Tracing and other Transfer Methods

Gary wrote to ask:

Is tracing the outline of a sketch and drawing round this onto a chosen paper a good way to transfer the image? Is there a particular grade of pencil that works best?

I’m assuming you are referring to the technique of scribbling on the back of the tracing and then drawing over the traced lines to transfer the loose graphite to your paper? If that is so, then there are a couple of variations that might work for you.

First, make yourself a sheet of graphite “carbon” paper by heavily coating one side of a sheet of Mylar or tracing paper with a 6B pencil. Lightly tape the top edge of your tracing to your drawing paper so it cannot move. Slide the “carbon” paper between the two and proceed to draw around your traced lines – experience will tell you how hard to press. This will lightly transfer the 6B to your drawing paper and, unless you’ve used too much pressure, the lines will not be indented into the surface. You need to avoid that fault at all cost, because indented lines (particularly those drawn in error) will remain visible in your completed drawing.

The advantage of using this transfer method is that you can re-use the tracing at any time and, as it is hinged to your drawing paper, you can overlay it onto your drawing to check for accuracy or to redraw any lines at any stage of the drawing process.

I no longer use this system but when I did I found 6B to be the best choice, because it will erase completely. If you trace from a projection or use any other method of drawing your guidelines directly onto your paper, I recommend the use of lightly applied 2B, which produces sharper edges than 6B and is also fully erasable.

What is the best way to achieve this without getting unwanted dark lines which can be a nuisance if you want areas to be very light in tone on the actual drawing?

Whatever method I use I always use Blu-Tack to fade the guidelines in the area that I am about to work in. You could also use a kneadable eraser or another make of wall putty. Don’t rub the lines, simply roll Blu-Tack over them to gently lighten them until just a faint shadow remains.

Aside from a projector or light box which can be expensive, is there a better way to transfer the image without leaving unwanted lines or marks?

It’s as good a method as many and better than most. How you transfer your guidelines to your drawing surface is immaterial – all that really matters is that they are lightly applied, to prevent indentations, and can be faded or completely removed. They are just guidelines and should be reworked, adapter or even discarded as you work, so the facility of complete removal is essential.

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2 Responses to “Tracing and other Transfer Methods”

  1. Wassie Says:

    I don’t like taking the time to draw grids. I can’t draw them accurately and I can’t erase them. I design on the computer and I want to be able to print a very light outline onto my paper. How do I do this with Photo Shop and will printing on the drawing paper ruin it?

  2. Mike Sibley Says:

    The simplest method (well, it works for me) is to draw in black in Photoshop and then to reduce the opacity to 10% before printing. The result is a ghostly light grey guideline drawing.

    Of course, I don’t use this method for my own drawings (you can’t erase the guidelines) but I use it extensively for the exercise sheets for my Drawing Workshops.

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