Two years ago today, we released Procreate 1.0 for iPad! A lot has happened since then and to celebrate we thought we’d take a look back, examine just how far the Procreate interface has come and share some secrets along the way!
Project Mayhem. April 2010
The first iteration of Procreate was internally referred to as Project Mayhem. Of the many reasons we chose to develop an illustration app, the foremost was the belief we could honestly contribute something new to the market.
It seemed the big guys didn’t ‘get’ the iPad. We knew with the right app the iPad could be a viable drawing tablet, free from bulky PC towers tethered to drawing tablets. Unlike some of the big guys, we never saw the iPad as a consumption device or a ‘companion’ to the PC. We saw the iPad as the new PC.
Canvas. August 2010
Many months and countless iterations later, we had made serious progress. Project Mayhem was running our first, stable OpenGL painting engine. The interface was finally usable and crucially, we had settled on a product name – Canvas. Although Canvas would eventually become Procreate, it was a very different product. For one thing, Canvas was a universal app focused on the consumer. Another major difference was the tool set. The idea was Canvas would ship with a small set of pens, pencils, markers and brushes, all graded by size. Each tool was represented by a beautifully rendered icon and the only thing a user could customise, was opacity.
Although we were making serious progress, we faced equally serious challenges. The new brush engine was making remarkable progress, and the dual texture brushes generated by this brush engine was miles ahead of what the other guys were doing. The problem was, the current skeuomorphic interface was actually holding back the power and usability of these brushes. It was also decided we should refocus the product squarely towards professional illustrators. This led us to face the cold hard truth; the current interface needed to be scrapped and we needed to start over. We set new goals which rejected skeuomorphic designs and embraced simplicity and efficiency. And more importantly, we aspired to achieve an honest design.
Around this point we also decided that if an iPhone version was to be developed, we must design an interface specifically for the iPhone. Up until this point, the iPhone version was causing interface compromises which were inadvertently impacting the iPad version. So the iPhone version was cancelled and our attention was refocused 100% to the iPad.
6 months later and we were ready to release version 1.0. Although the day we submitted Canvas to the AppStore, we found the name ‘Canvas’ was already taken! Faced with the horrific prospect of having to bastardise the name to something like ‘Canvas HD’, we had no choice but to find an entirely new name. A few hours later and a name was back on the table. It was risky and bold – Procreate.
Procreate 1.0 . March 2011
Free from skeuomorphism and iPhone constraints, the new interface was simple, understated and focused on efficiency. The newly designed brush menu dispensed with chrome in favour of genuine, live brush previews. The stroke was angled to show how a brush behaves when interacting with grain variables, stroke velocity and brush shape.
The charcoal interface, focused attention on the canvas and the most important tools were positioned up front, making tool switching extremely efficient. The precision sliders allowed users to rapidly adjust brush size and opacity on the fly. On its release, Procreate 1.0 cemented itself as a credible player in the emerging iPad creative market.
Procreate 1.5. June 2011
Procreate jumped from version 1.0 to 1.5 in one significant update. Amongst the slew of new features, Procreate 1.5 had a host of subtle but important interface improvements.
Consistency is an important design principle. The iOS 4 popovers were non customisable, dark blue, bulbous, glossy (sorry, I just vomited a little) containers which could not be altered. So while we were working hard to keep the interface consistent, our efforts came undone the moment a popover was called. Because the interface relied so heavily on popovers, we set about developing our own popover controller. The result was a beautifully consistent, semitransparent charcoal popover which not only unified the entire interface, but also gave us the flexibility we needed to build on in the future.
Many other interface tweaks were introduced like removing all textures from the interface, introducing a tabbed brush settings UI and a simplified custom brush creation workflow. Over all, Procreate 1.5 significantly improved usability and efficiency.
Procreate 1.6. April 2012
Procreate 1.6 hit the ApStore with a completely re-designed Retina interface. But the revamped interface was more than just razor sharp assets; Procreate 1.6 also shipped with some of the most significant interface changes to date. One of the biggest changes was the introduction of an entirely new brush interface. We found professional users created brushes for just about every occasion, and they were making a lot of them. We also noticed casual artists, missed the whole custom brush thing.
The answer was simple. The new brush menu would be driven by Sets. Brush sets would help the pro’s by giving them the ability to name and organise their exploding brush library. To help the casual artist, we created 6 new sets of hand made brushes with everything an artist would need, from sketching, inking and painting to new abstract effects.
We also found Procreate users we’re creating a huge amount of artwork. It became obvious the sliding gallery interface just wasn’t cutting the mustard. It was slow to navigate and was void of any organisation mechanisms. Rather than introduce modifications to the existing system, we scrapped the sliding gallery completely and designed a new method of organisation driven by a simple grid layout and a grouping mechanism termed stacks. Together with the grid design, stacks made the gallery easy to organise and quick to navigate. Much like the previous updates, Procreate 1.6 managed to radically improve usability and experience!
