Creating a ‘mixed media’ type background on the ipad.

I recently created the ipad painting above for the first lesson in Willowing's 2014 Lifebook and was asked how I did it. So, here's some tips.

NB. I use the Procreate app on the ipad almost exclusively.

The thing to remember about digital art is that it's possible to get a much more 'perfect' result than with real media, and it's that perfection that gives it away as a digital piece. That's great if that's what you want, but if you're looking for something just a little more natural looking, there are three or four key areas where real painting will look less perfect than digital painting:

  • Uniformity of colour
  • Luminosity of colour
  • Texture / stroke of pen / paint
  • Texture of paper

Luckily, most of these can be addressed during the final stages of the painting, using an overlay. Eg, the ipad painting below has got a fair amount of texture in the 'paint' (achieved using different brushes) but the uniformity of the background colour and lighting makes it look very digital.

By importing a paper texture (Google 'paper texture' or 'paper texture overlay') to a layer above the artwork and changing the blending layer to something that works for that particular piece (often Multiply or Overlay), the feel of the piece can be changed quite significantly. You might need to play with the layer opacity to get the right look for you.

I used quite a grungy paper texture

My tips for creating interesting digital paintings are:

  • Make use of layers. Layers can be altered in terms of positioning, size, opacity, saturation, independently of any other layers, so add real control.
  • Make use of layer blending options to make the layer interact with the layer below.
  • Experiment with different brushes to add texture and interest to your piece
  • Adding a texture overlay is a great way of adding interest and texture.

So, to create a background in Procreate, I first of all use a nice rough textured brush to lay down some colours, smudging them slightly (with a rough textured brush) until I like the result:

Then I create a new layer with something different on it. Eg, paint splats.

I decided to change the blending mode to Overlay to get a more subtle result:

I use a big, rough brush in white to try to emulate the gesso layer. I also add in some purchased gesso overlay graphics (Google 'gesso texture overlay' or 'digital gesso'), again playing with blending modes until it looks pleasing to me:


For the next layer, I used the same purchased gesso overlays but coloured them. I also used the water flicks brush. I changed the blending modes of all these new layers to Multiply

As with real mixed media, you can go on for hours with the layering!

I added a heart 'cut' from a paper texture, and I added a shadow to make it look less one-dimensional

I decided the paint looked too bright and fresh for what I was after, so I then added in a texture overlay over the paint but under the heart.

And there you have it: a digital 'mixed media' background.

I hope that was useful. I haven't explained each step in depth as that would be a long tutorial in its own right, but hopefully it's given some tips.

I'm very happy to hear your tips, too.



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