Procreate Tutorial: How To Draw Shoes

Keen to learn how to draw shoes but new to digital drawing? Perhaps a little unsure about how your skills as an artist translate to a medium that’s totally different than what you’re used to? Our procreate tutorial shows how easy it is to go digital!

An app like Procreate on iPad Pro, while chock-full of amazing digital wizardry, is still at its core designed to make the most of your tried and true hand-drawing skills. This step-by step Procreate tutorial will familiarize you with the basics of this amazing drawing app, using how to draw shoes as an example.

Join famous illustrators around the world as they swap their drawing paper, pencils, markers, brushes and paint and enjoy the benefits of iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.

Toronto illustrator Mark Scheibmayr shares his tips on how to draw shoes.
Toronto illustrator Mark Scheibmayr shares his tips on how to draw shoes.

How To Draw Shoes: Embrace New Technology

I’m a Toronto illustrator who specializes in portraiture, editorial illustration and exhibition design. I also happen to be an avid runner. I have a handful of both half and full marathons under my belt. As a museum professional, I also have a keen interest in shoes as objects that say a lot about design, engineering and culture. Needless to say, all of this combined to result in me being very excited to write about how to draw shoes!

Until recently I’ve only worked with traditional media – pencil, ink, watercolour, on paper, however, after much curiosity I’ve given digital drawing a try and have been blown away. Both by how easy it is to pick it up, and by its amazing potential. Creating illustrations like shoe drawings with an Apple Pencil on iPad Pro saves me time, saves me on art supplies, and is really quite fun. It also saves my neck from craning hunched over a desk for hours – I now get to kick back and draw on the couch!

For freelance illustrators who are still unsure… don’t worry, I’m not asking you to replace your traditional art tools. Our Procreate tutorial on how to draw shoes will show you how illustration on iPad offers an exciting new tool to add to your art arsenal.

Drawing shoes using Procreate is easier than you think.
Drawing shoes using Procreate is easier than you think.

How to Draw Shoes: Illustration Apps

This story offers a step-by-step Procreate tutorial on how to draw shoes. It’s important to note that there are several other drawing apps you can use on iPad Pro when drawing shoes. 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 Pro: 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
  • 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
Asics uses an iPad to do a full digital gait assessment prior to choosing the perfect pair of running shoes.
Asics uses an iPad to do a full digital gait assessment prior to choosing the perfect pair of running shoes.

How to Draw Shoes: Asics Sneakers

Being a runner, I naturally have an interest in running shoes. Getting a handle on how to draw something like a sneaker will be helpful in that it is a very common shoe form. For this Procreate tutorial I started by visiting the Asics Canada flagship store on Queen St West in Toronto.

Searching for the perfect ‘sneaker muse’ at Asics was a great experience thanks largely to the amazing and knowledgeable team at the store. While browsing the colourful kicks, I couldn’t help but say yes to the full customer treatment, which included a professional sizing and digital gait assessment using iPad Pro. Not only did I learn I’ve been wearing running shoes that have been too small for me forever, but I also picked up a thing or two about my stride length and running posture (who knew?!)

For my shoe drawing, I ended up settling on two different sneakers, Gel-Quantum Infinity and the Gel-DS Trainer 24, that together had a wide range of colours, materials and textures for drawing. With my highly portable iPad Pro, I could take my reference photos then and there, on the very device upon which I’d be drawing them later.

Capturing the perfect reference photo is key for how to draw shoes.
Capturing the perfect reference photo is key for how to draw shoes.

Procreate Tutorial: The Benefits of iPad Pro

In this Procreate tutorial I’ll point out a few awesome advantages you can enjoy when drawing shoes in iPad Pro.

  • The process is very similar to drawing using traditional methods on paper. I was delighted by how intuitive it is, and how for the actual drawing part, I didn’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. Those laces are a bit too close together, 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 shoe drawings, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil can help you do things you might not have thought possible.

Procreate Tutorial: this toolbar features the most frequently used drawing tools.
Procreate Tutorial: this toolbar features the most frequently used drawing tools.

Procreate Tutorial: How to Draw Shoes 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 shoe drawing I’ve created a 22″ x 29″ canvas.

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.
Procreate Tutorial: brush size and brush opacity sliders are also important tools.
Procreate Tutorial: brush size and brush opacity sliders are also important tools.

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.

Procreate Tutorial: use the camera on iPad Pro to take your reference photo.
Procreate Tutorial: use the camera on iPad Pro to take your reference photo.

How to Draw Shoes Step 1: Choosing a reference photo

If you can take your reference photo yourself, great. You can use the iPad itself to capture a good photo of your shoe. If you can’t, you’ll need to choose a good quality image that is clear and in-focus. The best shoe drawings are done from a well-lit image that shows the small details and textures on your shoe.

For my shoe drawing I’ve chosen to reference two separate photos. I like the “head on” view of this first shoe, but I plan to use a different shot of the second shoe that shows off the side view.

