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Create a Paper Cut-Out Effect in Procreate

Create a Paper Cut-Out Effect in Procreate main article image
Posted on May 28, 2021 by Kymmie J.

Paper cutout is usually used for scrapbooking and memory keeping. There are tons of machines and supplies needed to make this possible, from Cricut or Silhouette, scissors, papers, adhesive, markers, and all the ribbons you can find. It’s a beautiful type of art and journaling but can somehow be very time-consuming and messy.

Imagine creating a scrapbook or memory-keeping journal, and you use tons of colored papers. To be able to attach it to your scrapbook, you’d need scissors and adhesive. Sometimes, you’d like to layer up each paper to create dimension and for your photos to pop up, and to do that, you’d use 3-4 different types of papers, you can use glue or adhesive dots to attach each. Then for a final look, you’d use thick adhesive tape to attach your photo on top of the layered papers.

Did you know that creating a layered paper cut-out effect is possible digitally? (meaning no paper and adhesive involved!) And you only need 3 things:

  1. A tablet or any iPad version that is compatible with Apple Pencil
  2. Any stylus or an Apple Pencil
  3. A drawing app, Procreate which is a one-time payment app (no subscriptions!)

It is super fun and easy to create a paper cut-out effect in Procreate. Once you master the techniques, it’ll be just second nature to you. You can also export your artwork as a PNG file and attach it to your digital scrapbook!

Some important Procreate terminologies

(or features that we will use in this tutorial):

Gaussian Blur

  • The term Gaussian Blur is a widely used effect in graphics software, typically to reduce image noise and detail which will smoothen and soften your image. This also helps create a 3D-look effect on your artwork.

Alpha Lock

  • Alpha lock lets you partially change the color of the drawing in the layer that has been locked. Meaning, if you set an image into Alpha Lock mode, and you draw or paint on top of it, the drawing will only be visible on that image and you don’t have to worry about going beyond the lines as it is locked. Gaussian Blur won’t take effect if you set a layer or image to Alpha Lock as it restricts the image since it is locked, so remember to disable Alpha Lock when you intend to do a Gaussian Blur effect on the image or layer.

Do not worry if you feel overwhelmed with these terminologies, you will understand each feature as we go along in this tutorial.

After this tutorial, you will learn how to create an eye-catching paper cut-out effect on your illustrations using the Procreate app.

Let’s start creating!

Disclaimer: I am using an iPad Pro (iPadOS14) for a demo, please check with the app developer if you have further questions regarding the app.

A. Draw your illustration

1. Open Procreate app

2. Tap the + icon > and create a new canvas that is 3000px by 3000px at 300 DPI

2. Tap the Color tool and choose any dark color then drag and drop it to Layer 1

3. Tap on the Layers panel > Tap + icon to create a new layer

4. Tap on the Color tool and choose any lighter color, then tap on Brush tool and choose any brush or you can use Monoline in the Calligraphy section for a solid block shape or illustration

5. Start drawing on Layer 2. Make sure that you close your shapes so it’ll be easier to drag and drop colors into them.

6. Draw another shape or the same one but smaller in another layer with a much lighter color. Then repeat or draw as many as you like in each layer

B. Creating the effect

1. Once you are done with your drawing, tap on the Layers panel and duplicate each layer by swiping to left and select Duplicate

2. Use 2 finger swipe to right on duplicated layers to enable Alpha Lock mode (you will see a checkerboard behind the design)

3. Tap the Color tool and choose black, tap twice to get pure black

4. Tap the Layers panel > tap the duplicated layer in Alpha Lock mode > Fill Layer

5. Remove Alpha Lock by using 2 finger swipe to right or tapping the duplicated layers and tap Alpha Lock

6. Select the duplicated layers by swiping each to right.

7. Tap on Move tool > Uniform > then move or tap slightly the black-colored layer to create a solid shadow, then tap the Move tool to exit

8. Tap Layers panel > Tap on each duplicated layer > Adjustment > Gaussian Blur > Layer

9. Swipe to the right to blur up to 8% or it depends on how far you want to soften your shadow

10. Repeat setting the blurs on other duplicated layers and play with the opacity to create a realistic look

C. Save your artwork

Once done, save your work as PNG by tapping the Actions tool (wrench icon) > Share > PNG

And we’re done!

Remember: The real technique is to draw each element on separate layers, duplicate the layers, color-fill the duplicated layers with Black, and set the blur to create a shadow effect, then play with the opacity. For an advanced effect, you can move the shadow depending on the light source, or add texture and highlights to create extra dimension. You will need a lot of imagination when creating this type of project.

If you are not confident to draw your own illustrations, then you can use letters or even images to create the same effect. Treat it as another layer, then apply the techniques above.

Check out other tutorials on how you can create a paper cut-out effect in Procreate!

There are different approach or ways on how you can achieve the desired paper-cut outlook but remember to start with the basic techniques and work your way once you master them. You’d be surprised at what you can make!

Happy creating and do not forget to share your artwork!

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