Procreate vs Photoshop – Which is the better tool for designers?

Can these two heavy weights be compared? ...lets find out!

Adobe Photoshop hopefully needs no introduction and has been a go to tool for designers and creatives for many decades, Procreate in comparison however is a relativity recent arrival, and whilst in many ways is a completely different software package it does share comparable qualities.

But is it worth the hype, and which one should you be using for digital illustration?

In this this Procreate vs. Photoshop debate we discuss what there is to know about these two programs and digest where each outshines the other – to ultimately draw to a conclusion on which is the better graphic tool for drawing. But firstly…

Procreate vs Photoshop

Procreate vs. Photoshop – Who are they?

Procreate

Procreate is a cost-effective raster graphics editor created by Savage Interactive that offers digital illustrators an efficient solution for designing impressive graphics.

Unlike its long-standing rival Adobe Photoshop, Procreate made its debut on the App Store in 2011, bringing a modern and user-friendly approach to digital art creation. With a strong focus on mobility, Procreate is optimized for use on iPad and is paired best with the Apple Pencil.

Digital artists and illustrators are drawn to Procreate for its powerful capabilities and ease of use. A stylus, such as an Apple Pencil, is recommended to fully utilize the software’s capabilities, particularly in regards to digital painting and detailed drawings.

Procreate boasts a robust brush library and offers a wide range of tools for creating digital art, sketches, paintings, illustrations, and animations. The app is equipped with unique features, versatile brush settings, and user-friendly creative tools.

Pros

  • It’s very cheap and costs $9.99
  • Anyone can understand the interface. This makes using it a breeze. 
  • It’s awesome for illustrators who need a variety of brushes
  • It’s a one-time purchase
  • It works with a variety of files, including PDF, PSD, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF

Cons

  • Less features compared to Photoshop
  • It has no vectors
  • It’s not the same app for the iPhone
  • Very few tools for editing photos
  • It’s only available for iOS users

Photoshop

Unlike Procreate, Photoshop is a much older application. It was created way back in 1987 by (not Adobe) two brother called Thomas and John Knoll. Photoshop has been updated several times to become the big kahuna it is today.

The original idea was to make a program that would help edit photos. However, over time, it has grown into an excellent tool for creating graphics and images. 

Photoshop unlike Procreate, which is loved by illustrators and digital artists on the go, is a powerful machine for creative professionals. It’s the must-have program for most of these folk. The Creative Cloud avails a number of products for professional digital creators, along with hundreds of tools, advanced brush variations, and more. 

But Photoshop isn’t without flaws. Despite being the industry standard for pro digital artists, it has a steep learning curve.

For beginners, learning Photoshop takes patience and a hint of perseverance. Some say you must start by learning about the Adobe CC suite of products before you can hope to learn Photoshop. However, that does tend to take away all the fun. If you want to jump straight into drawing or altering photos on Photoshop, learning the platform can be quite a burst. 

Pros 

  • It has way more features than Procreate
  • It’s the best photo editing tool
  • You can use it on both Microsoft and Apple
  • It has graphics animation capabilities
  • There is a stock library that you can use
  • There are templates to use

Cons

  • It takes a while to master how to use it
  • It’s not cheap
  • It’s not a one-time purchase
  • You have to pay for it monthly
  • The mobile version isn’t the same

Procreate vs Photoshop – Brand differences

Brushes

With its long-standing history, it’s no surprise that there is an abundance of brushes available for use in Photoshop. You can find nearly any brush you need online, and if you’ve been using Photoshop for a while, you may have already amassed a collection of personal favorite brushes. To the delight of many users, these brushes can now be easily transferred to Procreate.

Procreate has over 200 built-in default brushes, most of which are highly functional. The software also offers a wide range of customization options for your brushes, enabling you to easily create new ones from existing brushes or from scratch. With the 5.0 Procreate update, you can now import brushes (.abr) from Photoshop, making it easier to maintain your workflow.

