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How do I not draw over a layer in procreate?

Procreate is a popular digital illustration app for iOS devices. It provides artists with a wide range of brushes and tools to create digital artworks. One of Procreate’s key features is its layer system, which allows you to separate elements of your artwork onto different layers for easier editing.

When drawing or painting in Procreate, it’s important to understand how to control your brush strokes so that you don’t accidentally paint over elements on other layers. This is especially important when using opaque brushes, as the brush strokes will completely cover up anything underneath on lower layers.

The good news is that Procreate provides several ways to avoid painting over other layers accidentally. In this article, we will look at the main techniques you can use to keep your brush strokes restricted to the layer you want.

Use Clipping Masks

One of the most straightforward ways to avoid painting over other layers is to use clipping masks. Clipping masks cause the content on one layer to only appear within the boundaries of the layer below it.

To use a clipping mask in Procreate:

  1. Create two layers – one for the elements you want to mask (the top layer) and one for the boundary shape (the bottom layer).
  2. Select the top layer and tap the clip icon at the bottom of the layers panel.
  3. This will restrict brush strokes on that layer to only appear within the shape on the lower layer.

For example, you could draw a rough outline of a face on one layer, then clip a painting layer above it. This lets you freely paint the facial features without going outside the lines.

Lock Transparent Pixels

Another option is using the “Lock Transparent Pixels” setting on a layer. This prevents you from accidentally painting over the transparent areas on that layer.

To lock transparent pixels:

  1. Select the layer you want to lock.
  2. Tap the small icon next to the layer thumbnail that looks like a checkerboard pattern.
  3. This will lock the transparent parts of the layer so brush strokes can’t draw over them.

Locking transparent pixels is useful when coloring line art or filling specific shapes on a layer. Your strokes will stop at the edges instead of continuing over the rest of the layer.

Use Reference Layers

You can also use regular layers as visual references to avoid painting over elements on layers below. For example:

  1. Create a sketch layer first to layout your artwork.
  2. Put your painting layers above it.
  3. Hide the sketch layer’s visibility, but keep it there as a guide.
  4. Use the sketch as a roadmap to avoid coloring outside the lines.

The sketch remains intact underneath, while you freely paint above it without accidentally overlapping shapes. Toggle the sketch visibility on/off to use it as a guide.

Employ Layer Modes

Procreate’s layer blending modes can also prevent painting over layers below in some cases. Modes like Overlay and Multiply interact with layers differently than the default mode.

For example, using the Multiply mode, black paint will ignore white areas on layers below. White paint will ignore black areas below. This can create a masking effect while painting.

Experiment with modes like Overlay, Multiply, Color Burn, Linear Burn, and others to see how they affect your ability to avoid painting over specific parts of layers.

Use Layer Arrangement

Take advantage of layer stacking order. If you want to paint on a specific element, move that layer to the top of the stack.

Conversely, layers lower in the stack are protected by the layers above them. Reposition layers strategically so the ones you want to paint on are higher than the ones you want to avoid.

Employ Selection Tools

You can restrict paint strokes to specific areas of a layer using Procreate’s selection tools:

  • Lasso – Manually draw a selection shape around the area you want to paint in.
  • Rectangle – Select a specific rectangular region to paint in.
  • Ellipse – Select an elliptical region as your paintable area.

Activate a selection tool, then choose the part of the layer you want to paint on. Your brush will be constrained within the selection.

Use Layer Masks

Layer masks are like selections that hide or reveal parts of a layer non-destructively. Here’s how they work:

  1. Add a layer mask to the layer you want to partially hide/reveal.
  2. Paint black onto the mask to hide parts of the layer.
  3. Paint white to reveal those parts again.

Use masks to precisely control which areas of a layer are paintable vs hidden from brush strokes.


Procreate gives you many options to avoid accidentally painting over elements on other layers. The key techniques include:

  • Clipping masks
  • Locking transparent pixels
  • Using reference layers
  • Strategic blending modes
  • Layer stacking order
  • Selections
  • Layer masks

With practice utilizing these methods, you can master painting in Procreate without unwanted overlaps. Your layers will remain pristine and separate for easy editing.

Just be mindful of which layer is active, lock transparent pixels when needed, and clip or mask layers together to restrict your paint strokes. With a bit of planning, you’ll be able to create in Procreate without ever accidentally painting outside the lines.