Drawing Tracing Aids

Lets state the obvious up front.
– Not everyone can draw from sight. Yet!
– Not everyone has the motivation to learn how to draw or take the time to practice.
– Those of us who paint or draw portraits know the importance of having an accurate image from which to start.
– Having an accurate drawing is a very important step but a drawing alone does not help your observation or painting skills. You get that skill from, drawing!
– And some “artists” see any method other than using your hand and eye as cheating!  That is not my call to make.
So how do you get an accurate drawing onto your paper or canvas to paint without having skill or taking the TIME to draw it?

 We know of some techniques the old Masters used. Some of them tried to keep their secret in fear of being accused of … cheating or someone else using it! Check out the movie, “Tim’s Vermeer”, 2013 ‧ Documentary. Very interesting on the secrets Vermeer might have used. Some classics methods included making a “Grid” (like a multi pane window) that is placed just if front of the artist. Then drawing a scaled grid on the canvas. Other fancier methods used lenses and mirrors.

There are too many ways to mention in one article. You can do an internet search to find some instruction. A basic list include:
– Projecting an image onto the wall and directly tracing it. Very common today with the Pros and seldom admitted!!! Projectors have come down in price and size.
– Tracing a 1:1 image through a light box or taped to a window. Easiest with tracing paper but takes another step to transfer the image to the surface. (See my article titled “Using a Printer to Enlarge Reference Photos to LARGE painting size.”)
– Drawing a grid on your reference image and a scale grid on your surface. Now a days the grid can be easily created with photo software on the reference.
– Using an app on your ipad or Android tablets or phones.

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

“This teachers artist disclaimer”
It bears repeating that knowledge of drawing and the skills of observation is something that you CANNOT get from an app or any shortcut…. 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 charcoal your odds of painting them will improve!  (Please join me in one of my upcoming drawing classes.)

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. 

There are two way of using Ipad Camera Lucida or the Android Artists Eye.

First way: You will need a device to support your tablet over or in front of your paper or canvas. If you are looking down at your surface it is very important that your tablet’s camera lens is CLEAN and 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 must 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. See below for a list of items you can buy.

Second way: With the Camera Lucida (for Apple devices not the android’s Artist Eye). You can use the front camera. You will need one of my new easels (not yet for sale) and a mirror I make to view the image in front of you while you draw it.  Or you buy an Osmo base and mirror online (see below). You will need to lift the Osmo assembly to enlarge the image. You must watch the Camera Lucida instructions listed below.
You will need to copy these first two images onto your tablet and save as “favorites” or somewhere on your tablet that you can get to and view easily. The second two images you need to print horizontally and tape together to make a large reference image.
Sorry These don’t download correctly. BUT Right click the images below > Copy Image> Paste onto your computer. Or go to the Camera lucida app people directly.

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 nose and mouth. 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. After the first wash dries delete the lines you don’t need.

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

For Apple devices, search for the ‘Camera Lucida‘ app from ITunes, Apple Store.
This is a series of videos from YouTube on how to use this app. It is titled “Camera Lucida Tutorials”  You really need to watch all of these.
For a base and mirror from Osmo search on “Osmo new base for ipad”. It might be cheaper than Amazon. Or ask if I have started to sell mine.
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

Buyer do you research: These product names change regularly.  I am suggesting you get a holder with an articulating arm, like with a desk lamp, with an end that holds your tablet.  I bought a tablet stand called TaoTronics Universal Sturdy Aluminum Tablet Stand in 2018. It is was a model TT-HS07. Another is (Miuko Tablet Stand, iPad Holder). I found one on Ebay for around $20. Another to search on is “Neewer Universal Smartphone & Tablet Stand” 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 these 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. Search on “Tablet holders tripod”.

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!!

This YouTube is from JD Hillberry is one using grid method, X-Cross, and using a prop-deviders to get a drawing on paper. http://www.jdhillberry.com

 Bubble levels: If you use an app with your tablet positioned over your paper you must ensure the tablet and paper are level with one another. Tool stores or home improvement stores sell bubble levels. If you buy them on line make sure they are around 32mm or close to 1.25″. You will find lots of tiny ones you don’t want!

Last Change 5 Mar 20, updated the tablet stands and wording. 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.