Versatility

Procreate is designed for tablet devices and even has a Pocket version for iPhone, making it a highly portable option for artists. This allows you to create digital artwork from virtually anywhere, whether you’re outdoors, on the go, or on vacation. The only limitation is the battery life of your device.

Adobe Photoshop is well-known for offering a wide range of options beyond illustration, including photo editing (as the name implies), web design, and printing. It offers built-in filters, camera RAW, and retouch tools for enhancing photos, as well as slicing and saving for web features for creating banners and newsletters. These features are not currently available in Procreate.

Layers

The number of layers that can be used in Procreate is limited by the memory storage and canvas size of your iPad. In contrast, Photoshop offers the ability to use hundreds of layers, which is essential for complex projects and highly detailed drawings. Additionally, you have the freedom to edit individual layers at any point without the need to continually merge them.

The use of adjustment layers is a key advantage of Photoshop over Procreate in my opinion. This feature allows you to modify the colors of your entire artwork, not just individual layers. There are a variety of options such as photo filters, contrast, or brightness that can be applied to multiple layers simultaneously. This is a functionality that is currently not available in Procreate.

Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are an efficient way to speed up your workflow. Photoshop offers a wide range of pre-set shortcuts, as well as the ability to create your own by accessing Edit > Keyboard shortcuts (or Alt+Shift+Ctrl (Command for iOS) +K). While Procreate allows for some functions to be assigned to gestures, the options in this regard are limited in comparison.

Pricing and licensing 

Procreate is an app for iPad users who love to draw illustrations. It costs $9.99 on Apple Store and it’s a one time purchase – once you pay for it, it’s yours forever.

For Adobe Photoshop, things are a little different. It’s not as cheap, and it’s never yours forever. You will have to pay as much as $239 a year, or opt for a monthly subscription. There are discounts every now and then, but the prices rarely change. 

You can also purchase Photoshop with other Creative Cloud bundles, including Illustrator, InDesign, and Adobe Acrobat Pro. But it’s clear to see who the winner is here. There is some reprieve if you like to use the other CC tools along with Photoshop, but even then, it will cost you at least $49.99 a month.

Procreate is a one-time purchase, and that makes it a clear winner here. Unless you work for a company that pays for a monthly subscription, Adobe Photoshop is an expensive tool for solo creators. 

Compatibility

Procreate was made for iPad users only. The designers at Apple wanted to create an application that could work seamlessly with the Apple Pencil. There is yet no desktop version of Procreate, not even on Mac.

There is Procreate Pocket That works for the iPhone, but it’s rarely the same thing. If you bought your iPad without the Apple Pencil, you might want to get one. The Apple Pencil isn’t cheap (even though there are reports of other styluses working with Procreate, these aren’t as effective). 

Another thing, the Procreate app is limited – it works better when you have a high-end iPad. In other words, if you have an iPad with more storage and better graphics, you will have a far better procreate. 

Adobe Photoshop, on the other hand, is a multi-platform tool. It can work with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. There is a mobile version for the iPhone and smaller variations of the app (Photoshop Mix, Photoshop Sketch, and Photoshop Fix) on both iOS and Android platforms.

You can also download a full version for the iPad. In this case, Photoshop is the clear winner. Procreate is way too limited. 

Customer Support

Photoshop allows you to download and use their software for free for 7 days, after which you have to pay for the continued use. The free version contains all the features and updates of the latest version of the application.

You can also use the free version on your mobile phone (both iOS and Android). If you are a student or a teacher, you get a 65% discount. This discount applies to all Creative Cloud apps that they may purchase.

Procreate doesn’t offer a free trial run with the Procreate app. You will have to purchase the app before you can start using it. Also, some iPads only allow the use of the Apple Pencil. Third-party styluses may glitch or may not work at all.

So, who wins here? We’d say Photoshop is the better version, even if you have to pay later to work with the application. The 7-day period is a good chance to explore the software and make up your mind. 

Procreate vs. Photoshop

System Requirements

Procreate works on a wide range of iPad iterations. From the iPad mini 4, Air 2, to the latest iPad Pro, you can use the app without any problems. However, there is a limit to how effective the app can be depending on storage and the graphics quality of your iPad.

