How Do You Work With Tracings, or Do You?

Hi Henrietta,

You’ll see how I do a tracing on a few of the paintings in my Floral Series, Tall Ships or Wildlife instructional DVDs you order.

One technique is to trace the paper drawing onto the wet, painted surface of the canvas I’m painting and walla, I have a great tracing that helps me keep the basic shape. I show how to use reference photos to paint the rest of the flower and/or little animals like birds and butterflies.

I only use tracings when its really important to keep the basic shape such as animals, tall ships, some buildings and some flowers (but not many).

Here are the three basic techniques for applying tracings that I use a lot.

1. Basic Tracing Method

When the canvas is dry, no medium or anything, trace, using black graphite transfer paper, not carbon. Tape your drawing onto the canvas where you want the object in the painting. Once two sides are secured with masking tape, slide your graphite paper, typically shinny side down, between the tracing and the canvas. Make a couple of lines, remove graphite to ensure the lines are being transferred and the graphite paper is not upside down. Once satisfied, continue tracing the drawing onto your canvas.
When done, and before you remove the drawing, check to make sure all the lines you want have been transferred. Remove drawing and paint around your drawing until you’re ready to paint that object.

2. Modified Basic Tracing Method.

Do everything you’ve done with the Basic Tracing Method.

Except you will also trace the outside lines only of your object onto the non-sticky portion of contact paper. Cut the object out and apply to the canvas over the object you’ve drawn on the canvas as well.

Paint your painting as you normally would right across the contact paper.

When everything else is painted, peel off the contact paper and paint your object. You will have to set in the object wherever it touches the ground.

3. Wet Tracing Method.

Paint your painting as you normally would.

When you’ve come to the point in your painting that you need to paint the object, put the paper drawing exactly over the spot you want it in the canvas. With a ball-point pen, trace the outside of the object and lines inside the object you feel are necessary. When you remove the paper you will find a perfect drawing onto your canvas. Depending upon the size of your paper, you may have some very slightly smudge spots to clean up with a bristle brush or a blender.

Continue to paint your object and finishing the painting as you normally would.

Darrell