Tutorial: Creating a Mist Look in the Procreate App

procreate tutorial: mist effect

Hello again! Back with another effect tutorial for the Procreate app in iOS. I’m calling this one “spooky,” since Halloween is just around the corner, but I guess it doesn’t have to be — you could draw a silhouette of a superstar singer, or a fabulous something/someone else, and have the lights and mist pouring around them.

Anyhoo, my place is not to judge what you use this mist effect for. Let’s learn how to do it!

1 - grid, sketching, pink bar

I’m creating this one on the 4×6 size in Procreate; measurements and percentages may be different depending on what size canvas you choose.

My first two layers for anything, you may have figured out by now, are a grid (the grid brush is in the “Textures” group) and a rough pencil sketch. I’ve also created a third layer with a big pink rectangle. I’m going to use this for two things: [1] as a baseline that my text will sit on as I write it, and [2] as a shape I can use in order to mask off the top half or bottom half of my canvas. I’m going to call this the “pink box layer” (though you’re welcome to make this box any color you like).

(How did I make a nice rectangle? I created a custom brush using the square shape and solid fill that are already in Procreate’s library of shapes and grains. One tap gets you a square; then just resize it to fill the bottom half of the canvas.)

2 - write your word

Next up, write out your word. Brush width/pressure settings are up to you. Here I’ve used the “Minimalist” brush from halfapx.com. It’s a nice heavy, solid line, with just a little bit of pressure sensitivity.

When you write, make sure that anything that touches the baseline crosses over it just a little bit. And keep everything relatively close to the baseline — no big swoopy descenders on this one. Here’s a close-up of my overlaps:

overlapping the baseline

Duplicate your text layer, and tuck a copy away. I always recommend stashing a backup copy, in case you (and by you, I mean I) mess up and need to start over.

Now we’re going to use our handy pink box layer to chop off the very bottoms of those letters. Pull down your layers, select the one with the pink box on it, and tap on the image thumbnail. Choose Select Contents from the layer menu. This is going to mask off the top half of the canvas, so anything that you now do will only show up on that bottom half where the pink box is.

Select the layer with your text in it. Tap on the image thumbnail to get the layer menu to pop up, and select Clear.

Cropped little bottoms

This should have shaved off the very bottoms of your letters, so that they now sit totally flat along the top edge of your pink box.

That text layer is now done!

Duplicate the layer, then flip your duplicate layer over. (Choose the arrow icon in the upper-left of your screen, then the Flip Vertically icon along the bottom [an upward-pointing arrow underneath a three-sided squarey thing, like an arrow wearing a hat].)

duplicate and flip

Move your flipped duplicate down so it’s juuuuuust overlapping the top text. You may need to nudge it up a tiny bit — just so you can’t see any of the background color between the two.

Make a copy of that flipped layer, and tuck it away. Because YOU NEVER KNOW.

Now we’re going to distort the upside-down layer:

distort bottom text layer

I’ve gone all full-screen so you can see what I’m doing here. Select the entire flipped text layer (arrow icon, upper-left). Then tap and hold each of the little circles at the bottom corners. After holding for a moment, you’ll go into Distort mode, and you can pull that circle wherever you want.

If you want to be really, really precise, you can use the gray grid background behind your document and count the exact number of squares to the left and right, so everything’s totally even. I just eyeballed it here. Left or right can be off a little bit, but for your first try at this, I recommend keeping the bottom parallel to your canvas. (If you don’t, your flipped shadow-letters may not match up right with the upright letters.)

Now we’re going to do some duplicating and blurring. You’ll want three copies of this flipped and distorted shadow layer: one regular, one with 25% gaussian blur, and one with 50% gaussian blur. (And you’ll want to mask off the top half of the canvas when applying that blur. Go to your pink box layer, choose Select Contents, and you’re good to go — all masked off.

We’re going to do some erasing of the two blurred layers:

25 percent gaussian blur

Set your eraser to a nice, big, soft airbrush, and nibble away at the very top of the 25% blurred layer. Don’t erase more than, say, a quarter of the way down.

