How to Add Reference Photo to Procreate

Many artists work with reference photos when creating their illustrations. And while some people might think this is sort of “cheating,” – I think having a reference photo only helps your drawings. Not only can you use reference photos as a source of inspiration, but also to help you to produce a more accurate and academically correct picture.

This tutorial will show you how to add a reference photo in Procreate. Spoiler: it is super easy.

Step-by-step process

1. Turn on the Reference

To have a reference photo opened in Procreate, you need to turn this option on. To do that go to Actions (wrench icon) > Canvas > Reference.

2. Choose a reference image

As soon as you turn on the Reference toggle, you will see a floating window with three options: Canvas, Image, and Face. Depending on your project, choose the option that works for you.

Reference Canvas

In Reference Canvas, you can view your entire canvas while working, and it will be updated live as you draw. Canvas is the default option when you open the Reference.

Canvas is very useful when you work on a small detail and need to zoom in on the canvas and want to see the overall picture.

Reference Image

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes, you need a reference image of a specific object. The Image button allows you to import an image from your Photos.

Image > Import image > select and image from Photos

An Image is an excellent option because it allows you to bring another photo into your canvas without splitting the screen or using an entire layer for the reference image.

Reference Face

The Face option activates FacePaint and the forward-facing camera of your iPad. Using AR, FacePaint translates whatever is drawn on your canvas onto your face.

Tap on the Face, and your front-facing camera will be turned on, and you will see your face in the reference box. If the canvas is empty, then your face won’t have any mask. However, if you have something drawn on your canvas, it will be mapped on your face. You will see the points for the eyes, nose, and mouth on the canvas – those can be used for reference.

3. Edit the Reference Companion

The Reference Companion can be moved anywhere on your canvas by simply dragging the handle at the top of the window. This will allow you to put your reference out of your way and see your canvas more clearly without blocking a view.

You can also resize the Reference Companion. To do that, tap and drag the bottom right or left corner of the window to make the Reference smaller or bigger. You can pinch-zoom and pan the image inside the Reference Companion to ensure you have the view you need.

When you are done working with the reference image, you can exit it by tapping the “X” in the top right corner of the Reference Companion window.


And this is how you can use a reference image in Procreate. As I promised you, it is very easy to use and a handy feature.

I hope you liked this tutorial. If you did, please consider checking out my other Procreate tutorials and subscribing to Procreate Member Area, where you will find the biggest Procreate Resources Library.






One response to “How to Add Reference Photo to Procreate”

  1. The geeky artist girl everyone ‘loves’ Avatar
    The geeky artist girl everyone ‘loves’

    Thank you for sharing this, I have seen so many people do this and they never tell us how!
    As a young artist, I’m still learning how to use all the amazing features to procreate and this has been VERY helpful. Thank you so, so much and hope you keep helping people grow as artists. Have a great day 😀

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