Imagination Goes Far Beyond What the Eyes can See.

2D Game Level Design Using iPad and Procreate

2D Game Level Design Using iPad and Procreate
October 2, 2020 wfire3

In this short overview video you`ll find a sped-up overview of how I create 2D Game Level Artwork using my iPad and the Procreate app so please Like, Subscribe To My Channel, and Stay Tuned for much more upcoming content!

Visit our Cre8tive Media Vault Design Tutorials page to find in-depth guides and videos on how to get started creating your own media content.

2D Game Level Design Using iPad and Procreate (Overview)


An iPad is a great device to get started on when beginning game design for quite a few reasons.

Firstly, other than plain old pencil and paper, an iPad is actually one of the cheapest options to get started with. You don`t necessarily require the newest model either. A used iPad is usually good enough as long as it can support the latest iOS and graphic app updates. You can usually find used iPad models online for under half the price of their original selling price, especially if they are around 2 years old.

Other tablets such as a Microsoft Surface Pro with apps that are downloaded from the Google Play Store will also work as well, but I personally tend to lean a bit more towards Apple products in this area (partially because I used to be an Apple employee here in Japan) but also due to the overall quality and durability of the Apple iPad series in general as well as the stability of their iOS operating system, and their screening/testing of third-party apps before they are allowed to be released on the App Store.

A used iPad will physically last for years until it can no longer install the newest iOS updates. Then it`s time to get a new (used) one.

Also, unlike a Wacom tablet or other drawing devices that require a computer screen or additional software, such as Adobe Creative Cloud, to operate, a tablet allows you the freedom to create anywhere and work as you go! This means that you can immediately start sketching any new ideas or characters that you can think of at your favorite coffee shop or while riding the train. Inspiration comes and goes, but so having a good tablet with your favorite creation apps makes things highly accessible!


How Does It Work?

The main thing that you`ll need to do is grab a pen, a notebook, or your tablet PC and head out to any random destination where you can concentrate, preferably a place where you can find yourself surrounded by colors that might actually contribute to the overall theme, look and environment of your game.

For example, if I`m making a game with characters that are based on sweets, I might want to hang out near a coffee shop, candy store, Baskin Robbins or a shopping mall because I can get a lot of ideas and inspiration from there.

Likewise, if my game has a forest theme or environments, I may want to hang out by a place with a wooded or river nearby so that I can get some inspiration.


The Tools Of The Trade.

The tools that I`m using in the above video are:

* iPad 6th Generation (2018 model – compatible with Apple Pencil) – I bought this 2nd hand from a reseller. The iPad that I`m running is currently updated to iOS 13.7.  

* Procreate

* Apple Pencil 1st Generation (I bought this 2nd hand as well) (but any stylus will work. My backup stylus is a Wacom Bamboo Fineline Stylus Pen )

Apps such as Sketchbook Pro App , Paper by 53, and Adobe Photoshop Sketch also work just as well.


The Objective.

The objective of this training is for you to start pre-imagining and laying out your levels on iPad so that you can get a good image of how you want your levels to look before you start trying to create them in Unity.

You`re going to use the following process in Procreate, Sketchbook Pro, or your other favorite (cheap) graphics design app.

#0 – WRITE YOUR GAME LEVEL OVERVIEW!!! – By now, if you`ve been following along with my game design course, you should know that before you start trying to sketch, design, or layout a level, it is always a good idea to draft a written overview of the level and the elements, obstacles, powerups, enemies, and bosses that it should contain.

Just write a quick summary like this one:

Level 3a (type: side scroll platformer) Candy Factory5 factory levels (10 iPad screens), 1 BOSS (Boss name: Wiley Bonka), Main enemies (Tackle Monkey, Berry Slasher, Sliding Ghosty, Tak-Tik Angel, Candy Corn Crow, Jelly Rancher, Homing Ghosts), Advanced Enemies: (Bandi Witch, Fire & Ice), Obstacles: (Falling spikes, Spikey Candy Pinwheel, Flaming marshmallows, Soda Pop Vats, falling platforms).

You can always change this summary and add to it/subtract from it later!

