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Readers Respond: Share the Method You Use to Transfer a Drawing to a Canvas

Responses: 12


How do you transfer a drawing from a piece of paper or sketchbook onto a canvas for a painting? What methods have you tried, and what do you think is most successful? Or, if you never transfer drawings, tell us what you do instead.

Use an Soft Pencil

What you do is get an Ebony Pencil (they're pretty cheap) you then take the pencil and shade the whole back side of your drawing, press really hard and maybe go over it twice if you have a lot of detail. Then you tape your drawing to your canvas so it will not move, the lines facing up, the shaded side faces the canvas. Then you get a pen or pencil (pen works better) and just trace your drawing; the ebony will transfer the drawing to the canvas works really well, you just got to shade the back of your drawing really dark because if the lines aren't dark enough it is a pain to restart. [An Ebony Pencil is a soft, dark pencil, produced by Prismacolor -- Painting Guide.]
—Guest blair

Transfering Drawings to Canvas

After I make a sketch on paper, I freehand draw it on the canvas with a pencil and use a soft artgun eraser if needed. I use canvas boards so this is pretty easy to do.
—Guest Martha McWilliams

Overhead Projector

The easiest method I've found is using an overhead projector. Go to your local copy center and have your drawing, sketch, painting, etc transferred onto an 8 /12" x 11" piece of acetate or clear plastic. Then use an overhead projector, to project a perfect image of what you want to reproduce. You can size the work easily by moving the projector closer or further away from your workspace. You can purchase these projectors for close to nothing! (3M makes one that's about $60.) They are the kind used in grade school classrooms.

Transfer Drawings onto Canvas

I have tried most of the methods which have been posted, but I have found the easiest and quickest method for me is to enlarge a photo I have taken myself onto a photo-copier -- then trace the image.
—Guest barbaranorman

Depends on Medium

I personally find using a grid method for large canvases the best. Drawing freehand without too much detail for smaller canvases works pretty well most of the time. But with watercolours I use tracing. I often wonder is this cheating!!! It just saves time and usually gives a better result....

Enlarged on a Copier

I did a 12x16" of the piece, then I enlarged it on the copier to 50x60" or as close as I could get to 48x64" and used a rough grid system to match the copy to the canvas.
—Guest Katie Carr-Anderson

Using a Grid

Right now I'm more into learning watercolor technique than practicing my drawing skills, so I tried using a grid. I would definitely do it again when scaling up or down, as was the case this time. For a 1:1 ratio I usually trace and transfer with transfer paper. One trick I've adopted is to trace in coloured magic marker. Then, when I go over the lines I use a black pencil and I can see where I'm going and where I've been.

Simple Lines or By Eye

I sketch the most important simple outlines of the form directly to my material that I plan on painting on unless it is a wall. When I do walls I sketch the entire scene on paper and then go straight to laying paint on the wall starting small, centered and working outward with each form.
—Guest Mary Walker

Transfer Photos or Drawings to Canvas

I photocopy the photo to the size I require and use carbon paper to transfer the photocopied image to canvas.
—Guest Lenny Webste

Transfering Ideas

I have used the charcoal/graphite on the back method for anything really important. And old ball point pen, out of ink, works well. You can also do an oil transfer, covering the back with oil paint, putting it up to the canvas, and using a ball point pen to transfer the lines. But I mostly do a detailed drawing, and from that, use tracing paper for the important composition elements. I keep the detailed drawing for reference, only transferring the major shapes and placements. Mostly, I transfer ideas to the canvas. do the underpainting, and often sketch back in the major shapes/shading with india ink.

Drawing as the Basis

I'm not sure I agree totally that the under-drawing should be "sketchy". Draftsmanship is the foundation of good art. For me, a finely wrought cartoon should be able to stand on its own as an art work.
—Guest Bill van Heerden

Sketch Afresh

I usually sketch the main lines and elements in my drawing onto the canvas afresh. I find I get too anxious trying to copy and worried about doing it wrong and then it becomes a mission and so I put it up where I can see it and then use a pencil to redraw it freehand onto my painting canvas.
—Guest Rai

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