How to evolve and level up Pokémon in Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is different than the Pokémon games you may have played as a kid. You can play it on your iPhone or Android phone, for one. You have to move around in the real world to catch virtual critters. We've already shared our Pokemon Go tips, tricks, and cheats with you, but now we're getting more specific. Now we're going to talk evolution.

Unlike the old Nintendo games, you don't use your own Pokémon to catch new ones — you instead rely on your own personal Trainer Level, your items, and your tap-and flick mastery. This means your active Pokémon won't get any XP love as you wander about the world catching critters; if you want them to get better in the Pokémon Go universe, you have to use Stardust and breed-specific Candy.

How does leveling up and evolving work in Pokémon Go?

Pokémon in the game have a variety of viewable stats:

  • Level arc: This is the white arc surrounding a Pokémon's portrait. The white dot on the arc shows you the level of your Pokémon in contrast to your personal trainer level: Level 1 is at the far left side, while your current trainer level is represented at the far right side. You cannot catch Pokémon at a higher level than you are (because you wouldn't be able to control them).
  • CP (combat power): This stat is a combined number (using HP, attack, defense, and level) that reflects your Pokémon's overall strength.
  • HP (hit points): How much damage your Pokémon can take at a gym before fainting.
  • Type: The type of Pokémon.
  • Weight and Height: Purely cosmetic features.
  • Attacks: Your Pokémon's two attacks — one is a basic attack, and one is a special attack that requires a charge-up.

To increase or change these stats, you need two items: Stardust and breed-specific Candy. The latter will also help you evolve your base-level Pokémon into the next step in their evolutionary chain.

In addition, there are three secret stats you can't level up, called IVs: your stamina, attack, and defense. These were set in stone when your Pokémon came into the world. You can check them (and help decide which of your creatures is worth spending Stardust and candy on) by having your Team Leader appraise your Pokémon.

What is Stardust and Candy, exactly?

There are two items in the game's world you can't buy or trade — you have to find them in the world by catching Pokémon.

Stardust is solely used to help you raise your Pokémon's level and overall CP, while breed-specific Candy can be used in tandem with Stardust to raise your level, or by itself to evolve your Pokémon.

While Stardust is universal, every breed requires a different type of candy. As such, you can't collect 20 Spearow candies and 5 Eevee candies and try to evolve an Eevee (who requires 25 Eevee-specific candies to start the evolutionary process).

Where do I get Candy and Stardust?

You can get Stardust by capturing any Pokémon, or after your trainer level increases. (You earn Trainer XP from catching Pokémon, nice throws, and gym battles.)

Candy only appears after you've caught a Pokémon (5-10 pieces on the first catch of a new species, followed by 3-5 pieces for duplicate catches), or when you Transfer an extra version of that creature to the Professor (1 piece). This is why it's super important to keep catching Pokémon, even if you own them already — those duplicate Pokémon will help your originals evolve!

How much Candy and Stardust do I need to level up or evolve my Pokémon?

To improve your Pokémon's level, you'll typically need 1-4 pieces of candy and 200-2000 bits of Stardust; this usually results in a level jump along with a 20-80 point boost for your critter.

You can also evolve your Pokémon with candy alone: Depending on what evolutionary step your creature is going through, you'll need anywhere from 10 pieces of candy to a whopping 400 (oh, Magikarp).

Why do I want to level up or evolve my Pokémon in the first place?

There are two big reasons: fighting at gyms for your team, and XP bonuses to raise your own trainer level.

If you want to fight at gyms, you either need to find and catch high-level creatures, or level up your Pokémon. Until you get to level 20, we generally recommend saving your Stardust and Candy, because you'll likely end up catching far more powerful creatures as you progress. (There are a few exceptions: Epic-type Pokémon with no evolutions, like Lapras, will rarely be found in the wild, and you'll need to spend dust and candy to get higher-level versions.)

Once you hit 20, however, you should be able to catch Pokémon in the wild who already have a high enough level that they're worth investing in. (Think about it this way: Do you want to spend Stardust and Candy leveling up your starter Squirtle from level 1-18, or catch a level 18 Squirtle and spend the same amount of Stardust and Candy leveling and evolving that Pokémon to level 25?)

Just because you're hoarding Stardust and Candy, however, that doesn't mean you want to ignore evolving entirely.

For one, evolving your Pokémon gives you access to more entries in your Pokédex, as not every evolutionary step can be caught in the wild.

In addition, you also can use the evolution of common Pokémon like Pidgey and Caterpie to dramatically increase your XP and Trainer level.

By using Lucky Eggs and Pokémon with low evolution costs and high spawn rates (like Pidgey, which only costs 12 Candy to evolve), you can earn a ton of XP for your own Trainer level. Each time you evolve a creature, you'll net yourself 500XP; with a Lucky Egg, that doubles to 1000XP.

How do I level up or evolve a Pokémon?

Once you've collected enough Stardust and Candy, here's how the process works.

  1. From the main section of the game, tap the Pokéball in the center of the screen.
  2. Tap on the Pokémon button.
  3. Select the Pokémon you wish to level up or evolve.

  1. Scroll down to the Power Up or Evolve buttons and select the one you'd like to use. (The cost for each is listed to the right of the button, with your total supply of Stardust and breed Candy listed above the buttons.)

After you choose an option, the game will either power up or evolve your creature.

Even if you have the right amount of Stardust and Candy, you may not be able to power up your Pokémon if it's already beyond a certain level. That's likely because your trainer level is too low to control a Pokémon with that power: You'll need to catch some more creatures and play more Gym battles to personally level up.

What are the best Pokémon to level up and evolve?

You'll generally want to target Pokémon with high natural IVs and a great CP score after you hit level 20 or so. For more information, check out our guide:

Other questions?

Have any other questions about evolving Pokémon or leveling them up? Let us know in the comments.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.