A Creation Story

How Procreate swept the digital-art world from a tiny Australian island.


Sketch, paint, create.


The creators of the premier digital-art app Procreate weren’t exactly set up for success when they started out.

“Even though I code, I’m terrible at it,” says James Cuda, cofounder of the app’s development company, Savage Interactive.

Tasmania: the Silicon Valley of Australian islands.

An artist ever since he could hold a pencil, Cuda was a freelance web designer in Tasmania, the rugged island state off southeastern Australia. He started drawing on an iPad back in 2010, and the experience sparked something in him—the far-fetched idea to develop an app that would help others discover ways of sketching, painting, and illustrating.

The problem was that Cuda only had half the skill set required to pull this off. So it was fortuitous when he met Lloyd Bottomley, a self-taught coder and fellow Tasmanian.

“Finding Lloyd was like a weight off my shoulders,” Cuda says. “We did a few freelance jobs together, and I was like, wow, this guy can really code. I could continue with the design and not have to freak out about the whole coding thing anymore.”

James Cuda (top) and Lloyd “the Ginger Wizard” Bottomley.

With his wife, Alanna (who serves as CFO), Cuda set up Savage Interactive and, along with Bottomley, began to develop Procreate.

The process took 18 months. The team toiled nights and weekends around their freelance work, going through more than 100 design reviews and three complete rebuilds. By the time they were ready to go all in on the app, they had just $15,000 to see them through launch and beyond.

“I grew up quite poor, so for me risking everything was a very natural thing,” Cuda says. “I thought, well, if it doesn’t pay off, hey, I’ve been here before and I’ll be fine.”

They released their app on March 8, 2011. It was quickly adopted around the globe. Today Procreate is the tool of choice among professional and amateurs alike and has been used to create everything from fashion designs to movie posters.

Savage Interactive continues to evolve the product. The company recently rereleased Procreate Pocket for iPhone, which has a high-resolution canvas, enhanced layering, and 136 bespoke brushes. It’s intended to help artists create on the go wherever they may be—from Tasmania to Timbuktu.

Producing a live how-to-draw demo.

Although Savage now has 17 employees, it still feels like a startup, according to Bottomley.

“When it comes to creative stuff, there’s no process at all,” he says. “Someone just comes up with the idea, it’s put into the huge pit of carnage that is the engineering and design team, and we start figuring it out.”

    Procreate Pocket

    Sketch and Paint on iPhone.