Procreate tutorial: iPad Pro makes setting up a convenient split screen for working easy.
Procreate tutorial: iPad Pro makes setting up a convenient split screen for working easy.

How to Draw Shoes Step 2: Quick sketch setup

As I mentioned, one of the great things about Procreate is utilizing layers. So the next step is a quick sketch of your shoe that acts as a “rough copy” that you can draw a “good copy” over top of and take more time with.

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’s 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 voila, you have both open at the same time.

I am starting with the “head on” view photo. Getting practise drawing a shoe from the front will be very useful, as it’s a little less intuitive to think about how that looks. Start by looking at the shapes that are created by the different parts of the shoe and do a rough sketch of each. The fabric around the ball of the foot, followed by the heel portion of the shoe, and then the sole. After that, basic details like the laces. This part doesn’t need to be clean, it’s just a quick reference sketch for your good copy.

Trace Option

If you are struggling with your proportions, a helpful option is to do a rough trace of your reference photo:

Start a new artwork in Procreate, click the “action” icon (the little wrench in the top left toolbar) > add >insert a photo. Choose your reference photo and Procreate will drop it onto your canvas. You can adjust the size to what you want, and then tap the “select” icon (the little cursor in the top left toolbar).

Next, tap the “layers” icon in the top right toolbar (the two squares) to open the “layers” menu. Your photo layer will be highlighted. Tap the “N” and an opacity slider will open. Drag the slider down to around 50%. This will make drawing overtop of it easier to see. Next, create a new layer by tapping the “+”. This will be your quick sketch layer. Tap the two squares again to close the layers menu. 

For this portion I like using the “technical pen” brush under “inking” in the brush menu, mostly because I like how the brush responds to different amounts of pressure. Basically, if I push harder the line gets thicker, and vice versa. So cool!

With more practice you’ll find the brushes you like best, it’s just a matter of preference.

Next do a quick, rough trace of the main features of your shoe drawing. You don’t need to take your time here, this is just a convenient way to get your proportions more or less correct.

Procreate tutorial: the steps for how to draw shoes are nearly the same on iPad Pro as they would be on paper.
Procreate tutorial: the steps for how to draw shoes are nearly the same on iPad Pro as they would be on paper.

How to Draw Shoes Step 4: Outlines

Once you have your rough sketch, create a new layer in the layers menu again. This will be the “good copy” layer that you draw overtop of your reference sketch. Before you start, select your rough sketch layer again, and in the same way you reduced the opacity of the photo layer, bring the opacity of the rough layer down to about 30%. At this point, if you’ve used a photo for the trace option, you can also delete your photo layer. Do so by swiping that layer to the left. A delete button will appear.

And now the fun part – drawing!

This is where you can take your time and really get lost in the drawing process. Importantly, make sure you have selected your “good copy” layer in the layers menu. Then, using your rough copy proportions guide and your reference photo, draw your outlines. I like to do all of my outlines in black, but that’s up to you. For this layer don’t worry about any shading or colour, those will be done on another layer.

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!

Procreate tutorial: you can easily edit your drawing in amazing ways using Procreate.
Procreate tutorial: you can easily edit your drawing in amazing ways using Procreate.

Procreate Tutorial: Tips for creating outlines

  • Keep in mind your line thickness. Your drawing will look better if you use a variety of thicknesses. Take a look at my outline layer to get a sense of that. Smaller details get a lighter touch, and my outer lines are a lot heavier. You can achieve this by how hard you press, however you can also quickly and easily adjust your brush size using the slider on the menu on the left side of the screen.
  • 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 (like the shoe laces or the pattern showing on the bottom of the sole). 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 I’d finished drawing my laces, I realized that they were a bit too narrow across the top of my shoe. An amazing feature of Procreate is that rather than erasing and drawing them again (a lot of work!) I can instead isolate the laces portion of the drawing and widen it. To do this, click the third icon in the menu on the top left of your screen. It looks like an “S”. This will open a menu at the bottom of the screen. Make sure “freehand” is selected there, and then take your Apple pencil and trace in one stroke around the area you want to stretch. You’ll need to create a fully closed loop. 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.
  • Texture. Part of the fun and challenge with how to drawing running shoes is capturing the wide variety of textures on a shoe. While much of this will come from shading and colouring, you can also create texture using your outlines too. In my example the shoe laces have a woven texture that looks almost like a grid. I created the suggestion of this texture by cross hatching with the pen tool – no colouring or shading required!
Procreate tutorial: capturing different textures is made easy with the Apple Pencil.
Procreate tutorial: capturing different textures is made easy with the Apple Pencil.

How to Draw Shoes Step 5: Shading and Colouring

Now you’ve got a lovely outline drawing of your shoe. Time to colour it in!

