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How to Trace without Tracing Paper

how to trace without tracing paper

As an artist, you may at some point need to transfer a drawing onto another surface. You can use tracing paper for this, but it’s not the only option.

In this blog post, we’ll explore three other ways to trace your drawings without using tracing paper. These methods are all simple and affordable so that you can use them anytime you need to transfer a drawing. Keep reading to learn more.

How do you Trace Without Tracing Paper?

Use A Lightbox

First, you will need a lightbox. A lightbox is just an opaque white sheet of paper or plastic sitting on the working surface in front of your pattern. It lights it up from underneath to make all details visible while tracing.

A window can also be used as a makeshift lightbox by placing some translucent material over it (a piece of tissue, thin fabric, etc.). With that, sunlight comes through but not directly into your eyes.

Use a Projector

Another way to trace without paper is by using a projector. This method can be helpful if you want to enlarge or reduce the size of your pattern before tracing it.

You will need to place your drawing patterns on a flat surface, then shine the projector onto it and trace the image onto another piece of paper.

Use a Grid

If you don’t have access to a lightbox or projector, another way to trace without paper is by using a grid. To do this:

  • Draw evenly spaced horizontal and vertical lines on your pattern (using a ruler can help with this)
  • Then, use a sharpie to trace the outlines of each square created by the lines
  • Once you have traced all the squares, connect the dots with a pencil. That way, you can create the full outline of the drawing pattern

Use a Scanner

how do you trace without tracing paper

If you have a scanner, creating an electronic copy of your pattern can be pretty straightforward.

Suppose your computer can scan in color or grayscale images. In that case, this will make it easy for you to print out a traceable hardcopy version that is as close to what was on the screen as possible when saved.

Use a Carbon Paper

If all else fails and there’s no way around tracing without using tools other than pen and paper, use carbon paper!

Carbon paper helps create an exact duplicate image by transferring ink from one surface onto another. You may not always want such a replica (especially since how many changes are made between original fabric swatches). Still, sometimes it comes in handy, so why not take advantage?

Using an Embroidery Hoop

This final choice is a great method for larger or more intricate designs. It may also be helpful for beginners who are still building up their skills:

  • Sketch your design onto paper using light pencil strokes
  • Place the embroidery hoop over the top of the design and trace it with a pen or sharpie
  • Cut out the traced image and use it as a template to sew by hand or machine


This final method may be a little more difficult than tracing paper, but it can be done with some practice.

  • Start by lightly sketching the outline of your pattern onto your fabric with a pencil
  • Once you have the basic shape, fill it in using very light strokes. The more time and practice you put into this method, the easier it will become!


There are many ways to trace a pattern without tracing paper. My favorite is using a lightbox because it’s easy and doesn’t require any special equipment. However, if you don’t have access to a lightbox or projector, using a grid or freehand can also be effective.

Whichever way you choose, just make sure to take your time and go slowly so that your lines are precise. Have fun tracing your artwork, and feel free to share with us the result!

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