How to Draw a Mystic Moon Illustration in Procreate on iPad
The moon has always attracted people, not only from a scientific point of view as an astronomical object, but also because it is believed to have some magical aspects which influence our lives. It can even be frightening and sometimes creepy!
If you’ve ever heard of selenophobia, you probably know what I mean. Selenophobia (from the Greek word seleno, meaning “moon”), also known as lunaphobia (from the Latin word luna, meaning “moon”) is the fear of the moon. Like many other phobias, selenophobia originates from painful experiences during childhood.
You may believe it or not, but as for now, let’s get some inspiration from this side of the moon’s nature and draw a mysterious illustration in Procreate. We’ll start with a very rough sketch, discovering all the basic features of this drawing application, and gradually moving to building shapes, colouring them, and adding textures up to the end result. Interested?
Oh, and by the way, you can get the Mystic Moon source file together with other file formats on Envato Elements. This file will allow you to see how everything was made and organised by going through the layers. You will also get a layered Adobe Photoshop file which is convenient to use for your personal or commercial work.
1. How to Draw a Moon in Procreate
I’m using an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil to create illustrations in Procreate. However, Procreate also supports other models of iPads (with iOS 10.0 and newer) which work with other styluses listed in Actions > Devices. The Apple Pencil itself is not on the list, though all its functions are fully supported by the app as well. While choosing your device or stylus, please keep in mind that Apple Pencil works only with iPad Pro, so always check the full information and compatibility of devices and apps before purchasing.
Open the application, and let’s create a New Canvas by clicking the Create (+) icon in the top right corner. From there we can either select one of the canvases from the list or create a custom one. The number of layers in our file depends on its size. The higher the dimensions, the fewer layers you’ll be able to create.
Let’s make a 3500 x 3500 px canvas that will allow us to make up to 12 layers, which is more than enough for this project.
I usually start my illustration with a rough sketch. Let’s open the Brushes tab and select an HB Pencil brush from the Sketching set.
We already have one empty layer by default, so I just pick the brush and start doodling. I can control the Size and Opacity of my brush by moving the two vertical sliders on the left side of the screen.
Once I’m happy with the overall idea of my future illustration, I open the Layers panel and tap the layer to reveal a menu. Tap Rename and change the layer name to “Sketch”.
Here is what I ended up with. It is pretty simple yet detailed, which will help me to focus on shapes and colours.
As you may have noticed, we already have a “Background colour” layer in the Layers panel by default. It allows us to change the colour of the canvas by tapping and selecting the desired colour on the colour wheel. Let’s pick a nice tint of dark blue for the night sky.
Now let’s tap the “+” icon in the top right corner of the Layers panel to make a New Layer. Then open the Brushes panel and pick the Ink Bleed brush in the Inking set.
If we swipe to the left through all the brush sets, we can tap the “+” icon and create a New Set. Then we can drag and drop any existing brushes in this set for quick access.
Apart from that, we can edit the settings of any brush by tapping it. Let’s tap the Ink Bleed brush and edit the Stroke > Streamline parameter by setting it to 5%. This function allows us to smooth the line while drawing, which gives higher control over the strokes.
Then go to General > Size Limits and make sure that the Max slider is set to maximum.
Now we can pick the pale yellow colour on the colour wheel (top right corner) and draw the outline of the moon, using our sketch as a reference. We can also pinch the canvas with two fingers, zoom it, and rotate for our convenience.
I also move the Size and Opacity sliders all the way up to make the line thick and solid.
Once we’ve created a closed path, we can either scribble inside to fill it with colour or we can tap and hold the colour circle in the top right corner and drag and drop it right onto our shape.
Let’s open the Layers panel and tap the N letter on the Sketch layer. From here, we can switch between the Blending Modes and change the Opacity of the layer. Set the Opacity to 45%, making the sketch semi-transparent.
When using a textured brush, you may notice some empty spots or strokes after filling the shape. Use the Ink Bleed brush to paint inside the shape, eliminating the blank spaces.
Now let’s Alpha Lock our moon layer by swiping to the right with two fingers. You will see the layer thumbnail background become checkered. Once you’ve Alpha Locked the layer, you’ll be painting inside the shape, without crossing its edges, which is very convenient for adding shadows, highlights, and textures.
Now let’s add some texture to our moon. First of all, let’s select a darker colour. If you already have another colour selected, tap the square that’s located between the Size and Opacity sliders, and move the magnifying circle on top of the moon to pick its pale yellow colour.
Open the colour wheel and select a darker colour.
If you want to change the options of the colour picker, you can go to Actions > Advanced gesture control and switch between the settings of the Eyedropper.
Let’s go to Brushes > Sketching and pick the Bonobo Chalk brush. Lower the Opacity and start painting over the moon, adding texture.
Now lower the Size and draw along the edges of the moon to make it more three-dimensional.
Now let’s create a New Layer, pick an orange colour, and choose the HB Pencil brush. Start scribbling over the darker areas, adding a realistic pencil texture. Make short parallel hatches, the same way as you do it on paper.
Continue adding pencil strokes along the edges. Then pick a light-yellow colour and fill the center of the crescent as well.
Here you can see the layers that we’re using in this step.
Let’s make a New Layer and take the Ink Bleed brush. Use a dark-orange colour to add short strokes for a cartoon effect.
Lower the Opacity of the layer to 60%, making the strokes semi-transparent.
Now that our moon is finished, let’s Group all of its layers together. Select the top layer and swipe to the right all the layers beneath it with one finger. You will see a light-blue selection and a three-strokes icon appear in the top right corner of the Layers panel. Tap the icon to create a Layer Group. Now we can rename it and fold by tapping the arrow icon.
