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 squash 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 squash 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 a squash or pumpkin as our example!
How to Draw Squash: 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 squash, 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 Realistic Squash At Home
One of the best ways to become an expert on how to draw squash is by visiting your local farmers market or the produce section of the grocery store.
Squash are a genus of herbaceous fruits in the gourd family, also known as pumpkin. Five edible species are grown and consumed for their flesh and seeds.
Squash has many culinary uses including pie, bread, curries and soups.
Purchase a variety of shapes, sizes and colours as it helps make a still life squash drawing more interesting. Be sure to arrange the squash on your kitchen counter to photograph in ample natural light.
Once you’ve finished drawing the squash be sure to eat it up! We know you’ll love these popular squash and pumpkin recipes at home:
- Creamy Red Thai Pork Curry
- Vegetarian Gorgonzola Risotto al Radicchio
- Moghrabieh Lebanese Chickpea Chicken Couscous
- Turmeric Pumpkin Spice Indian Cake
- Spicy Vegetarian Harissa Pasta
- Ajiaco Cubano Recipe: Healthy Cuban Soup with Chicken
- Vegetarian Roasted Pumpkin Feta Salad with Beetroot & Pine Nuts
- Roasted Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup
- Grabong Northern Thai Pumpkin Fritter
- Banana Pumpkin Muffins
- Thai Beef and Pumpkin Curry
- Kale, Leek, Bean, Orzo and Pumpkin Soup with Pecan Pesto
- Rigatoni with Fried Sage, Roasted Pecans, Prosciutto and Pumpkin Velouté
- Air Fryer Butternut Squash
Squash Drawing Procreate Tutorial
What is a better representation of the fall season than squash? This is the time of year that a dizzying variety of squash, gourds and pumpkins adorn farmer’s markets, front porches and Instagram feeds alike. From bright orange to deep green, these fruits of the cucurbitaceae family come in many shapes and colours, and in various degrees of edibility.
They make for a fun and interesting subject for still life drawing. Still life drawing uses non-living, everyday objects that are good at holding still, as subjects to practice drawing techniques like light and shadow, colour, shape and texture. Food has long been a favourite subject for still life artists.
Luckily for you Procreate makes recreating telltale squash characteristics in your drawing fun and easy. And this Procreate tutorial will break down the process into separate steps that will have you creating a festive still life squash masterpiece 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 Squash 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 squash drawing I’ve created an 11″ x 14.5″ canvas. I’ve gone with a resolution of 300 DPI, which allows for up to 35 layers. If you go too big the maximum number of layers you can have in your artwork can be too few for our purposes, this is a good size.
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 Squash 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 squash 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. Because part of the joy of squash (lol) is how many different types there are, I picked up two different varieties for my drawing. I chose a butternut and an acorn, both because they contrast with each other, and because I like eating both. I cut the butternut in half so that I could also include a cross section of the interior. The acorn squash I left whole.
I made sure to choose a spot where the light reflected the texture of both the flesh and the skin of both squash. Make sure you get a nice, well-focused shot that is close up to capture all the small details.
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 Squash Step Two: Blocking Your Shapes
Now you are set up to start drawing squash!
The first step will be blocking out the shapes of the individual squash with a solid colour. For this I used the studio pen brush under “inking” in the brush menu, because it gives a nice clean line.
To determine which colour to use, I took a look at my squash reference photo and tried to match it generally to the medium colour tone of each piece. A bright yellow/orange for the butternut flesh and a forest green for the whole acorn.
Once you have a fully enclosed shape, you can fill it in with solid colour by tapping and holding the colour icon in the top right, and then dragging it to the inside of your shape and releasing. The shape will then fill with that colour. Make sure your shape is fully enclosed or the “fill” will fill the entire canvas. If this happens just tap your canvas with 2 fingers to “undo.”
