How to Easily Transfer Source Material to Paper Before Starting Your Drawing

Not everyone has the ability to draw freehand, and even if they do, there are times when work needs to be transferred onto paper.

There are several ways to transfer an image in preparation of drawing with Nitram Charcoal. An inexpensive light box is a great tool for tracing. All that is needed is the original image, a pencil or charcoal baton and some masking tape. Lay the paper on the image in the desired spot, secure the top with tape and begin to trace. By taping only the top, the paper can be easily lifted to check fine details that may not be showing clearly through the light box.

Use a sunny window to trace your work.

In absence of a light box, a sunny window will suffice.

Another method is to use graphite paper. Place the image on top of the graphite paper (be careful that the transfer side is face down) and place both on the drawing paper. Make sure the image is properly centered and secure in place with a few small pieces of masking tape. Leave an opening so that you can periodically check to be sure the image is copied correctly.

Trace the image with a pencil or bone folder. If you don’t want your original copy marked up with pencil, a bone folder will do the trick! The point of the folder provides crisp, solid lines. Be sure that you don’t press too hard to avoid leaving indentations in the drawing paper and be careful not to drag your hand across the paper to avoid smudging.

The grid method can be more time consuming, but is another means of providing image accuracy. It involves drawing a grid over your reference photo and drawing a grid of equal ratio onto your paper. Gridding also allows you to resize your image with ease.

The Grid Method
This example is of the Accurasee system however it can easily be duplicated with a ruler and pencil.


With a ruler and a pencil or soft charcoal, lightly draw equally spaced lines down and across the paper. Keep in mind that pencil will need to be removed with a kneaded eraser and charcoal can be easily removed with a paper towel. Do the same to your image, although it’s okay to press harder, but be careful to use the same ratio.

Once the grid is complete, you may want to lightly number each square across the top and on one side of both the original image and the drawing paper. This will help alleviate “getting lost” during the transfer process.

Now the fun begins! Draw the image onto the paper, focusing on one square at a time. Draw exactly what you see in each of the squares until the entire image has been transferred. Once completed, begin erasing the unnecessary lines on the outside of your drawing. This will give a crisper view. Once you have the drawing to your satisfaction, you can erase the remaining lines.

To be sure your drawing is in proportion, place it on an angle and step back. It is especially important when doing portraiture. This will give assurance that proportions are correct and is much better than squinting (no need to rush forehead wrinkles).

Now you’re ready to put your Nitram Charcoal baton’s to work!

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