Drawing from personal experience in Procreate: Hawaiian Evening


Hi there artists, creators, and friends! My name is Jay, and in this little tutorial, you will learn some tips and tricks on how to create a compelling scene built from your own experiences! Join me in Procreate as we learn various skills on how to draw (pun totally intended) from your own inspiration, learn the importance of thumbnailing, creating interesting composition and lighting, and some tools that can help your workflow and keep that creativity flowing. Let's have fun!

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Hawaiian Evening

Blank page jitters

Where to begin… it is often the question most artists get stumped on the most! Sometimes it can be daunting to start a piece off – so don’t put pressure on yourself to make a masterpiece at the start! Just start sketching and thumbnailing. Thumbnailing is a great way to get ideas out in a non-judgmental space: this isn’t about being perfect, it’s about having fun and exploring!

I love to take inspiration from everyday interactions, or even some of my own experiences. These interactions make for an organic and personal feel to your work! Here I have thumbnailed scenes from my own neighborhood, backyard, and even some of my personal travels. Storytelling from your own experiences can not only help if you are torn on where to start, but it can really engage the viewer and create a very relatable space!

My favorite sketching brush that I will end up using throughout the process is Tara’s Oval Sketch on a lower opacity and larger size. It’s a beautiful texture, and gives that paper to page feel that is so satisfying. Start sketching very loose lines, sometimes my pencil is in continuous contact;

thumbnailing takes me 15 seconds TOPS, and it’s just about getting things from brain to paper. This is your space to explore! It is not only working out your ideas, but getting a feel for what you want to draw!

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Thumbnailing allows you to get your ideas from your brain to paper

Deciding on a sketch and naming layers

Once you have decided on a thumbnail you like, you can use the ‘Selection Tool’ to choose it from the crowd and create a new layer! Click Selection > Freehand to trace your chosen sketch. Choose Copy and Paste , and it will create a new layer with your chosen sketch. Feel free to change up the size, depending on your composition.

If you are ever stuck on deciding on a sketch, try and look at what makes the most interesting composition. I chose this one because I thought all the lines, positioning, and interaction of the characters were the most interesting – and also FUN to draw! Admittedly, I am super bad at naming layers. But it does save you time, and it helps organize your space! You can either uncheck layers that you do not need or delete them to keep your space tidy.

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I found this thumbnail to be the most interesting

First pass and adding values

Part of what makes a piece so compelling to me is the use of light. Often I will sketch out simple values under my first pass of sketching to see where I want to take the piece. It helps me visualize it a bit more, and gives me a map of how I see the finished work in my head! I use Tara’s Soft Square for this, because the blocky nature of the brush makes for great contrast.

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Adding simple values to early sketches allow me to visualize where I want to take the final piece

Line art

Create a new layer above your sketch layer and name it “Line art.” Turn the sketch layer to a lower opacity so you can still reference the sketch.  I, again, use Tara’s Oval Sketch on a harder opacity to make cleaner, purposeful lines. Personally, I don’t worry about clean line art as much because I find a certain charm about keeping things looking sketchy, so how clean your line art appears is up to you!

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Sketchy line art of my final piece

Background sketch

Exploring the background follows much of the same method as the forefront characters, but you do have to decide on a focal point. In this case, I want the characters to be in the spotlight, and don’t want the background to take away from the scene, rather enhance it. Feel free to create a mood board with colors you like, reference photos, or even go out and take your own! In this case, I am referencing one of my favorite beaches in Hawaii from photos I took! To keep things organized, add a layer below the characters and use that to explore/sketch your background.

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I used a mood board for inspiration for the background of my final piece

Coloring characters!

Choosing colors can be just about as hard as a blank page. I like to swatch different colors to see how they will go together on a separate layer, and refer back later. Adding separate layers to each element of the character helps control your workspace a bit more. To start, add a layer below the line art and trace around the silhouette of the character. I like to use Tara’s Oval Ink brush for this stage. Then, drag and drop the color swatch from the wheel in the right-hand corner to drop it onto the silhouette to fill it all the way in.

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I choose colors for the final piece by swatching different combinations

Color details

Add a layer and select “clipping mask” to clip that layer to the silhouette of your character. Here, you can color in elements such as the hair, bathing suits, eyes, and so on. I like using this because it not only saves time, but you don’t have to worry about going outside your silhouette!

Tip: To add some texture and break up the flat colors, I like to go back into the original silhouette layer and utilize one of my favorite brushes from Jing’s Brush Kit: “Jebus Take the Wheel.” I use this on all my characters’ skin to create a bit of texture and life in the cheeks, arms, and hands. For texture in the hair, I like to use Tara’s Oval Sketch 2 on a low opacity to create interesting movements and strands.

The same process above applies for the coloring of any items characters are holding, just add a layer under the character colors to save time!

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Selecting the “clipping mask” option allows you to save time


Backgrounds can be daunting, but if you divide them into simple shapes and colors, they are a breeze! I like to use a combination of Tara’s Soft Square and Tara’s Oval Sketch 2 to help block in colors. Similarly in the character process, create a separate layer for each element, just in case you want to move or edit a selection later.

For water, I love to use Jing Paint Edge Control – it has a very whimsical and fluid feel to it that is great for waves and water effects.  Flatten all your background layers so they become one. Duplicate that background layer and go into Adjustments > Gaussian blur. You can set the blur to any setting you want for the desired effect – play around with it!


My most favorite part! There is one amazing fundamental that you can remember when lighting scenes that makes a big difference: if the light source is a warm color, use cool tones for shading. If the light source is a cool color, use warm tones for shadows! Light bounces around and has different effects for everything it touches, so it is so much fun to play with and can help to tell the story.

Since I want the lighting to be a warm color, I will use a purple/blue tone for the shadows. I like using a chalk-like brush, and will set the layer to multiply on a 50% opacity because I want the shadows to be very defined – they are going paddle boarding right at sunset!

Adding sunlight is where it truly comes to life: add an overlay layer at about 50-60% and use a soft textured airbrush where the light source is coming from. This will create light to bounce around your shadows, and give the skin multiple tones. I used a pink/orange color. To add even more radiant light, take a soft yellow tone and create a new layer set to Hard Light. I use a sketch brush to detail in areas of the hair, back, and hands that would reflect the most light.

Don’t forget to light your background, too! Use the same steps and principles to light your characters. Only, I like to use a blockier brush for the lighting in backgrounds, especially if the background is blurred.

We are almost done! I like to add a layer to tidy up some finishing touches – hair strands, clean up some lines, making the eyes reflect. Then, I like to go into my line art layer and push it back to full opacity. Create a clipping mask onto your line art layer, and you can eye-drop the colors around it to mask the line art with the character. Or, if you like a bolder line art feel, you can change it to any color you like!

Feel free to play with some final effects to give it a finished look. If you go into Actions > Copy Canvas > Paste, it will take the entire canvas and copy it to a new layer. Here, we can play with the color curves, perspective blurs, and noise. Play with these settings to create a desired effect!

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Lighting is my favorite part of creating an art piece. You can breathe life into a piece using lighting

I’d love to create with you! I am open for freelance and full time work!: jaylerart@gmail.com

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