Procreate 1.7 December 2012
By the time we started to introduce new features into 1.7, Procreate was pushing iPad hardware to it’s limits. With features such as 64-bit colour, 16 layers, insane stroke performance and mega-brushes, there wasn’t much room for major new features.
Our answer was nothing short of extreme – we would need to completely re-think and rewrite write Silica. Many hot chocolates later and the new engine gave us a massive jump in efficiency. Silica 2 was capable of creating monstrous 4K canvases and the 16 layer barrier was broken by a new dynamic layer system, capable of up to 192 layers! With so many layers, we discovered the layers interface was severely hampered. Thankfully, we are never afraid of discarding our existing interface if we can better it! Pretty much overnight the layers interface was trashed and in it’s place was a far more efficient, gesture driven interface.
The new layers interface was both beautiful and powerful. It could accommodate far more layers at any given time and it also removed much of the clutter. Small fiddly icons gave way to smart gestures like slide to alpha lock, and pinch to merge.
Even though Procreate 1.7 largely focused on backend systems, it also introduced many other important interface improvements, like fullscreen mode, a new magnifying eyedropper and a completely new set of transformation tools. It was the biggest Procreate update to date!
Procreate 1.8 TBA 2013
Our mission to develop the premium illustration app for mobile artists, continues. The next major update will ship with even more features and interface refinements and of course, we undertake each update with the clear goal of never deviating from the core Procreate experience. Many of the improvements coming have been suggested by Procreate users and if you would like to watch as we develop some of these new 1.8 features, check out the public development list!
One last thing, if you haven’t already got Procreate, now is the time! Its on sale for just $1.99 – 2 years of Procreate for 2 bucks!
Over the last few days we’ve revealed all of our classified features. But we’ve had one feature which was so secret, it was Eyes only.
Today, we can finally announce one of the biggest 1.7 features. Introducing 4K sized canvases. Procreate is now capable of canvas sizes up to 4096 x 4096px on iPad 3 or 4—that translates to images over 16 mega pixels in size! And don’t worry. We haven’t forgotten about all you iPad 2 and iPad Mini guys–you’ll be able to create documents up to 4096 x 2616px in size!
Take a look at what some of our Beta testers have been up to!
Its worth checking out the new Procreate website, where you can see more of these insane 4K artworks created in Procreate!
We’d like to thank all of our Alpha and Beta testers who have been working tirelessly on helping us make Procreate what it is today. And a special thanks to Nikolai Lockertsen, for donating so many incredible 4K artworks, for promotional use.
Now that Procreate 1.7 is finally out, its over to you guys. We can’t wait to see what you create next!
When we designed our original layers interface, we had no idea it would be copied by so many competing apps. Unfortunately for those guys, we’ve spent the last few months redesigning and rethinking a completely new way to manage layers. At first glance, you could easily be fooled into thinking there isn’t much to it. But the real beauty of the new Layers interface is in its understated simplicity. Instead of lots small scattered icons, much of the interface is now controlled by simple gestures!
Now that Procreate can create up to 128 layers (smaller canvases), managing layers can get out of hand very quickly. But with the new Layers interface you can fit 11 layers in portrait or 8 in landscape. Combined with thumbnails that zoom to display the subject of the layer, usability has drastically improved.
Modifying a single layer is also improved. Shown below is the tidy new interface to rename or otherwise change a layer.
With the inclusion of many new blend modes, we’ve created a much easier way to choose between the different modes. They’re now also divided up into their respective categories, which makes experimenting a breeze.
But wait until you see all the quick multitouch gestures. This is where the real power is…
Completely rebuilt, Transforming a layer is now a seamless part of the painting workflow. The new transform icon located in the top left, means moving or transforming your layer is always one tap away. With drastically improved performance, you can transform a layer and get back to painting, with no delay!
Something we’re really excited to show is Distort and Shear. With these new tools perspective distortions are as easy as tapping and holding on a point, and then dragging. Also we’ve added a Non-Uniform scale, making it very easy to correct proportions.
The magnet icon on the toolbar adds in some very handy functionality. When on, Magnetic mode allows you to snap transforms to various divisions. For example, when moving or rotating a layer, it will snap to 45 and 30 degree divisions around the origin. Scaling will snap to 25% divisions of scale. Distort and Shear will lock to an axis. Also when in Magnetic mode, multitouch gestures are engaged only one at a time, making it easy to scale but not move a layer.
Check out some of the new multitouch gestures in Transform mode…
We also have a couple of sneaky little gestures… If you need to move the canvas while not wanting to commit a transformation, just hold the the Transform button and zoom and pan. Or you can also hold the Transform button if you just need to make a quick adjustment while painting!