How to backup your iPad [2024]

[Updated March 2024] You don’t need a special occasion like ‘the New Year’ to prioritize digital housekeeping. It’s a routine practice that’s crucial to safeguarding your design work and data, ensuring against unforeseen mishaps. This article covers what is needed to keep your digital workspace organized and protected, as well as a couple of Procreate specific steps to make sure your resources are secure and protected. 

Most people have  iCloud automatic backups set up, and that is great, but they have been known to be unreliable. It can take a very long time to make a full restore if you ever need it. Also, iCloud only has a certain amount of storage space and it’s often not enough to backup, so it’s best not solely rely on it.  

So today I’m going to show you two ways to backup your iPad. And both are necessary, it’s not a case of either or. 

The first option shows you how to backup your iPad as a whole. This gives you a ‘snapshot’ of all files, apps and settings on your iPad at the time of the backup, and is useful if you ever need to do a full restore. The downside is, you can’t access any individual files – it’s locked as one whole backup. If you were to lose a Procreate file you were working on, a whole iPad backup is not much use to you (unless you were willing to wipe your entire iPad). 

That’s where the 2nd option comes in. 

The 2nd option is to back up individual files manually. This backs up all your individual Procreate files, brushes, color palettes and anything else you hold dear. That way, should anything happen, you’ll always have a copy of your files safe & sound. I recommend doing this every 3-6 months so it doesn’t become overwhelming.

1. Backup your whole iPad

Backing up your whole ipad enables you to restore it should anything go wrong. This will reinstate 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 to a brand new iPad.

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. 

Please note: If you are running macOS Mojava or earlier, you’ll use iTunes to do this. Otherwise with Catalina or later, you’ll use Finder. Either way, the process is the same.

How to backup via Finder

  1. Your iPad should be switched on and unlocked. Connect it to your computer via a cable. If your iPad cable and computer aren’t compatible, you may need to purchase an adapter.
  2. Open Finder (or iTunes) and click on ‘Locations’ in the sidebar, then click on your device. If this 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 enter your password when prompted on both your computer and iPad.
  3. You’ll see you have 2 options – either backup to ‘iCloud’ or ‘this Mac’. Choose ‘this Mac’. You can choose to ‘Encrypt’ your backup, which will prompt you to set a password. You must remember this password in order to access your backup again though. This is useful for protecting health data and/or personal information.
  4. Click on ‘Backup Now’
  5. Keep your iPad connected and wait for the backup to complete


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2. Manual backup individual Procreate files

Even with a full iPad backup under your belt, it’s also a good idea to save out any artwork or brushes you are particularly attached to, in case you need to access them outside of doing a full iPad restore (which is more than likely).

Start by having a folder on iCloud or Dropbox dedicated for this purpose, so you can keep everything organized. I named mine ‘procreate-backup‘, 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 them 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 navigate to the folder you want to store them – iCloud or Dropbox. 

Check that the files transferred properly to iCloud. I have found this 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 easier 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)

These steps are so important and you’ll sleep better at night knowing your work is safe should anything happen.

8 replies on “How to backup your iPad [2024]

  • 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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