Drawing Tracing Aids

OK, I know not everyone can draw from sight. Not everyone has the motivation to learn how to draw or take the time to practice. But those of us who paint or draw portraits want to have an accurate image from which to start. Having an accurate drawing is important but it does not help your observation or painting skills. There are many objections from artists on the use of these types of tablet or phone programs or ‘applications’ (apps) or those who use projectors or any drawing aids. I ask, is the use of these ‘things/tricks’ different from tracing on a light table or using the grid method?  (If you want to create a full size 1:1 image that you can trace, See my tip titled “Using a Printer to Enlarge Reference Photos to LARGE painting size.”)

It bears repeating that knowledge of drawing and the skills of observation is something that you CANNOT get from an app…. I would strongly recommend that those who of you who are new to drawing and painting portraits take the time to actually draw your subject (not just “sketch” it) for practice and study. You will start to see the subtle shadows that you need to render with paint or other drawing mediums. This practice drawing does not have to be perfect to start to see and render values. When drawing with graphite or charcoal you will see the subtle changes around the eye, nostrils, dimples, corner of the mouth, chin line, folds of hair, etc. the values that create dimension. If you can see and draw them with a medium that doesn’t move, your odds of painting them will improve! It is this level of observation you will not get from an app.
(Please join me in one of my upcoming drawing classes.)

See below for links to download some drawing apps for your tablets or phones. See also the YouTube links on how some of them work.

So now you have an app on your tablet. The work is not over! There is a big learning curve to get the hang of these apps.  You will need a tripod or some other method to support your tablet in front of your paper or canvas. It is very important that your tablet’s camera lens is directly centered on your work. It must be square, level, parallel, etc. so as to not get a distorted image. If the paper you will draw on looks like a trapezoid on your tablet’s screen you will need to adjust your tablet until it is the BEST you can get it. The time it takes is worth it. It is frustrating until you figure it out. And don’t forget to clean the lens of your phone, tablet, or camera before you take any photo.

Remember you are an artist. Don’t draw lines that are boring! It will be easy to overdraw your subject and create a STIFF overworked painting!

First, practice with the app sketching a still life or some flowers around your house. Yes SKETCH! Stroke your pencil. Not TRACE! The sketchy lines you get will look very artsy. Don’t let your lines get too long or continuous. These lines are boring!!! Let them change in width and light-dark. You will like the results. Keep the lines light, you can darken them later. If you plan on painting the drawing don’t use too many lines. Just indicate the critical lines. Critical lines and marks include the eyes. Mark the placement of the corners and the angles of the lids, and pupils. Also note the corners of the mouth, nostrils and ears. Things like hair and clothing can be loosely placed and drawn by eye when you are done with app. Now put the tablet down and look at your drawing. You are the artist.  Refine and repair the drawing.

You can add more lines and erase or lighten the ones you don’t want or need. On a face, use light dotted lines for soft shadows like the cheeks or dimples or glint on the nose.

NOTE: Too many lines can make the paper dirty or cluttered or confusing. You don’t need EVERY line!!

For Apple devices, here is the link to the ‘Camera Lucida’ app from ITunes, Apple Store. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/camera-lucida/id362499096?mt=8

This is a series of videos from YouTube on how to use this app. It is titled “Camera Lucida Tutorials”  You should really watch all of these.
For those with only Android devices (phone and/or tablet), there is a similar app called ‘Artist’s Eye’. It has been improved to get close to the one above. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=karhulabs.daid

I bought a tablet stand called TaoTronics Universal Sturdy Aluminum Tablet Stand in 2018. I can’t find it anymore. Here looks like a suitable sub. “Neewer Universal Smartphone & Tablet Stand” https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016F5HXBC/ref=crt_ewc_title_dp_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A10AWEQN3FQFMO  It was $22. I don’t own this but it looks like it would work. I clamp mine to my studio table and can position my tablet right next to my painting for reference or for using my app. Depending on your table this might be all you need for tracing and drawing or painting. I really like this to display my image while I am painting it. I can position it right next to my painting at any angle!!
If you need something that holds your tablet to a camera tripod. There are many devices out there. There was one from Amazon was only $8-9. You can use this link as a start to do your own search. Search on Tablet holders tripod. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DJ40HUG/ref=dp_prsubs_1

Here are two YouTube for more instructions.

Lesson 10 / Doing a drawing for a Painting / Stan Miller  YouTubes from Stan Miller are excellent! This one shows how to use light to trace an image onto your watercolor paper. You can use MY easels with plexiglass to do the same thing!!

Four ways of beginning a portrait by Ben Lustenhouwer   17 min. YouTube where he discusses and explains 4 ways to transfer a drawing to Canvas or to WC paper, 1. Trace from full size drawing, 2. Projecting an image, 3. Grid method, 4. Drawing from direct observation. He gives good detail on each!!

Bubble levels: If you use your tablet and an app flat over your paper you must ensure the tablet and paper are level with one another. Search for bubble levels in Home Improvement. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NRG8HX6/ref=crt_ewc_title_huc_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A3E77161XH3XB7

Last Change 3 Mar 19, updated the Tablet stand, 28 Aug 18, updated the prices. 29 Jun 17, edited and added Stan Miller link. 21 Feb 17, added tablet holder with desk clamp, 11 Dec 16, Added a YouTube on 4 ways to get a drawing onto paper or canvas.