How to backup your iPad

With a Procreate update just around the corner, there’s good reason to make sure that your work is fully protected incase of any tech gremlins or missteps.

Most people will have  iCloud automatic backups set up and this is great, but they have been known to be unreliable. You also can’t access individual files and it can take a very long time (sometimes days) to make a full restore, so best not solely rely on it.

Today I’m going to show you different ways to backup your iPad to make sure you’re fully protected. 

1. Backup via iTunes

Backing up using iTunes enables you to restore your iPad as a whole should anything go wrong. This will reinstate your all your Procreate files, documents, settings, brushes and color palettes, to the latest version of your backup. It would also allow you to transfer everything as you had it to a brand new iPad (hint hint Santa)!

You will however, need enough space on your computer to store this though as there isn’t a way to allocate a remote hard drive as the destination.

How to backup via iTunes

  1. Make sure iTunes is up to date
  2. Connect your iPad to your computer and open iTunes
  3. If it is your first time connecting, you might see a message on your iPad that asks if you wish to ‘trust’ this computer. Choose ‘Trust’, and follow the prompts.
  4. Click on the device icon shown in the top left menu
  5. Under the ‘Backups’ section, make sure the radio button for ‘This Computer’ is checked
  6. Under the ‘Manually Backup and Restore’ heading, select ‘Backup Now’
  7. Wait for the backup to complete and keep your iPad connected to iTunes for the next step

Something to keep in mind, iTunes will automatically override the previous backup. This is fine in most cases, but if your latest backup was taken *after* something went wrong, it won’t be much good to you.

There is a way to ‘archive’ a backup so any further backups won’t override it. I recommend doing this every now and then to be sure you have a quality version you can go back to, and I’ll show you how to do that now.

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2. Archive your backup in iTunes

Now you want to now create an ‘Archive’ copy of the iTunes backup you just made. Every backup you make overwrites the previous one. By creating an archive version, you prevent this particular backup being overwritten. This gives you the ability to return to it at a later date (even if you’ve made several more backups in the meantime).

How to archive a backup in iTunes

  1. Click on ‘iTunes’ in the top menu and choose ‘Preferences’
  2. Click on the ‘Devices’ tab
  3. You’ll see a list of your most recent backups. Ctrl click the backup you just made and choose ‘Archive’

Your backup is now saved and won’t be overwritten by the next update.

See this article for more information about how to restore from an archived backup.

3. Manual backup individual Procreate files

Even with a full iTunes backup under your belt, it’s also a good idea to save out any artwork or brushes you are particularly attached to, just incase you need to access them outside of doing a full iPad restore.

Start by having a folder on iCloud or Dropbox dedicated for this purpose, so you can keep everything organised in there. I name mine ‘procreate-backup‘, but you can put them wherever you wish (as long as you remember where!).

There are different types of files you may want to preserve : artwork, brushes & color palettes. We’ll look at how to save out each of these now.

How to manually backup individual artwork files

Saving your artwork out as ‘.Procreate’ files is a good move as it will preserve any app based settings, such as time lapse, animation and layer data. I usually do this for the majority of my documents. Then on top of this, I also save out a ‘.PSD’ version of the most important ones so I can access on my computer in Photoshop. 

To do this in bulk, go to your Gallery and choose ‘Select‘ in the top menu. You can now select several files at once.  I would not suggest selecting every file in your gallery. Maybe try 4 – 8 documents at a time and see how it goes.

Once you’ve selected your first batch, choose Export, and navigation to the folder you want to store them – iCloud or Dropbox. 

Check that the files transferred properly to iCloud. I have found this to method to fail at times, especially if I included too many files in one export. 

How to manually backup your brush files

Brush files are another asset you want to manually keep backups of. There’s a good trick to saving several of these out at once. Shout out to Arcan on the Procreate forum for this handy tip!

  • Use the split screen feature on your iPad to bring the files app side-by-side with Procreate 
  • Open your brush library and tap on the first brush set you want to include in the export
  • Move its position slightly (as if you were going to move it down the set list)
  • While you keep hold of the first set, tap any other brush sets you want to include. You’ll see they get added and you can now drag all these sets to your backup folder on your files app.

If that sounds confusing, might be best to watch the video demo above!

How to manually backup your color palettes

Exporting multiple color palettes works in much the same way as the brush sets, only you tap on the palette title to get a hold on it.

  • Use the split screen feature on your iPad to bring the files app side-by-side with Procreate 
  • Open your color palette list and tap on the title of the first color palette want to include in the export
  • Move its position slightly (as if you were going to move it down the list)
  • While you keep hold of the first set, tap the titles of any of the other palettes you want to include. You’ll see they get added and you can now drag all these sets to your backup folder on your files app.

(This is also shown in the video demo above)

So hopefully there won’t be any issues with the pending update to Procreate 5. There’s nothing worse that technical failures that require reinstalling and setting up, but it is comforting to know your work is safe should anything like that happen.

8 replies on “How to backup your iPad

  • Jonna Kjær

    Thank you very much for this helpful guide (and for your easy-to-follow Youtube demonstration). The procedure seems to work well only for smaller files, though. If you upload a larger Procreate file (eg 50 MB, with multiple layers etc.), the file will be uploaded, but it will only be shown in iCloud as a placeholder, not as a thumbnail. That is, you cannot tell which placeholder represents which image, unless you click on it – which will cause the file to download to your procreate files. I’ve googled this issue and found several frustrated questions about it (the problem has persisted for 2-3 years now) – but no useful solution. Apple apparently hasn’t done anything to fix the problem. I’m using iPad Pro, iOS 13.3.1. and Procreate 5. Have you heard of this problem, and do you have any suggestions on how to solve it?

    • Nicole Mauloni

      No, I haven’t heard of this issue before Jonna. That does sound frustrating. Do you mean you are trying to view from your ‘Files’ app on your iPad and the thumbnail preview isn’t showing? I’m seeing the thumbnails on my iCloud and the files are hi-res 30-60mb. Maybe they hadn’t finished uploading yet? Might take a little time to synch.

  • Marcia

    iTunes is no longer a thing on my Macbook Air 2020 running Big Sur. I have iTunes Store on my iPad Air but no other iTunes app. Is there a newer way to do this type of backup?

    • Peter

      You can find that functionality in the basic Mac finder window now. Just plug in your iPad and look for it as a device next to where your hard drive shows up and click on the iPad. You’ll get the same option that you used to have in Itunes…


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