Procreate has a lot of settings, which are all great, but can get confusing. Two of the great, but confusing settings, are the combine down and the merge down settings. What do each of these do? What’s the difference between combine down and merge down exactly?
The Procreate combine down setting will put your layers into a group, with each of the layers still separate from the others. The Procreate merge down setting will fuse your layers together, turning multiple layers into one layer.
The difference between these two settings is REALLY important. You don’t want to accidentally use the merge down setting when you meant to use combine down. Let’s talk about why.
The Procreate Combine Down Setting Explained
The Procreate combine down setting will lump your selected layer into a group with the layer below it. Basically, it’s a quick way to group your layers.
We’ll use this dog drawing that I’ve been working on as an example. If I want to combine these two layers into a group, I would click on the top layer to open the settings and click on “Combine Down” at the bottom.
As you can see, this puts them into a group.
Important note: it will only create a group with two layers – the top layer and the layer below it. But, once you’ve created a group, you can drag other layers into it.
So, your group isn’t limited to just two layers. Drag as many other other layers as you need into it as well.
The Procreate Merge Down Setting Explained
The Procreate merge down setting will fuse your selected layer with the layer below it, turning it into one layer instead of two. When layers are merged in Procreate it is permanent and can’t be reversed unless you immediately hit the undo feature.
Let’s look at my dog drawing again to see how merging looks. I created two separate layers, one with a sentence and one with drawings of hearts. When I merge them, they turn into one layer instead of two.
Be extremely careful with the merge down setting.
You can only undo a layer merge if you double tap the screen to trigger the undo. But, as I’ve talked about in another post about Procreate’s undo feature, Procreate doesn’t save an undo history for your designs. So, if you navigate back to the gallery or close Procreate, you can’t undo anything, including your merged layers.
This begs the question:
Can You Unmerge Layers in Procreate
When you merge layers in Procreate, you can only unmerge them by immediately using the undo feature. If you wait too long or close your design, your merged layers will be permanent and you won’t be able to unmerge them.
The way that the undo feature in Procreate works is that it will store your undo history until you return to the gallery or close the app. Once you’ve done that, it’s erased and your undo history starts over fresh.
Also, keep in mind that you can’t selectively choose the things you undo. You have to undo every single thing until you get back to when you merged your layers. Depending on how much you’ve done since then, this could mean undoing a lot of your work.
The moral of the story is that you don’t want to rely on the undo feature because you have such a small window in which to use it. Whenever you merge a layer, always assume it’s permanent. Be 100% sure you want to merge your layers.
When in Doubt, Use Procreate’s Combine Down, Not Merge Down
You never know when you’ll need to change something on a layer. It doesn’t take much Google searching to see how many people have merged layers and then regretted it.
Even though it leaves you with a lot of layers to manage, the best practice is to keep your layers separate.
Combine them down and organize them into groups to keep your design organized, but try to resist the urge to actually merge your layers as much as possible.
How to Merge Layers the Right Way
If you really do want to merge your layers, be cautious and save your work beforehand.
Saving your Procreate files is really important and something you should get in the habit of doing. I suggest exporting the .procreate versions of your designs to the Cloud on a regular basis as you work, including before you merge any layers.
That way, if something goes wrong and you regret merging your layers, you’ll have an unmerged version you can restore. Of course, you’ll have lost any changes you made since you merged your layers, but at least you won’t have to start over from scratch.
I have a full guide on how to save your Procreate designs so that you don’t have to worry about losing them if your iPad crashes…or you need unmerged layers!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to save your Procreate files, especially if you want to play around with merging layers. Life happens and you don’t want your designs disappearing in the process.
Understanding things like the difference between the Procreate combine down and merge down settings comes with time. Procreate can do SO much, and it’s a process to learn everything it can do.
If you want to shorten the learning curve and take your Procreate skills to the next level in less time, I HIGHLY suggest getting a Skillshare membership. Skillshare is where I first learned Procreate and it was essential in setting a strong foundation in the program.
They have SO many Procreate classes that are all taught by professional illustrators and artists.
Diana has been an artist for over 25 years and has training in drawing, painting, digital drawing and graphic design. Diana’s latest obsession is digitally drawing with Procreate and creating t-shirt designs with Canva. Diana has experience selling her art across a number of platforms and loves helping other artists learn how to make money from their art as well.