Tracing diagrams in Procreate on the iPad

Not everyone is born with artistic prowess. I have been tracing all my life; I won’t stop now. You can do this using a free app called MediBang Paint. It’s more complicated than Procreate, though. Here’s a walkthrough of how I trace diagrams in Procreate:

Tracing a diagram

  1. I cut out the diagram I wanted to trace from the PDF. You can find a diagram online even, then add it to Procreate. 
  2. I resized the image in Procreate to cover my canvas as much as possible. The bigger the image, the easier it is to trace it. 
  3. I chose my drawing ink. Solid inks make it easier when colouring your diagrams.
  4. I add a new layer to trace on, then start drawing on it. Make sure all your shapes in the diagram are completely closed, without any gaps. It’s important for colouring in later.
  5. After tracing, I remove the imported diagram to check for gaps, so I can patch them up. Zooming in picks tiny gaps that can potentially mess up the next step. 
  6. To colour sections, I drag and drop the colours into them. When your diagrams have gaps, your colour spills onto the whole canvas.

Some useful tips

  • Use the original diagram to pick up the exact colours you want. I occasionally bring back the original picture to get colours using the colour picker.  
  • For super tiny little sections, zoom in to drop your colours in the right places. It’s easy to drop your colours on the edges (which changes them) or outside small sections.

Exporting the diagrams

I always export my diagrams in PNG format to remove any background. PNG images are the best for creating notes because they float and blend into the page, which makes them aesthetically pleasing.

Why do I trace my diagrams

I trace my diagrams instead of just copying and pasting them from Google or my textbooks for a few good reasons that have nothing to do with how bad I am at drawing:

  1. I hardly ever find the right images I need. There’s always something missing or different from what I’m looking for. Tracing allows me to add personal modifications that match my study notes.
  2. Tracing helps me to learn faster because I am a visual learner. Information sticks better when I do my own diagrams.
  3. It is relaxing, not as relaxing as a colouring book (obviously) but relaxing enough. So I tend to trace my diagrams during study breaks. It’s fun, but productive at the same time.

That is basically how you can trace diagrams for your classes and save yourself some time. Unless you’re a great artist, and you actually really enjoy drawing your own diagrams.

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