Tracing Diagrams in Procreate on the iPad

Not everyone is born with artistic prowess. I have been tracing diagrams all my life, and going paperless won’t stop me. You can do this using a free app called MediBang Paint, but it’s more complicated than Procreate. Here’s a walkthrough of how I trace diagrams for my digital notes in Procreate:

Tracing a diagram

I usually get my diagram from a text book (PDF) or online, then I add it to Procreate. It must cover my canvas as much as possible, because big images are easier to trace. For my drawing ink, I prefer solid inks. They make it easier when colouring the diagrams a bit later. I avoid using pencils or other types of ink that might leave tiny gaps (no matter how tiny).

Once my diagram is ready and I like the size, I add a new layer above it and start drawing on it. Make sure all your shapes in the diagram are completely closed, without any gaps. When colouring, the gaps leak colour onto the whole canvas, so it is important to make sure there are no gaps.

After tracing, I remove the imported image and check for gaps so I can patch them up. Zooming in picks up any tiny gaps in my drawing. To colour sections, I drag and drop the colours into them.

Some useful tips

You can use the original diagram to pick up the exact colours you want. I occasionally bring back the original image to get colours using the colour picker. For super tiny sections, zoom in to drop your colours to avoid dropping your colours on the edges, which changes them.

Exporting the diagrams

I always export my diagrams in PNG format to remove the background. PNG images are the best for digital notes because they float and blend into the page, which makes them aesthetically pleasing. I love how they look, like they have been drawn onto the page.

Why do I trace my diagram?

I trace my diagrams instead of just copying and pasting them from Google or my textbooks for a few good reasons. All of which have nothing to do with how bad I am at drawing. The first reason is that I hardly ever find perfect images. There’s always something missing or different from what I’m looking for. Tracing adds personal modifications that match my study notes, so I have the perfect diagrams for them. It also helps me to learn faster because I am a visual learner. So, I remember better when I have drawn my diagrams.

Lastly, 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 and productive at the same time. That is basically how I trace diagrams in Procreate on the iPad; hopefully it can help you do the same. Unless you’re a great artist who enjoys drawing, of course.

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