Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tutorial: Transferring a Drawing Via Lightbox

As promised here is my quick tutorial on how I transfer a drawing to the final paper while trying to preserve the spontaneity and spirit of the original.

#1: Here is the original drawing: carmine-red colorase pencil on bond paper.

#2: Photocopy the original drawing at kinkos to make it black/white and scale to the desired size. Tape this photo copy to the back of your nice paper using guides drawn on the back to center it. Use a low-tack tape (such as drafting tape or artist's tape) so that you don't rip the paper when you eventually remove it.

#3: Have a scrap piece of the same high-quality paper you are transferring to off to the side to test what grade of pencil will work best for this particular drawing/substrate. Start the drawing off holding the pencil at an extreme oblique angle to make soft, thick, gentle lines. You don't want to have the pencil in a detail-death-grip as you don't want to commit to any strong lines yet.

#4: The drawing is transferred using a light-box with broad strokes made using the side of the pencil.

#5: Here is the drawing with the light-box turned off to see the strokes better.

#6: A detail shot to show how soft, flowing, and loose the lines should be.

#7: Go back with the point of the pencil to pick out details/ refine your soft lines. The girl on the left has been detailed out, the girl on the right is untouched.

#8: Close-up shot after both have been detailed-out. You do not want to go back over ALL of the lines you established in step 4, the beauty is to pull some out and let others fall back creating subtlety, variation, and levels of information.

#9: Go back like the detail-crazed noodling-freak that you pretend not to be and render the shit out of the hair (or whatever you want to focus on.) Add subtle shadows to the face with a french stub, use a kneaded eraser to pick out highlights, etc. Again, you still want to leave some areas soft and loose.

**To keep the paper from being smudged as you are working keep a paper towel under your hand and pick it up to move it (don't drag it against the paper.)

**Pick a good-quality paper, I prefer Stonehenge and Arches 88 (both are thick, luxurious, and quite smooth for details.) Be a little careful with the Arches though, it is super soft and it's very easy to destroy the integrity of the surface/tooth.

**When taping use artist's or drafting tape.

**To pick the appropriate hardness/softness of pencil, consider the size of the drawing, the tooth of the paper, and the intricacy of the details. Usually the smaller and more detailed/intricate/delicate the drawing and the smoother the paper the harder the pencil you will want to use and visa versa. I usually range from an H to a 2B for the lines and will occasionally stray softer or use powdered graphite for very dark areas when shading, or when I have to cover a lot of area.

Any other questions about this tutorial? Post them as a comment and I'll try to respond as completely as possible!

Mounting Tutorial

Painting Tutorial


  1. I draw too tight and love the loose quality of your sketches! Thank you very much for this tutorial and being such an inspirational artist!

  2. Oh, you're so welcome! I'm glad you like it!

  3. lol well, i was gonna say exactly what tony elmore said above - i'm glad i'm not the only one who has the "death grip" on my pencil! thank you for this tutorial - it's been so helpful for me...and i definitely second his sentiment; your work is amazing and incredibly inspirational for me!

    i've got a question for you: i don't have a lightbox, so i was thinking of trying the window lightbox method again, but the last time i tried it, it was a lot harder than it sounds! - do you ink your lines on your sketch before transferring it to make them easier to see?

    1. I photocopy my sketch on the black-and-white copiers at Kinkos which increases the contrast and allows me to scale the sketch up/down as needed. I often also copy it at 20% or something really small as well, so I can lay in the tones with topic/prisma markers before starting the actual painting if it is very complicated- just so I know ahead of time how I want to group my darks/lights.

  4. thank you for the great info!


Thank you for your questions and comments! I read all of them and try to respond to as many as I can!