How to Trace a Drawing

By Carl Hose

Many beginning artists start off by tracing pictures and photographs. Tracing is a good way to train yourself to draw. By tracing a photo or cartoon, you will be able to familiarize yourself with drawing shapes while you're creating artwork. Beginning artists will often trace an image and then add their own original touches to the base image to create semi-original pieces. You can easily trace images for yourself, both by hand and with the computer. Learn how you can trace a drawing as an exercise to help you develop your drawing skills.

Trace by Hand

Select the drawing or photograph to trace. Drawings are easier to trace than photographs. Try to find a photograph or illustration that has a medium contrast. An image that has a low contrast between darks and lights will make it more difficult to find the lines you want to trace, while a darker photo makes it difficult to see details through the tracing paper.

Place the drawing on a flat, smooth surface. Consider using a little piece of tape on each corner of the image to secure it and keep it from moving as you trace. Place a piece of paper on top of the image you want to trace, securing it with tape as well.

Use a pencil or pen to trace your drawing. Take your time and follow the lines you see through the tracing paper. You can trace all of the details or leave out some to try drawing freehand later on.

Reproduce your traced drawing on regular sketch paper by taping the traced image over the sketch paper and drawing over your traced image with enough pressure to tear through the traced image.

Trace on the Computer

Download a software program called ArtRage (see resources). ArtRage is graphics software that allows you to create artistic images on the computer using a variety of virtual art elements such as oil paint, charcoal, pencil, ink and watercolor. A trial version of the software is available.

Open ArtRage. Hover your mouse pointer at the bottom of the screen and a circle will appear that gives you the option to trace. Choose the tracing option and you will be presented with the opportunity to load an image from your computer to trace. Click the image and it will be displayed in ArtRage with virtual tracing paper over it.

Trace the image as you would if you were doing it by hand. The original drawing will be left untouched and you can save the traced drawing as a new image, then use the art tools to color it as you see fit.

About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.