Writing this beforehand will definitely save you a LOT of time when you are laying out your levels on iPad or in Unity because you`ll already have an idea of the basic elements that should be in the level and you will not have to waste unnecessary time thinking about it. This technique will help your basic level design go much smoother. The additional elements will just be “fluff” and used to increase the overall experience for the player.


1) Sketch out the static level elements such as: 
– Trees, rocks, bushes, bridges, background mountains, background clouds (for parallax), flowers, buildings etc.  – You`ll only need to sketch one of each item as we will be copying and pasting them into multiple scenes (probably using a different canvas) later.

You can go ahead and color the static elements if you like while creating a color palette template for the level, or you can just use wireframes.

2) Sketch out the obstacles in the level (pitfalls, jump platforms, spikes, boxes, etc).

3) Add enemies to the level after adding the obstacles.

4) Add power-ups to the level.

This is the basic format that we`re going to use. However, it may still be difficult to know where to start doing all of this, so watch my video for more detailed steps!

Video Summary

As you can see from the video, I`m basically laying out different parts of the level using separate screenshots from Procreate on my iPad. Each screenshot is a continuation of the level.

This helps me layout things exactly as I want them in Unity (which I will show you how to do in another video) so I can practically just set up all of the game elements by overlaying them on the background drawings while adjusting the layers and depths.

Using this method, I can have linear layers, stacked, staggered or other types of layouts. It doesn`t really matter.

The individual elements that we drew can easily be copied and pasted into a new canvas in order to quickly create a new level layout in Procreate.

8-stage Level Design Rule:

Now, when it comes to 2D side scroller level design, there are a few simple rules that I like to follow when it comes to laying out my screens. These rules are not so much for the actual design, but more geared towards allowing the player to properly experience the story and the game environment before things get more intense and they just have to focus their attention on surviving by killing monsters.

The format that I tend to go by when introducing a new level is as follows:

  • Screen 1 –*The Most IMPORTANT  SCREEN* -Environment & Scenery Intro (no obstacles or enemies) This allows the player to focus on enjoying the scenery and get into the “mood” of the environment they are in before starting to fight enemies.
  • Screen 2 – Small Obstacles and small drops Again, this allows the player to “ease into” a level while getting a feel for the game mechanics of the level (jumping, shooting, swimming, etc.)
  • Screen 3 – 1 basic enemy and an obstacle Gives the player something to shoot at and introduces them to the basic “feel” of enemies they might be facing in the level. So for example, if this level happens to be a graveyard, maybe putting a zombie enemy in this zone would help the character get the feeling of “OMG, I`m going to be battling the undead!”
  • Screen 4 – 2 basic enemies, obstacles and a pitfall Here is where you start combining enemies and obstacles for the player overcome. They have to start thinking of strategy at this point.
  • Screen 5 – 4 basic enemies + 1 advanced enemy intro + a pitfall + a power-up Here you`ll introduce a power-up (or new weapon for the player) and introduce one advanced enemy that may have more health points or is in some way more difficult for the player to reach and kill.
  • Screen 6 – 6 basic enemies + 2 advanced enemies + offscreen spawn enemies Now that things are heating up and the player is focused on defeating enemies on that they can see on the screen, it would be a good point to start introducing enemies that can appear from nowhere to start “stalking” the character while keeping them on their toes.
  • Screen 7 – 8 basic enemies + 4 advanced enemies – Screen 7 is where you can introduce a few “harder to kill” enemies, such as tanks, necromancers, or enemies that provide a greater challenge/are more of a nuisance to the character.
  • Screen 8 – same (Level goal/Jump point) – For a starter/beginning level, 8 screens could be enough for the player to reach a simple goal point. This could be like Mario`s flag pole before the castle or maybe even a jump to the next level. It all depends on how long and hard you would like to make the level.  These are the basic 8 “starter/intro” screens that I like to use for each level. Each screen can actually represent 1 ~ 3 iPad screen depending how much time you want to give the player to “experience” each part of the level.After that…
  • Screens 9 ~ 12 – Are basically a free mix where you can go crazy introducing more difficult obstacles and enemies until you decide the player has had enough and want to feed him a boss to battle.


So I really hope that this helps you out with your game level design! It can be a pretty fun & creative process! In the meantime, don`t forget to check out the rest of my tutorials on this site while also taking a look at our links below! 

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