If your iPad isn’t up to date, you may find the app ineffective in some ways. You need the iPadOS version 14.4 to install the application.

For Photoshop, the iPad version works on nearly all iPad devices. For a Windows device, you will need at least Windows 10 (for the latest version) and a 64-bit computer. LTSC versions are not supported.

You will also need at least 8GB of RAM on your device and at least 4GB of hard-disk space. Your Mac device will need macOS Catalina version 10.15 or later, 8GB RAM, and 4GB of hard-disk space.

Procreate works better on iPad than the Photoshop version on iPad. It’s hard to pick a winner when one software can’t work on a different platform. We’ll call a draw here. 

Features and Functions

Photoshop has everything a digital artist needs to create anything. You can create digital artwork, media assets, edit photographs, and so much more. Photoshop allows you to retouch photographs and alter a photo’s lighting, hue, contrast, saturation, and much more.

You can create digital illustrations with tons of brushes within the program or get other brushes from different platforms. You can also create a Facebook banner and just about any media using Photoshop.

You can also access other Adobe Assets like Adobe Typekit and Adobe Stock. Also, Photoshop allows you to integrate with other Adobe software and jump between them

Procreate isn’t so bad either. However, it’s tailored for illustrators. It’s also the better app for illustrators using an iPad. It has the blur tool that is missing from the iPad Photoshop app. Procreate will create excellent digital illustrations with over 190 customizable brushes.

You can also create media assets of any size. 

So, who’s the winner. We will go with Photoshop. The software is highly versatile for just about everything. It has multiple graphical areas of focus that give it the upper hand here.

Procreate isn’t so bad either. For illustrations on the iPad, it’s awesome. However, if you want to do more, then you have to look elsewhere. 

User Experience

There is no doubt that Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard. Many companies in the creative world love working with Photoshop. It’s not just the versatility of the program that makes it attractive, it’s also the ability to integrate with other applications on the Adobe suite.

This makes sharing work and collaborating easier. So many people love what they can do with the software. 

Procreate, on the other hand, is a gift sent from Apple for illustrators who love simplicity and effectiveness. Many illustrators have opted for Procreate over Photoshop, and the user base is growing by the day.

Mobile users and creatives prefer this application over the bulky Photoshop.

So, who wins? Perhaps no one. Both programs are important for creatives. There is even a way to work with both programs. For instance, you can use Procreate to draw and fine-tune the image in Photoshop. We declare a tie.

Procreate vs. Photoshop

Use and Applications

Photoshop is the same old reliable photo-editing app. However, it has a plethora of other tools and features that enable it to work on a wide range of other projects. You can use it for digital illustration, animation, and digital painting.

It’s the industry standard tool used widely by individual artists and large corporations. 

Procreate, on the other hand, is the new kid on the block that has mesmerized digital artists. Some think it can even replace reliable Photoshop. Many artists use Procreate to create illustrations.

However, it’s not always recommended by large corporations that often work on huge projects. For use and application, Photoshop gets the edge. Future iterations of Procreate may make it an industry giant, but for now, its use remains among individual artists. 

Learning Curve

Photoshop is a robust software and can take a while to learn compared to Procreate. For beginners who wish to teach themselves how to use Photoshop, it may not be the easiest thing you do. There are many tools and shortcuts that take a long time to master.

But where there is a will, there will always be a way. Photoshop skills can be honed from online tutorials or through college courses littered all over the internet. 

Procreate, on the other hand, is simpler and much more intuitive compared to Photoshop. The app has many features, but many are hidden away so you don’t get overwhelmed and obstructed from the canvas view. For beginners, this is the perfect tool to start drawing with.

The learning curve is short and pretty straightforward. You’ll figure it out in a matter of minutes and start drawing.

The clear winner here is Procreate. While the app is created solely for iPad users, it has nearly as many features as Photoshop but remains pretty intuitive. Photoshop may be classy, but it’s too complicated to figure out quickly.