You will find it helpful to separate these shapes onto separate layers. This will make painting and editing them much easier down the road because you won’t have to worry about your painting bleeding from one clearly defined area to another. I decided to leave the stems out of the first shape for each squash, you can block those in in the same way later.
To create a new layer tap the “layers” icon in the top right menu, and then tap the “+” in the drop down. You can tap and hold any layer in the menu and drag it above or below other layers.
You can adjust the size and position of different elements in your blocked shapes by utilizing the “select” tool. That is the tool in the top left menu that looks like a cursor. Make sure the layer with the element you want to adjust is selected, and then tap the select tool. A bounding box will appear around the element with points you can tap, hold and drag to your liking. You’ll see along the bottom that you also have several options for how to adjust your shape. You can play around with each to see how they work. For my butternut I found the “distort” option did the trick to fix the overall shape.
This method works if you want to adjust everything that’s in a layer. You can also adjust just certain parts of a layer but that process is slightly different, and I will demonstrate it later in this tutorial.
How to Draw Squash Step Three: Underlying Gradients
Now that you have your base layers of colour you can start “painting” and adding layers of colour to build up the 3-dimensionality and shape of your squash. Take a good look at your reference photo and try to see the underlying gradients of light and dark tones beneath all of the finer details.
Before you begin though, Procreate has a feature that makes this painting and blending part a lot easier, called 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.
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.
Now you can get to painting. For my drawing I started with the acorn squash. For this part you do not necessarily need to be very tidy with your painting. This part is about getting your colour tones down. For this part I chose the “gouache” brush under “painting” in the brush menu, but feel free to use whichever brush suits you.
With something that has as distinct a shape as an acorn squash, this step can be a bit more time consuming, which is a-ok. The distinct ridges running up and down the squash are rendered by a repeating progression of dark and light highlights.
Also pay close attention to your colours here. It is a good idea to zoom in nice and close on your reference photo in order to really become aware of the different colours that reside in the squash skin. I was actually surprised that despite a dark green base, all of my highlights were done in a yellow-orange colour. Pretty unique and somewhat counter-intuitive!
How to Draw Squash Step Four: Blend and Adjust
After you have your general rough painting down, it’s time to smooth it out and blend your colours where need be. For this you will use the smudge tool in the top right menu. For the smudge “brush” I also chose the gouache brush just to match the paint strokes.
Go ahead and blend where you need to in order to get the right kind of transitions between areas of different colour. Keep in mind it is possible to overblend! You want the transition between different colours to be smooth but still defined. To undo any stroke remember you can tap the canvas anywhere with two fingers to undo your strokes.
It make take some time to find the right balance with this. You can switch back and forth between the blend tool and painting over it again until you come to the right appearance.
Part of the challenge here was blending while still keep a lot of defined edges across the squash. Here try to experiment a bit with different brushes to help with keeping that clean edge at the bottoms of the ridges.
How to Draw Squash Step Five: Highlights and Details
Now that you have your basic shape down it’s time to add the highlights and details that will really bring your drawing to life. For these it will be helpful to do them both again on separate layers. This way when editing you won’t ruin any of your careful painting and blending of your underlying gradients.
The first detail I added were the speckles. For this you can go in and draw each dot one by one, however there are ways to make this process much faster. I drew in the speckles quickly by using the “Driven Snow” brush under “Elements” in the brush menu, which drops several separate spots at once. Make sure to add some variety to the size of the speckles by adjusting the brush size slider.
To finish them off I did go in and manually draw a few of the larger and more distinct spots with my gouache brush again, as well as adding a bit of a suggestions of very small speckles using the “Noise Brush” under “Materials.”
Finally I added the very bright shine spots. Even thought they are quite small areas of shine, make sure you build of the intensity of the lightness. If you just use full white right away you will not get a very realistic effect. Build up and blend a bit with slightly darker shades of white and then finish off with pure white only along the very narrow brightest spots.
