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How to easily trace a picture (with supplies you already own)

Do you have a photo or an image that you want to trace? By following this 5 step guide you can trace any picture you want. The best part is that you’ll be able to do this with the supplies you already have!

Materials you’ll need to trace a picture

Picture tracing materials
  1. The picture you want to trace
  2. A piece of paper you want your image to be traced on
  3. A graphite pencil or a grapite stick
    • Preferably HB
    • A graphipte stick covers a large amount of paper in a short time
  4. OPTIONAL: A blending stump
    • Or you can use your finger if you don’t mind getting dirty)
  5. OPTIONAL: Washi or painter’s tape
    • To keep your paper and picture perfectly in place

1. Color the backside of your picture

how to trace a photo

Turn over the picture you want to trace. Grab your pencil and start coloring the back of your image. You only have to cover the area of which the image on the other side also covers. To check if you got everything, hold it up against a light source to see the image through the backside.

Tip: The softer your pencil is the easier step 2 will be. Consider using a B2 or B4 pencil to do step 1!

2. Smudge the applied graphite with your finger or blending stump

how to trace a picture

Now grab your blending stump and start smudging the graphite. If you don’t have a blending stump you can use your finger. If you feel like the smudged graphite became too thin you can repeat step 1 and then smudge again.

3. Secure your picture and your paper on top of each other

how to trace a photo

Take the piece of paper you want your picture to be transferred on, and put this under your image. Make sure the graphite side of the image is on top of your paper. They will need to stay on top of each other without moving. For this, you use your washi tape to tape the pieces together. I usually tape the top and the bottom.

If you don’t have washi tape you just need to make sure you don’t move the paper around during step 4. If you have a complex picture then I would recommend getting some washi tape.

4. Trace your picture

how to trace a picture

Now grab your pencil and trace your picture. I recommend using a hard pencil for this, like an H2 or H4 (but an HB will work just as well). You want to press relatively hard when tracing. Try to resist the urge to peek under your paper.

5. Check your work

How to trace a picture

Peel the tape from the bottom and have a look if you got all the necessary lines. If not, tape it back in place and go over the lines again. Because of the washi tape on the top, the pieces of paper will stay in the exact same place.

If you’re not using washi tape place a finger on the top of your paper (to mimic a piece of tape) and then lift the bottom of your paper to peak underneath). And that’s it!

how to trace an image

Curious about what I made with this picture? Check out my Instagram!

Tips on how to trace a picture

  1. Tracing a picture for a watercolour piece? Make sure to use a kneadable eraser to lighten the graphite, otherwise, it might show through!
  2. Can’t or don’t want to color the back of your image? Use a piece of printer paper instead. Simply put it in between your picture and to be traced on paper. You can use it to transfer multiple pictures.
  3. Instead of using graphite you could also use charcoal to cover the back of your picture.

See! Tracing pictures doesn’t have to be hard. And it certainly isn’t wrong to do!
Happy tracing,

♡ Laura



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