Ever wanted to draw something, but needed a little helping hand to make it look accurate? Or wanted to use a portion of another drawing in a new artwork? Tracing is the answer. But what if you don’t have any tracing paper? Or your source image is on thick cardboard? We have the answers. Take a look through this blog post for various techniques to help you trace images using mostly just a pencil!

Equipment needed: 

  • Pencil 
  • Paper 
  • Image you would like to trace 
  • Baking paper (optional) 

We will look at 3 different tracing techniques:

  1. Natural Lightbox
  2. Home-made carbon paper
  3. Baking paper

Using a natural lightbox:


If you only have paper to trace onto, sometimes it can be difficult to trace your image as you can’t always see what's on the other side through the paper. In this situation, try using a window as a lightbox. Hold the paper in front of the drawing or image you wish to trace against the window. The light coming through from behind will help you see the original image through the paper.

Using home-made carbon paper:

Carbon paper is special paper coated with carbon on one side - you may have seen it in receipt books. It can also be used for tracing. You can draw on the other side, and your drawing will be printed onto the next sheet. 


You can create your own carbon paper using pencil and paper.

1. To start, use your pencil to shade in the whole of the reverse side of the image you wish to trace.For our example, we used a picture from a magazine. Make sure you shade the whole area. It doesn’t have to be overly dense, but it does need to be everywhere. 

2. Then flip your image over, and lay it out onto the paper you want to create your drawing on. Hold it firmly in place throughout - you might want to tape it down to keep it still. Now use your pencil to draw over the image.

The advantage of this technique is that you can see where you have already traced.

3. Once you have finished tracing lift your image up and you will see a faint print of the image on your paper underneath.

There you have it – you can then draw over the faint lines and fill in the gaps to create your finished artwork.

Using baking paper:

Tracing paper isn’t necessarily something you have lying around the house. So if you find yourself wanting to trace something using tracing paper, but you don't have any, or you've run out, try baking paper. It’s practically the same stuff!

A good technique is similar to the carbon paper technique above

1. Begin by tracing your original image onto the baking paper. We selected just the flamingo from this image to keep it simple for the example.

2. Then flip your tracing paper over, place the image where you want it on your art paper and shade across the back of the image. This will leave a mirrored carbon copy of your trace. (If you don’t want a mirrored version, do this step on some scrap paper as the paper will leave a mark on your work surface.)

If you want to create an exact copy you can then also place the shaded side down on your paper, and draw back over your traced lines. This will leave an exact copy of your original tracing.