tutorial!
You’ve now mastered how to draw potatoes!
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 potato drawing requires no additional time or money.
By using this Procreate tutorial as your step-by-step drawing guide for how to draw potatoes, 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!
Best Illustration Apps
This story offers a step-by-step Procreate tutorial on how to draw potatoes. It’s important to note that there are several other drawing apps you can use on iPad Pro when drawing potatoes. 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 potatoes or other still life drawings, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil can help you do things you might not have thought possible.
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