Future Updates

Adobe Photoshop has been around for decades and is trusted by many pro creators. Millions of people around the world use it. Even the largest media companies highly rely on this tool. For this reason, it’s okay to assume it’s not going anywhere soon.

You can expect as many updates as necessary in the future. 

On the other hand, Procreate has only been around for about a decade. That isn’t as long as Photoshop, but it’s not a short time. The app has been updated several times and has become a standard for many graphic designers and illustrators.

The updates and support for this app will likely continue for a long time. So, who’s the winner here? We’ll go with the ones who have been around for longer. Photoshop is a multi-platform program and updates are almost certain.

For procreate, a similar version may be recycled a few times since it’s only for the iPad. 

Procreate vs. Photoshop

Procreate vs PhotoshopShould existing Photoshop users switch to Procreate?

Yes, and no …here’s why;

  1. It feels better working with brushes in Procreate

There are already more than 200 built-in brushes in Procreate. You can tweak the settings for these brushes (most are broader than in Photoshop) and even create custom ones from existing brushes or new ones.

You can also now import Photoshop brushes to Procreate and keep your work intact. The brushes are also easy to organize in different folders. Procreate allows you to access your recently saved brushes in a “Recent Folder.”

  1. It’s simple and friendly to new artists

Photoshop is an excellent tool for artists, but it can be pretty overwhelming when you have to deal with multiple menus and shortcuts. For beginners, this is a nightmare that doesn’t go away quickly.

Procreate, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. The menu is simple and friendly, and many of the tools and shortcuts are hidden away. This way, an artist (even a beginner) can fully concentrate on their work. 

  1. The price is a steal

You only pay once ($9.99 only) to use the Procreate app for life. As long as you have an iPad and the Apple Pencil, you won’t need to spend an extra dime on Procreate after.

You will feel much better at the end of each month knowing you don’t have to pay for the subscription to use Photoshop. 

  1. You can import and export files across different platforms and devices

What if you have your work in Photoshop and want to fine-tune or add a few more features in Procreate? Well, Procreate now allows you to import your PSD files and continue working. You can also drag and drop your work from different applications into Procreate.

Even brushes and palettes can now be imported. You can import different file types, including PDF, PNG, and JPEG. 

  1. It’s the perfect app for illustrators 

Photoshop may be great for tweaking images, but Procreate is the better app for illustrators. The brush library is extensive; you can tweak them any way you want to create art. The dual-texture system allows you to mix and match the brushes.

You can also make the brush what you want it to be based on what you are working on. But the main part of Procreate that separates it from Photoshop (as far as illustration goes) is the tools you can use to create a large canvas and export your work in high resolution, still, or in video frames. 

Procreate vs. Photoshop

But…

  1. Is it only $9.99? – other star-up costs may be high

You can use procreate effectively anywhere else other than on an iPad. That means that even though the price is pretty low unless you have an iPad and the Apple Pencil, you can’t use it. A good iPad isn’t cheap, and the Apple Pencil also costs a pretty penny.

Plus, you’ll have to get a good iPad with plenty of storage and good graphics to make the most of Procreate. 

  1. Procreate is not as versatile

One thing is for sure; you can also use Photoshop for illustration. Even though Procreate with the Apple Pencil is slightly better, Photoshop gives more than just illustrating. You can edit photos, do web design and printing, and do many other things with Photoshop than you can ever hope to do with Procreate.

Photoshop has built-in filters and retouch tools to use on photos. You can clip and save them for your web banners, newsletters, and much more. Procreate can’t.

  1. You can use way more layers with Photoshop

The fact that you can work with layers almost the same way in Procreate as in Photoshop is a beautiful thing. However, the number of layers you can work with is limited in Procreate. You can use a certain number of layers in Procreate depending on the storage of your iPad and the canvas size you choose.

But you can use hundreds of layers in Photoshop. This is essential if you are working on a complex project that involves a highly detailed image or drawing. 

  1. Keyboard shortcuts are irreplaceable

Procreate allows you to use gestures as shortcuts to some of the functions. This is highly effective if you love working with an iPad. However, the number of gestures is limited compared to what you can get with keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop.

