Monday, May 2, 2022

Uses of Tracing Paper

In the new issue of International Artist I went fully 'old school' to talk about some of the ways I use tracing paper.

Tracing paper is a versatile art supply, used for creating transparent image layers. Although there are synthetic materials available, you can still buy various kinds of translucent papers similar to what artists used centuries ago, made from rice, wood pulp or cotton fibers. 


I list the various kinds of tracing paper, and explain how I use tracing paper for refining compositions, working out perspective, making corrections, and have even tried it as a unique drawing surface. 

4 comments:

Paul Sullivan said...

I’ve been working with tracing paper for preliminary drawings all my career. However, the transfer of the tracing paper drawing to the painting surface is always a chore. I’ve been using hand made graphite sheets and recently have gone back to making transfer using indigo NuPastel. This seems more successful. What is your method of transferring?

Mitch M. said...

Hi James,I was wondering if you use a light table to help with tracing and if so, what type/brand? Are they really helpful??

Thanks!

MerylAnnB said...

I love tracing paper and use it often to refine drawings. I was a little perplexed to find that Degas used tracing paper as a ground for mixed media and pastel...and then I discovered that he kept a reference file of figure drawings (horses, too!) and reused these sketches in different combinations...so I gather it was easier to trace them onto tracing paper and then just work on that surface. He was a phenomenal draftsman in his youth, not so much later, but that was primarily a result of his failing eyesight - which makes his use of previous drawings a savvy workaround. And it certainly avoids the transferring issues that Paul mentions! I've done pastels, and I can say that tracing paper would NOT be my first choice for a ground! But I found out that Degas did some of his pastels over gouache on tracing paper...that makes more sense to me. I assume a better quality tracing paper would be called for in this case, (I use Vidalon, which I love for drawing, but not sure of its archival nature...) I'm eager to read this article!

James Gurney said...

Mitch, yes, I use a homemade light table with fluorescent bulbs.

MerylAnnB, thanks for that insight about Degas. I was aware of Dagnan-Bouveret's use of tracing paper, but not so much Degas.

Paul, I use a soft (3B-6B) Graphite pencil on the back of a sheet to transfer it down, and also use Saral white transfer paper if the substrate is dark.