How to Paint a Digital Watercolor CityscapeFeb 11, 2021
With all the chaos of, you know, everything right now, I’ve been trying to capture and create bits of serenity whenever possible. When Peggy invited me to contribute to this tutorial, I thought this little cityscape scene would be a perfect encapsulation of some peaceful vibes!
My name is Addie (so lovely to meet you!), and I make tutorials and brushes for Procreate over at Wooly Pronto. For this project, we’re mixing soft watercolor with some sharper ink details. We’ll be using the Inka brush, which comes with the app (you can find it under the “Inking” brushes), along with a watercolor brush and texture canvas I’ve created specifically for this.
The canvas has a watercolor bloom texture layer which reveals itself as you paint on the layers below. Feel free to shift, flip, or rotate the texture layer to change the placement of the pigmented areas - this will help make the piece uniquely yours!
Now, without further ado, let’s get into painting!
- Watercolor Paper Texture File (the provided one is 3000x3000 pixels, 300dpi)
- Color Tilt Watercolor Brush (freebie for you!)
- Inka Brush (Default Procreate brush, under “Inking”)
- iPad with Procreate app
- Apple Pencil
Step 1: Create a watercolor wash background in Procreate
First, we’re going to paint a gradient wash using the Color Tilt Watercolor Brush.
This brush uses Procreate’s dual-color feature, meaning you’ll need to choose a primary and a secondary color to paint with. As you paint, the color will shift between the two depending on how much you tilt the pencil. Here, I’ve chosen a dark teal for the primary (left) color, and mint for the secondary (right) color.
Select the Sky layer from the Layers panel. With the brush set to a large size, start painting the wash at the top, applying more pressure to achieve a darker color. Using one continuous stroke, start to tilt the pencil to transition to the second color. Reducing pressure as you paint will help achieve a more diluted appearance.
Next, in the color panel, switch the primary color to soft pink, keeping the secondary color set to mint. This time, paint the wash from the bottom up, so that the pink is darkest at the bottom of the wash before fading into the overlap of colors. Again, tilt the pencil as you start to overlap with the blue/green part, and use lighter pressure for a diluted effect.
Step 2: Apply Gaussian Blur
To blend the gradient, tap the wand icon in the upper left to open the Adjustments panel. Select Gaussian Blur, and then select Pencil. Now use the brush (still set to the Color Tilt Watercolor Brush) to selectively apply the blur filter, smoothing the transition of color. To adjust the strength of the blur, use a finger to drag the blue slider bar from left to right; I set mine to about 80%.
Step 3: Paint the skyline
Back in the Layers panel, move up to the Foreground layer to paint in the city skyline. Switch to the Inka brush, and choose a corresponding dark color. I selected a darker variant of the teal from the gradient.
To draw buildings, start with squares and rectangles. I find it easier to start with the tallest building first, and then fill in the rest of the skyline in segments, kind of like building blocks.
Because these are silhouettes, don’t worry too much about separating each and every building - just focus on varying the heights and widths, and try to (generally) keep them level.
Then go back in to add some small details like chimneys, smokestacks, and utility poles. These are what really make the piece pop! Set the brush to a smaller size to add the finer details like power lines; this will pull the composition together.
Step 4: Add the moon and stars
Still, on the Foreground layer, change the color to white, and use the Inka brush to paint a crescent moon. You can also dab in some stars at the top of the sky, where the wash is darkest. Then switch to a gold color to add a sliver of color within the moon shape.
Step 5: Smudge to Soften
Now switch to the smudge tool, still on the Inka brush. Use this to blend the white and gold of the moon, and to soften some of the stars. Then, using short, horizontal strokes, blend the outside edges of the skyline back and forth. This will pull the pigment around, varying the opacity of strokes, and will help it blend more with the soft watercolor below.
Step 6: Paint the Background Buildings
Move to the Background layer, between the Foreground and Sky layers. Switch back to the Color Tilt Watercolor Brush, and choose a mid-tone color for the background buildings. I selected a softer, less saturated version of the dark teal. Just as before, paint in some rectangle shapes for these buildings, and then go back in to add some extra details to the silhouettes.
The watercolor brush naturally softens these buildings, which gives them a distant look. To make them look even more distant, you can adjust the layer opacity - simply tap the “N” on the layer, and drag the opacity slider to reduce the intensity.
And that’s it! If you paint this and post it to Instagram, I’d love to see it; tag me @woolypronto. Wishing you all the calm + serene vibes -- thanks for hanging out to make some art with me!
I’m Addie Hanson, from Wooly Pronto. I’m a full-time artist, creator, and dabbler, currently living in a plant-filled apartment in Chicago with my husband Mike and our cats, Pokey and Pronto.
My professional background is in fashion design, and after college, I spent 5 years designing children’s clothing. However, my heart has always been in creative entrepreneurship, and in building communities and connections online. After a couple of years of creating tutorials and digital art content, I left my corporate design job to run Wooly Pronto full time in 2019.
Now I post video tutorials every Wednesday, all about painting in Procreate. You can keep up with me here:
Pint for later to find this blog post anytime.