How to Trace a Design on a Canvas

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Things You'll Need

  • Tracing paper
  • Design to transfer
  • Lightbox (optional)
  • Graphite pencil
  • Charcoal pencil
  • Canvas

Staring at a blank canvas can be one of the most intimidating parts of painting. Instead of getting locked into a bad case of painter's block, transfer one of your sketches to the canvas before picking up the palette. This method doesn't require a projector or enlarger machine and can be done using tools you already have in your artist's kit.

Align the tracing paper on top of the design on a table or lightbox.

Trace the design onto the tracing paper using the graphite pencil.


Flip over the tracing paper, and mark over the traced lines with the charcoal pencil.


Place the tracing paper, charcoal side down, onto the canvas.


Draw over the original traced lines again using heavy pressure to transfer the design to the canvas.


Clean up any extraneous charcoal marks on the canvas using an eraser.



  • You can also flood, or completely cover, the charcoal side instead of just marking the design. This is a quicker method but will result in more extraneous marks in the final product.

    If charcoal is not available, a soft-lead graphite pencil will also work.


About the Author

Cassie Johnston is a food, fitness and lifestyle writer with a certificate in journalism and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design from Indiana University. She has been writing professionally since 2005 and has been published in numerous online and print publications, including "Edible Indy" and the "Phoenix New Times."

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images