Since Photoshop allows you to work on multiple platforms (including Windows and Mac), this is a feature that you will cherish as a digital artist. 

  1. Complex Projects are easier with Photoshop

If you are looking for a faster workflow, Procreate is amazing when you are working on non-demanding tasks. However, you can never rely on it to help with complex projects that require a lot of focus. 

Procreate vs. Photoshop

Procreate vs. Photoshop – Which should you choose?

Both applications are great for any digital creative. You can even use them together if you want. You can start working with Procreate and then fine-tune your imagery in Photoshop. Or you create a drawing in Procreate and then use Photoshop to prepare it for print.

Either way, it really depends on what you want and how you would like your work to appear. While some features may be lacking in Procreate, most artists will love how cheap and effective it can be. 

In Procreate, beginners have something cheap and intuitive to start their journey on. For Pros, Procreate can simplify some things. You can opt to keep Photoshop as your desktop app and utilize Procreate on the go.

All in all, remember that both software can create amazing drawings. It all comes down to what you are working on, the size of it, and where you find the most joy. 

Still need more info? The below video discusses Procreate vs Photoshop a little further:

FAQ’s about Procreate vs Photoshop

Can Procreate do the same as Photoshop?

Procreate is a powerful digital illustration tool, but it cannot do everything that Photoshop can. While it has a wide range of features for creating digital art and has many brushes, adjustments, and effects, it is not as comprehensive as Photoshop.

Adobe Photoshop is a professional-grade graphic design and photo editing software that has a wider range of capabilities, including web design, photo retouching, and 3D modeling. That being said, Procreate is still a great option for many artists, especially those who prefer a more mobile-based approach to digital illustration.

What can Photoshop do that Procreate Cannot?

Photoshop has more advanced photo editing features, such as support for Camera RAW and retouch tools. It also has more options for web design, such as slicing and saving for web. Photoshop also has a larger capacity for layers and the ability to utilize adjustment layers, which allows for applying filters and adjusting colors to multiple layers at once. Additionally, Photoshop has more robust keyboard shortcuts and supports brush imports from other software.

What are the cons of Procreate?

Procreate has a few limitations compared to Adobe Photoshop:

  1. Layers: Procreate has a limited number of layers available, depending on the iPad’s memory storage and canvas size, while Photoshop allows for hundreds of layers.
  2. Adjustment Layers: Photoshop has the advantage of being able to change colors of your artwork using adjustment layers, while Procreate lacks this feature.
  3. Keyboard Shortcuts: Photoshop has a large number of built-in keyboard shortcuts which can significantly speed up work, while Procreate’s shortcuts are limited.
  4. Functionality: While Procreate has a strong focus on digital painting and drawing, it does not have the extensive range of tools and options that Photoshop offers for photo editing, web design, and printing.
  5. Learning Curve: For beginners, Photoshop can be difficult to learn due to its steep learning curve.
  6. Mobile Limitations: Procreate is a tablet app, so its functionality is limited compared to the full desktop version of Adobe Photoshop.

Can Procreate be used professionally?

Yes, Procreate can be used professionally by digital artists, illustrators, and graphic designers for creating various forms of digital art and designs. It has a wide range of tools and features, a robust brush engine, and a user-friendly interface, making it a popular choice for professional use.

However, it has limitations in comparison to a professional-level tool like Adobe Photoshop and might not be suitable for all professional projects.

Procreate vs Photoshop for drawing

Procreate and Adobe Photoshop are both digital drawing tools used by artists, designers, and illustrators. Procreate is a dedicated digital illustration app designed specifically for iPad and other Apple devices, while Adobe Photoshop is a more versatile design software that also offers digital drawing tools.

When it comes to drawing, Procreate offers a more intuitive and streamlined experience for artists with features like live gestures and a wide range of brush options.

However, Photoshop offers more advanced features for those working on more complex projects, such as the ability to work with hundreds of layers, adjustable color correction options, and the ability to import brushes.

Ultimately, the choice between Procreate and Photoshop for drawing will come down to personal preference and the specific needs of the artist or project.

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