Today I wanted to share the basics of how to trace an image or pattern onto your work surface for painting.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
The first step is to gather all the supplies you need to trace your pattern onto the surface.
- Pattern / Design
- Tracing Paper
- Graphite Paper
- Stylus or Pen
- Surface to Paint
- Foam Brush
- Acrylic Craft Paints & Brushes
You can use any type of pattern or design to start with. If this is your first decorative painting project, I recommend something very easy to start with, such as our free beginner patterns.
Tracing paper is optional, but is useful when you are working on more complicated designs. If you don’t have tracing paper, you can always print the design out on very thin copy paper.
Graphite paper is a special kind of paper that has graphite on it. This makes it super easy to trace over the pattern and transfer it onto your wood surface.
A stylus is like a pen/pencil without any ink. You can use a stylus for artists, or if you’re in a pinch you could always use the pointed handle end of one of your paint brushes!
From there, you’ll need your basic supplies like a surface you want to paint on and the necessary materials to prep it, such as gesso, foam brush and sand paper.
Once your materials are gathered and your work space is prepped, you are ready to start!
Step 2: Prepare the Surface You Plan to Paint
The first thing to do is to prepare the surface you plan to paint. If you are painting wood, this means that you will want to make sure you’ve sanded the piece and applied gesso and allowed it to dry.
Preparing your surface is important, because it will give you much better results! Your colors will be more vibrant, especially if working with a porous surface like wood.
You can learn how to surface prep different materials in more detail here.
Once you’ve painted & prepped the surface, you can move onto Step 3 while it dries.
Step 3: Trace the Pattern Onto Tracing Paper
Tracing your design onto tracing paper is a very easy step. Place the sheet of paper over your design, and then using a pen or pencil, carefully trace the design on the tracing paper.
When you are done, you will have the pattern in a semi-transparent format. This is especially useful if your pattern is one you printed from our site or if it’s one you found in a pattern book.
Step 4: Transfer the Pattern to the Surface Using the Graphite Paper
Before starting this step, make sure your surface is fully dry and you’ve given it a light sanding with fine sandpaper and removed any dust.
Place the graphite paper on your surface, with the graphite side facing down towards the surface.
Place the tracing paper pattern on top of the graphite paper, being sure it lines up with the edges of the surface so that the lines go where you want them to be.
Using a stylus, carefully trace over the main lines and large areas first. You do not need to trace on any details for the first base coat, but it is a good idea to know what sections are being painted with the base coat.
Be sure you do not press too hard when tracing. You want your lines to be barely visible! It can be hard to erase very dark and thick lines later and paint may not always cover them up, especially if you press so hard you create indentations in the wood.
When done tracing, lift up the paper to make sure the design has transferred. If you missed any spots, simply line up the graphite and tracing paper back up and go over those areas again.
Step 5: Paint!
With the basic shapes of the design on your surface, you are ready to start painting!
Once your base coats are dry, you can always repeat step 4 to fill in areas that are more detailed and intricate before painting. Again, make sure you press VERY lightly to ensure the lines will be easy to cover up or erase later.
Learning how to transfer patterns for painting is one of the easiest ways to get started with tole painting without needing to worry about any special drawing skills.
Another big advantage to using patterns? You can recreate almost any design easily and consistently! This is a great idea to do if you are painting items as gifts for friends and family or even starting your own decorative painting business.
I hope this tutorial for how to transfer images to a surface with graphite paper is useful for and of course if you have any questions just ask them in the comments below!