5 Ways to Color Inside the Lines in Procreate

Every artist has their own way of creating their digital art in Procreate. Coloring is an important part of creating digital art. Coloring is not easy to do if you have just started learning Procreate.

There are many ways to color inside the lines in Procreate. You can rely on the color drop tool, use the alpha lock on the layer, use color fill with automatic selection, use the clipping mask, and create a reference layer to color your artwork.

In this article, I will show you five ways to color inside the lines in Procreate.

Quick Guide: How to Color Inside the Lines in Procreate

  1. Using the selection tool to select the area to color, then using the color drop tool to fill it with the chosen color
  2. Using Alphalock to paint existing layers so that you can add color and texture only within your lines
  3. Using Color Fill with Automatic Selection to color inside the lines
  4. Use a Clipping mask to separate layers and allow you to add color and texture to specific areas of the canvas
  5. Set your line art as a reference layer through the layer settings, then create and select a new layer beneath it. Use the color drop tool inside your line art for shading with the new layer active.

Check out the detailed steps of all five methods below.

Method 1: Using the Color Drop Tool

Color drop is a tool that allows you to quickly give color to a shape by dragging the color to the shape. To use the color drop tool, follow these steps:

Step 1: Draw a shape in Procreate. Ensure the line is fully closed with no open gaps to ensure consistent coloring later on.

Picking colors in Procreate

Step 2: Open the color tools in Procreate. Select your desired color from the expansive offerings on the color disc, color palettes or by inputting specific color values. For example, I chose a light red color.

Color Drop

Step 3: Drag the color and drop it directly into the middle of the shape. Make sure you drop it in the middle of the shape, not on the lines or outside the line. 

Using color drop in Procreate

Step 4: Repeat the steps if you have multiple shapes on your arts

Method 2: Using Alpha Lock Tool

Alpha lock “locks” the transparent areas, preventing any modifications or additions to them. 

By utilizing an alpha lock, you can freely apply color or effects to your design without affecting the empty, transparent sections of the layer.

Follow these steps:

Choosing a layer

Step 1: Using the color drop method, fill it with any color to ensure it’s not transparent.

Step 2: Tap the current layer.

Step 3: In the drop-down menu, tap Alpha lock. The alpha lock will be turned on, and you can see the checkerboard on the layer thumbnail.

Alpha lock a layer in Procreate

Step 4: You can now use the brush, color drop or color fill tools only to color the specific part of your artwork.

For example, I use a soft pastel brush with blue color to color the stomach part of my art

Using soft pastel brush with alpha lock

Method 3: Using Color Fill with Automatic Selection

This method is similar to the Color drop method. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Draw a shape in Procreate. Make sure the line is fully closed with no open gaps

Step 2: Tap the selection tool located at the top left.

Automatic color fill selection

Step 3: Tap the Color fill tool at the bottom section

Step 4: Choose the automatic option

Using Color Fill with Automatic Selection

Step 5: Using the Apple Pencil, tap the middle part of the shape. It will change the color inside the shape.

Alternative Method: Using Duplicate Layer and Color Fill

This alternative method is duplicating the current layer to preserve the original lines and then coloring on the original layer below it. 

Follow these steps:

Step 1: Make sure the line is fully closed with no open gaps. If there are gaps, close the lines with any brush tools

Duplicate a layer

Step 2: Tap the current layer, swipe left and choose the duplicate option

Step 3: Tap the top layer (the duplicated one).

Step 4: Using the color fill tool, fill all chosen shapes with white or other colors

Step 5: Use Alpha Lock on the bottom layer. 

Step 6: You can now shade or change the colors using the brush, color dorp and color fills tool. 

Since the layer is locked, only the white-filled areas (or any previously colored areas) will be affected.

Method 4: Using Clipping Mask

The clipping mask allows you to add color, texture, shadow or other effects in a controlled manner to specific areas of your artwork.

Follow these steps:

Step 1: Create a new layer. Rename the new layer to Mask to differentiate it. 

Step 2: Tap the new layer and choose the clipping mask option from the dropdown menu. 

Clipping mask a layer in Procreate

Step 3: Make sure that the clipping mask is activated. You can notice a small arrow pointing downwards, indicating the layer that is providing the clip.

Step 4: Apply all shading and effects to the clip layer. If shading lines seem to go beyond the clip’s boundaries in the layers panel, don’t worry. This is expected and is part of the tool’s design.

Step 5: Merge the clipped layer with the main layer to finalize your digital art

Method 5: Creating a Reference Layer

Using a reference layer in Procreate streamlines the color-dropping and filling process.

Follow these steps:

Step 1: Set the primary layer for your digital art to “Reference.”

Step 2: Tap the plus button to create a new layer, and then drag this new layer below the reference layer.

Step 3: Tap on the new layer to make it the active layer.

Step 4: With the new layer active, you can now use the color drop and color fill tools inside your line art.


What should I do if the color drop isn’t filling inside the lines in Procreate?

Coloring failure in Procreate caused by gaps

If the color spills outside the lines after using the color drop tool, it indicates a gap in your lines. Undo the action and seal the gap using any brush of your choice.

For more information, you can learn from the official Procreate Handbook.

Which is better to color inside lines, alpha lock or clipping mask?

The alpha lock is better as it’s quicker and more straightforward than setting up a clipping mask for coloring within lines.

Should you save your art files before coloring them in Procreate?

Saving isn’t mandatory before coloring in Procreate. The software automatically saves at least 50 actions as you draw. If you make a mistake while coloring, you can simply tap the undo button to revert the changes.

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Kenny HD
Hi, I’m Kenny. I’m a digital artist who began learning art at the age of 21. I enjoy drawing cartoons and fan art.

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