How to Draw Squash Step Six: Butternut Interior
Now we can move on to rendering the cut half of the butternut squash. For this it’s mostly a matter of repeating the “underlying gradients” step. Take your time to paint out and blend all the variations in the colour across the squash flesh, noticing the lightness, and then slight darkness around the edges before the more monotone centre.
The most intricate part of this squash is definitely the pulpy section where the seeds are. This area definitely includes a very defined edge again around the outside, especially along the bottom. Here you may find it helpful to isolate just that portion of the shape when drawing. To do this you will utilize the “lasso tool” which is in the top left menu, right beside the cursor tool. It looks like an “S.”
Start by tapping the lasso tool and then draw around the portion of the shape you want to draw on.
Then tap the “brush” tool, and voila, you have your isolated portion of that layer to draw upon. Once you’ve finished painting and blending out that portion you can use the same method to trace out and isolate any other area. You may find this makes your drawing process easier.
The rest of this area involves a lot of back and forth and looking at the texture and dimension of the pulp and seed holes. It is helpful here to zoom in very close to ensure you include all the details in the correct way. A tip here is to start with the larger details that “define” the area you are working on first. This ensures that when you fill in the smaller details they stay in the right proportion.
The final part of the interior are the actual seeds. Because these are so defined and a contrasting colour it is a good idea to again draw these on a new, separate layer.
How to Draw Squash Step Seven: Skin and Stems
The finishing details now include the skin of the butternut, and the stems of both squash. Starting with the skin, you can do this portion on the same layer as the flesh. To do this you’ll use the same lasso technique as before. Tap the lasso tool and draw out the shape of the skin over the blocked out shape. Then tap the brush tool to start painting the isolated area.
Given how smooth the skin is I started by going over the whole area in that pale beige colour, and then added in the darker areas after, including the spot on the bottom.
At this point, I realized that my butternut flesh was a bit too far in the yellow category, and should be a bit redder in tone. Thankfully, Procreate makes adjusting this easy. Make sure your butternut layer is selected and then tap the “magic wand” tool in the top left menu. Then select “Color Balance” and here you’ll be able to nudge the tone with a little more red using the sliders along the bottom.
For the stems, block them out on a separate layer underneath the squash layers. Here you can experiment again with different brushes and brush sizes to get the right textured effect. I had success using the “damp brush” and “stucco” under “painting.”
How to Draw Squash Step Eight: Shadows
Finally, to complete the drawing I added some shadows to ground the squash.
For these, it’s important to choose your background colour first, because your shadows will be a darker shade of that colour. You can do so by opening the layers menu and tapping the “background colour” layer. I chose a pale orange colour because I thought it was a nice autumnal tone and complimented the tones in the squash nicely. But this part is up to you, so choose whatever colour you like.
Now to do your shadows, once again start on a new layer positioned below the squash layers. Draw out your shadow shapes with a clean-edged brush (like the studio pen) and fill them in with a dark, nearly black shade of your background colour. Then you can use the layer’s opacity to make them slightly transparent to let the background colour 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.
And voila! Your finishing touch is done.
- Give your canvas and/or your reference photo more space if needed by dragging the slider in between the two windows. You’ll see a grey bar to tap on, hold and slide.
- 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!
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You’ve Completed our Realistic Squash Drawing Tutorial!
You’ve now mastered how to draw squash!
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 – time lapse 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 time lapse video of your clients’ work acts as a competitive advantage. And better yet, offering a video that showcases the creation of your squash drawing requires no additional time or money.
By using this Procreate tutorial as your step-by-step drawing guide for how to draw squash, 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 squash. It’s important to note that there are several other drawing apps you can use on iPad Pro when drawing squash. 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
If you’re a newbie digital illustrator we also suggest purchasing Beginners Guide to Digital Painting in Procreate, iPad and iPad Pro for Dummies, a protective iPad cover and Apple Pencil Case.
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/shareability 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 squash 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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