Again, this is where layers come in very handy. Go to your layers menu and first, delete your rough copy layer. Next create another new layer by tapping the “+”. This time though, tap and hold your newly created layer and drag it down so that it is underneath your outline layer. By placing it here, it means you can colour in without accidentally colouring over your outlines – amazing!

Now you can get to painting. Procreate has a dizzying variety of brushes, and feel free to experiment with what effects you like. For this illustration I am starting with the simple round brush under “painting.”

Procreate tutorial: Drawing on iPad Pro opens up a world of new colouring possibilities.
Procreate tutorial: Drawing on iPad Pro opens up a world of new colouring possibilities.

Procreate Tutorial: Tips for shading and colouring

Just like with painting with real paint on a canvas, it’s helpful to start with a base layer of colour (sometimes called an underpainting). Get your shoe drawing filled in so that there’s no white left within the lines. After that it’s a matter of layering colours on top to create dimension. Pay attention to the subtle changes in light on the shoe and adjust your colour on the colour wheel accordingly.

A great tip is to save your base layer colour so that you can return to it and lighten/darken from it as you need. To do so, in the colours menu, just tap in the area under “test” and a swatch of the colour you have selected will save there.

Another useful tool is the “smudge” tool to blend colours and create gradients. I used this to create the colour gradient on the second shoe in my shoe drawing. This is the icon between the brush and eraser icons at the top right of the screen. 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. Remember you can adjust the size of the smudge brush using that same slider on the left side of the screen.

For areas that are different in colour from the main body of your shoe, such as the rubber on the soles, you may want to do those on a separate layer too. This just prevents accidental colour blending with the surrounding image.

Different Textures

Running shoes often have a lot of different colours and textures. Thankfully Procreate has ways of helping you create all of them.

The first shoe in my illustration has a “knit upper” texture. Which is challenging to draw! Tackling something like this is where you can get really creative with your brush options. But before I started experimenting with brushes, I set up my colour layer with a (very useful) alpha lock.

Special digital drawing features like the "alpha lock" are an advantage to drawing shoes on Procreate.
Special digital drawing features like the “alpha lock” are an advantage to drawing shoes on Procreate.

When a layer is on alpha lock, any changes you make to that layer will only show up over where you’ve already drawn. Meaning if you have your “base layer” drawn and contained within the outlines you want, if you alpha lock it you can freely draw textures on top without ever going outside your lines. To alpha lock a layer, open it in the layers menu, and swipe the layer right with two fingers. You’ll see a checked pattern appear on the layer thumbnail. To un-alpha lock the layer just swipe right with two fingers again.

Procreate has a wide variety of brush tips to ensure you can create the perfect texture.
Procreate has a wide variety of brush tips to ensure you can create the perfect texture.

To create the knitted texture on the first sneaker in my shoe drawing, I used a few different brushes layered on top of one another, starting with the “marble” brush under “abstract,” in black, followed by white using “stucco” under “artistic” and then “bonobo chalk” under “sketching.” Once I had the general impression of a knitted texture, I went back and finished off a few details in white using both the technical drawing pen and the stucco brush.

Creating textures from shiny underfoot GEL technology to finely woven shoe laces are no problem on Procreate.
Creating textures from shiny underfoot GEL technology to finely woven shoe laces are no problem on Procreate.

The second shoe presented a whole new set of textures to tackle! This shoe features full-length underfoot GEL technology, which for our purposes means shiny and slightly transparent. This effect was created with a variation of red/orange colours and a generous use of the smudge tool, followed by some highly contrasting white highlights.

How to draw shoes is only the first of many things you can learn by drawing on iPad Pro.
How to draw shoes is only the first of many things you can learn by drawing on iPad Pro.

The main body of the shoe has a colour gradient across its seamless construction. In the darker blue portions at the back, the fabric texture is more visible. To create this impression I used the “bonobo chalk” brush again but brought the brush size up to nearly it’s largest. Then in white I did a few strokes across my shoe colour gradient layer on alpha lock, resulting in a white speckled look that gives the impression of a fine woven fabric. I used this technique again for the inside liner of the heel, but this time in black.

Finally, I finished the shoe drawing off with a background that repeated the Asics Tiger logo from the side of the colourful running shoe. For this I made a duplicate of just the layer I used for colouring in that portion of the shoe. To do that, select the layer you want to duplicate in the layers menu, and swipe left with one finger. You’ll see a button appear “duplicate.” Once I had my duplicate I made it bigger and moved it into place using the cursor icon tool, and brought the transparency down to create a nice background.

Congrats! You’ve Completed Our Procreate Tutorial!

You’ve now mastered how to draw shoes!

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 paints 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 such a fun thing to watch and a fantastic thing to share with curious fans of your art! If you’re a freelance illustrator, you may come to realize 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 shoe drawing requires no additional time or money.

By using this Procreate tutorial as your step-by-step drawing guide for how to draw shoes, 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, kick back, and have fun!


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