50 percent gaussian blur

Now do the same erasing to the 50% blurred layer, but erase farther down — like halfway.

When the three layers are on top of each other, they now have a kind of gradient blur: sharper where the shadows meet the letters, growing to fuzzy at the very bottom of your canvas.

(If you’re doing this effect on one single, solitary object, you may be able to use the Perspective Blur instead, placing your crosshairs directly on the line where the upright text and shadow meet, and aiming the perspective arrow downward. For a longer item like this, however, Perspective Blur looks great right in the middle, but really borks up the shadows to the left and right.)

combined upright and shadows

So here’s our combined text, with the upright letters and the three layers of shadows.

Time for mist!

First, you’ll need a black background. Either color the Background layer black, or just put in a new layer below all of your other layers and fill it with black.

Now, we’re going to mask off the bottom half of the canvas, and start with the mist on the top half. Go back to your pink box layer and Select Contents. Then invert the selection. (Long press on the “S” icon in the upper left of your screen, until a menu appears along the bottom. Tap on the thing that looks kind of like a plus sign made up of two V-shapes.) Now the only area where you can actively draw is the top half of the canvas.

top half - white mist

You could use a number of brushes for the mist, but I prefer the Nebula brush (in the Luminance brush group). But you could try the Cotton brush (Organic group) or the Clouds brush (Elements group) or even Wet Sponge (Water group) if you like the looks they give you.

I started with a heavy, solid white along the bottoms of the letters, because my light source is low. For the upper parts where it starts to get wispy, play around with the size and opacity of your brush. I did more large billowy-cloud on the right, but more thin tendril-ish on the left.

top color mist layer

You could leave this as all white, but you could also add some colors. Now I’m not going to stop you if you want to do a rainbow effect here, but for your first attempt, I’d recommend keeping it to two or three colors, just to get the feel of it. I went with pink on the left, purple on the right. You can overlap the white in some places, and have the color mist over just black in others — it all adds to the depth.

(I probably don’t need to mention, since you know I’m a layer fiend — I did one layer for the white, and a separate layer for the pink/purple. You don’t need to be as layer-happy as I am here; it can all go on one layer. Up to you.)

bottom white reflection layer

Now let’s move on to the bottom half. Invert your masked area again (press on the upper-left S icon until the bottom menu appears, then pick the plus-looking thingy) so that the top half is excluded, and we’re just working on the bottom half.

Now, again, you have brush options here. I opted for a big soft airbrush — I didn’t want the sharp details of the Nebula brush on this part; more a soft reflection, like the letters are sitting on ice or something. If you want the sharper details, though, you can totes do that. Nebula, Cloud, Cotton, play around with the brushes and pick which one you like the best.

I tried to mirror the patterns I’d established on the top half — super bright where the letters meet, fading out as you move away.

bottom color mist layer

And then mirroring the use of color as well.

(It occurs to me just now that I might have been able to duplicate the top mist layers, flip them vertically, then apply some gaussian blur or something to them. But that would have robbed me of more drawing, so I’m cool with the way I did it. If you’d rather flip and blur, I won’t judge!)

top and bottom mist together

Clear your mask away (click on the arrow icon, upper-left) and check out the whole thing together. If you like, you can call it done!

I, however, don’t like that I can see the line between top and bottom so clearly. So I’m going to add some more mist (on its own layer) to blend the top and bottom halves a little more. And I’ll do some tendrils of mist in both the top and bottom halves, to give the appearance of the mist pouring out around the outside of the letters, along the “ice” surface of the bottom half.

a layer of misty tendrils

Here’s that layer all by itself, so you can get a feel for what I did here.

And now, I truly am going to call it done. Here’s the final product:

final mist effect

So there you have it, a backlit misty look. Good for 1,001 spooky or non-spooky uses! Please tag me on Instagram (@geekmissy) if you try this out, or feel free to leave a comment here. And let me know if you have a text effect in mind you’d like me to try recreating in Procreate!