Drawing A Sugar Skull In Procreate

Posted on 06th April 2020

I’ve always enjoyed drawing, but with a pencil and paper. I recently discovered Procreate on my iPad and decided to buy it. Since then I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with different drawing techniques.

In this post I’m going to take you through the process of drawing a sugar skull (AKA day of the dead skull) using an old school tattoo technique. But first, here is what the finished piece looks like:

Note: I have the Procreate symmetry tool enabled for this drawing.

1. Sketching

The first step for me is always a sketch. To do this I used the construction pencil in Procreate and set the colour to a dark red.

This is a very simple sketch of the basic shapes that will make up the skull.

As you can see, there is a circle for the skull, a rectangle for the jaw, a couple of ovals for the eyes and an upside-down heart for the nose. There are also a couple of extra circles that I’m using as a point of reference for the cheek bones.

2. Detailed Sketch

Now I have a very basic sketch, I create a new layer and started drawing a more detailed sketch. I personally reduce the opacity of the initial sketch layer, then use the construction pencil again, but with a black line this time.

In this layer I’ve also added the various rough flowers, patterns and lines that make up the basis of the sugar skull.

3. Line Art

That’s the sketching done. It’s now time to start adding the line art on a new layer. This is the black outline that will be visible in the final drawing.

For the line art, I’m using the smooth marker pen. I’m using this pen because it has a slight texture to it, which I think gives the line art a little more authenticity.

Now I have my line art done, I turn off the sketching layers as they’re no longer needed.

4. Colour

We’re making good progress, and now it’s time to start adding colour. For this, I duplicate the line art layer, then start colouring in on the lower of the two duplicated layers.

This is so the blank line art layer is always above the the coloured layer, ensuring the line art is always kept clean. So my layers now look like this:

It’s starting to look like a sugar skull, but at the moment it looks more pop art than old school tattoo. We need to add shading to give it some character.

5. Shading

Shading is so important as, in my opinion at least, it’s what makes the drawing really come alive. This time I create a new blank layer and place it above my coloured layer, but below my line art layer.

Now we’re talking! By adding some simple shading I’ve managed to accentuate the different shapes in the skull and really give it some depth.

To add the shading I used the medium airbrush pen at various sizes. Simply adding airbrushing and erasing any overspray I didn’t want.

6. Background

Our sugar skull looking really good, but to finish it off, I think it needs a background. I decided to add a vintage paper background. For this, I simply searched for “stained paper background” and saved one I liked the look of.

I then used the “insert photo” option from the actions (spanner) menu. This will plop the image on top of everything else – not exactly a background!

To make it a background, stretch the image so it covers the entire canvas, then select the image from the layers menu and enable the multiply option. This effectively turns the image into a background and superimposes the background across every layer.

I then played around with the colour and opacity settings of the background image until I was happy.


I’m really happy with how this drawing turned out. I’d like to thank The Broken Puppet on Youtube for the inspiration on this one.

Why don’t you have a go at drawing something similar? If you do, please let me know as I’d love to see your versions of this fun drawing.

If you want to see more of my artwork posts, take a look here.

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