2. How to Draw a Star
Let’s unlock the alpha on the Moon layer by swiping it to the right again with two fingers. You will see a solid background on the layer thumbnail, meaning that now you can paint anywhere on this layer.
Let’s use the Ink Bleed brush again to draw a star that we have on our sketch layer.
I want to move the star a bit as I don’t like its current position. It looked fine on the sketch, but now the composition is quite unbalanced, so let’s see how we can center its top point with the top tip of the crescent.
Let’s tap the Freehand Selection in the top panel and make sure that Freehand option is selected in the bottom panel. Now we can draw a circle around our star, creating a selected area.
After the selection is created, tap Transform and select Freeform in the panel below. Now that our selection around the star has changed to a square, we can move it around without affecting any other elements on the same layer.
Use the Bonobo Chalk brush and switch to lighter and darker yellow colours, adding that texture touch to the star and making it more three-dimensional.
Both main elements of our composition are ready, so let’s make them pop out of the background a bit more.
Create a New Layer right above the Background colour layer. You can reorder the layers by simply tapping and holding a layer and then dragging and dropping it to the desired position in the Layers panel.
Use the Bonobo Chalk brush and a dark blue colour (slightly lighter than the background) to create a subtle mist around the moon.
3. How to Draw Floral Elements and Herbs
Now let’s unleash our imagination and draw out all those herbs and flowers from our sketch by adding more details and life to them.
Create a New Layer, take the Ink Bleed brush, and start drawing out the first branch growing from the bottom tip of the crescent. I’m using a dark-blue colour for this one, starting with a thin, arched stem and then adding rounded leaves along the stem.
Continue using the same colour to add more elements around the moon. First of all, add a few floating leaves next to the first branch. Then draw a second branch growing from the bottom of the crescent. Place it right above the yellow surface, thus adding contrast.
Move on by adding other branches and leaves. I’m also using the Erase tool with the same Ink Bleed brush, cleaning some spots where I don’t want the leaves to overlap with the yellow shape of the moon.
Once you’re happy with the dark blue plants (by the way, you’re always able to return to them later and add whatever details you want), create a New Layer and use a greyish-blue colour to add those leaves and flowing stems. Make the new grey plants partially overlap the dark-blue ones from the previous layer.
Try to maintain the balance in your composition by adding branches of more or less equal length on both sides of the moon. Don’t forget about the floating leaves—speckle them around the branches as well.
Now it’s time to create the next New Layer. Pick a light-yellow colour and start adding bright strokes to our image in the spots where they are really needed.
I have some plants here that consist of a grey stem and light-yellow flower bud. In order to add those buds, I simply create a New Layer and place it beneath all the other floral layers so that my additional yellow elements will always be partially hidden beneath the top layers of herbs.
Once I’m happy with all the flowers and plants, I make sure that everything looks balanced enough and there are no empty spots or, on the contrary, areas overloaded with elements.
I’m using one of the yellow layers to speckle some stars around the moon by drawing dots of various sizes with the Ink Bleed brush.
Now it is time to add a textured touch to all the floral elements! Don’t worry, you won’t have to draw a shadow on each leaf and flower manually.
First of all, let’s Alpha Lock each of the floral layers by swiping to the right with two fingers. If you do everything right, you will see a checkered background on the thumbnails.
Now take the Bonobo Chalk brush, and let’s start with the dark blue layer. Select a darker colour and go over the layer with wide strokes, adding grainy texture to all the dark-blue pieces. Then decrease the Size of the brush and go over the areas that need some more intense shadows, like the places where the leaves overlap or the spots where leaves grow from the stem, making the stem darker. This way we’ll visually separate the layers from each other, bringing more dimension to our image.
Now let’s blend in some highlights. Pick a lighter yellow colour and draw over the tips of the leaves, adding a subtle silver glow to them.
Work over all the dark blue layer and don’t forget to zoom out in order to check how the overall image looks at this stage.
Now let’s switch to the grey layer and do the same for the greyish-blue plants. Start by adding those shadows and go on to the highlights, making all the tips slightly lighter.
And finally, the yellow layers (both top and bottom ones)! This time, try to achieve a golden look by using orange for the shadows and light yellow (almost white) for the highlights.
Once you’re happy with the floral elements, make a New Layer on top of all the floral layers, and let’s add some more mystic glow. Go to Brushes and select Airbrushing > Soft Airbrush. Pick a light-yellow colour.
Decrease the Opacity and draw very light round spots around all the yellow-gold elements, making them really stand out and glow.
We can add some more volume to our image if we create a New Layer in the Moon group of layers (Shadow layer) and use the Bonobo Chalk brush to make subtle shadows in the areas where leaves are placed on top of the moon. We can play with the layer options by setting it to Multiply mode and decreasing the Opacity to 80%, making it more subtle.
To the Moon & Back! Our Mystic Moon Image Is Finished!
Great work! Now our mystic moon illustration looks balanced and complete! I hope you’ve enjoyed following this tutorial and discovered new opportunities of using your iPad as a fully featured working device while creating beautiful pieces of art in Procreate.
By the way, once you’ve finished with your image, you can always share it and export in multiple formats, including the original Procreate file and a layered PSD file for Adobe Photoshop, which gives you even more flexibility and a wider range of opportunities!
You can get the Mystic Moon file in various formats on Envato Elements, to see how it was made and how the layers are organised. Apart from that, you’ll get a layered PSD file which is easy to use for your personal or commercial designs.