When Procreate was first conceived in the spare room of a suburban house in Hobart, Tasmania the dream was to develop the best drawing app for the very first iPad.
“When we originally saw Steve Job’s first iPad presentation it blew us away. All we saw was potential, and how good drawing could be on iPad. From there it was a logical progression to trying to make an app that would be the best iPad drawing experience,” explains James Cuda, Product Designer, Creative Director and CEO.
10 years later, the aim is the same but much has changed. Today Procreate 5X features a vastly improved engine making the best drawing experience even better, the brushes are second to none and hundreds of original features have been added. A lot of these unique features, such as ColorDrop, QuickShape, Time-lapse, Streamline, Two-finger Undo and Paint Filters have changed how artists work and helped improve the creative industry for the better. Procreate now regularly tops the Best Paid App charts, has a passionate global community including thousands of creative professionals and is widely regarded as the industry standard for digital art on iPad and iPhone.
Procreate has always provided artists an abundance of creative potential. Kyle Lambert was one of the first artists to truly recognize and harness this. Using just his finger and Procreate, Kyle’s photorealistic painting of Morgan Freeman is one of the most recognized and infamous pieces of digital art ever created. As Kyle points out, ‘It was huge for me because of the insane reaction the process (Time-lapse) video received online, but also because it proved how powerful the app could be for me going forward.’
Kyle went on to use Procreate for his first big commercial project, creating artwork for Stranger Things. ‘The tools in the app allowed me to realize a new, more illustrated style that I continue to use to this day. It’s crazy to think that what started as finger paintings on the first iPad are now giant billboards down Hollywood Boulevard, and Procreate has been along with me for this wild ride.’
Simplicity and performance have always been at the heart of Procreate. CTO Lloyd Bottomley has worked on Procreate since day one, and sees it this way — ‘Everything I'd like in my own workflow as far as experience and ease of use goes (probably even more so the simplicity) is how we've approached building things in Procreate.’ It is this simplicity combined with unique and powerful tools that has resonated so strongly with digital artists everywhere.
Asuka111, another early adopter and Procreate artist sums it up by saying, ‘It has the best painting experience of all apps. My top favorite feature is the gesture shortcuts. It feels so intuitive to the point that I start to ‘double tap’ to undo on paper.’ But it wasn’t only digital artists taking note of Procreate, and in 2013 the app was recognized for its outstanding design and industry leading innovation with an Apple Design Award.
Taking this award-winning formula and applying it to iPhone saw the advent of Procreate Pocket in December 2014. While the challenges were many, the end result was the Procreate experience in an even more portable form. ‘It's amazing how many times I’ve used Procreate Pocket at art conferences and during portfolio reviews for quick painting demos, or how often I’ve created last minute marketing assets while riding in a taxi,’ comments visual development artist and 3D animator Goro Fujita. ‘It's comforting to know that I have a creative Swiss army knife in my pocket at all times.’
In November 2015, Apple released the first iPad Pro along with the Apple Pencil and, much like the release of the first iPad, it changed everything. With more control over pressure, the added nuance of tilt and a genuine pencil feel, Procreate was able to replicate the closest thing to an analogue experience digital art had seen, and it still does to this day.
Claudine O’Sullivan won a 2017 Association of Illustrators World Illustration Professional Advertising Award for the illustrations she created for the Apple Pencil launch campaign using Procreate. It was her first ever experience at drawing digitally. ‘To my own surprise, this wasn't a complete disaster or one-off experiment,’ reveals Claudine. ‘I tweaked some pencil settings to mimic the colored pencils I use, and the rest was history. I did then, and still do work on the iPad Pro in very much the same way I work on paper.’ Traditional artists could now jump in and create digitally without the previous learning curve. Procreate and Apple Pencil made this transition feel natural and easy.
From here, Procreate has gone from strength to strength. Rebuilding from the ground up in the Metal-native Valkyrie engine improved the drawing and brush creating experience even more. Along with the addition of hundreds of new features including a suite of professional finishing effects and even introducing animation. ‘I have to say that getting animation in Procreate was my biggest highlight,’ Nikolai ‘Nikko’ Lockertsen, renowned digital artist and early Procreate adopter explains. ‘Being able to breathe life into the paintings and suddenly being able to do gags and make movies (was amazing). And of course getting to meet the Procreate team.’
As Nikko rightly identifies, the real secret to Procreate’s success over the last decade is the team of talented and dedicated art lovers who never tire of seeing what Procreate’s community create with their app. The Procreate team may have grown from four to well over 40 over the last decade, but the love and passion to bring artists the best digital drawing experience is just as strong as ever.
After 10 years James Cuda is as enthusiastic as ever about the future of Procreate, ‘It's been a decade of constant iteration and invention, in the quest to develop the perfect drawing application. We haven't reached that goal yet and there is so much more to come. In many ways the last 10 years was just laying the foundation for something much bigger.’