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  • How to Transfer a Sketch

    So you are ready to start a new painting and you've drawn out your design in your sketchbook... Now, how to transfer that to your canvas or panel? There are a number of methods you can try, and we'll explain them below. My favourite method is to scan the image and trace it out with drawing software. This is great because you can scale up or down your image to any dimension before printing it and transferring it to your canvas. You can also try out different compositions or colours before committing it to the final copy. This only works if you have access to a scanner and printer though, so first I will explain the traditional methods. Tracing Paper and Transfer Paper People often confuse "Tracing paper" with "Transfer paper". Tracing Paper is a thin translucent sketching paper which you lay over your drawing so you can trace the lines. Transfer paper (or graphite paper) is a thin sheet coated on one side with graphite or carbon. You place the transfer paper in between your sketch copy and your new surface. When you trace over the sketch, the graphite is transferred to the surface below. Whether you free-hand draw or print out your sketch, transfer paper will be helpful in copying it to the final surface. Tips: Transfer paper comes in different colours. Graphite is the most common, which is totally erasable. Coloured graphite is available by Saral such as yellow, non-photo blue, and red. White is common for use on dark areas such as black backgrounds. "Carbon paper" is similar and usually less expensive, but it is NOT erasable. How to use Tracing Paper: If you don't have access to a scanner and you don't want to ruin the original drawing, you will want to use Tracing Paper to make a second copy. Place a sheet of tracing paper over your drawing. Tape it down to the drawing so it doesn't shift as you're tracing it. Use low-tack tape that won't damage your artwork. I use Scotch brand "Magic tape" as it peels off very easily. Trace out your entire drawing onto the Tracing paper. Un-peel the tracing paper from your drawing. Place a sheet of Transfer paper, graphite side down towards the new surface, and place the Tracing paper sketch over top. Tape all three together gently. Trace over your sketch again with a firm stylus, such as a ballpoint pen. You can use a contrasting colour if you find it easier to see where you've already done. Peel off the tracing and transfer paper, and the drawing will be transferred onto your new surface below! Make your own Transfer Paper If you don't have transfer paper on hand, you can make your own! Colour all over the back of your sketch copy(or any thin paper to put below your sketch) with a soft dark pencil. I used a Blackwing Matte pencil as the graphite is very smooth and dark. You can also use powdered graphite, powdered charcoal, or charcoal. Evenly coat the back of the drawing with adequate graphite. Using the same method as above, trace out your drawing copy, pressing quite firmly. Once you're sure you traced every line, peel back one side of the tape and make sure it's transferred properly before taking it off completely. How to Scale Up Your Drawing Using a Grid Those methods work great if you need to copy it the same size, but what if you need to make it bigger? If you can't digitally upscale your drawing, you may have to do it manually. Drawing it out again on your canvas without a guide can be difficult, especially on large canvases (or even something as large as a wall mural). Traditionally, artists would use a Grid to upscale their drawings more easily. Blocking-in shapes in smaller areas at a time will help you to more accurately reproduce it without distorting the image. For example, I often find that I draw the subject too large or too small when I don't make a solid plan before getting started. 1. Determine the "Aspect Ratio" of your Drawing Before picking out your final surface, you will need to know the aspect ratio of your picture. The aspect ratio of an image is calculated by "dividing its width by its height." Examples: A 9"x12" drawing has the same aspect ratio as an 18"x24" or even a 36"x48" canvas, because it divides evenly within it. This aspect ratio is 3:4. A 5"x10" or a 6"x12" drawing both have an aspect ratio of 1:2 and would work on canvases with the same aspect ratio(such as: 10"x20", 24"x48", 30"x60", etc.) You will want to pick a surface that is the same aspect ratio as your drawing, for this method to work best. 2. Create a Grid over your Drawing Determine what size you will make each square of your grid. I find that it's easiest to use one inch, because canvases are sold in inches in North America. My drawing is a circle, so it has a 1:1 ratio, and can be scaled up to any size circle. The same would be true of a square. Tape a piece of Tracing Paper onto your sketch securely Mark out the top and sides Divide your drawing into even rows and columns Use this grid as a guide to recreate it on your canvas 3. Recreate the Grid on your Canvas or Panel On your chosen surface, you will also draw a grid. Instead of one inch squares, your scale will be proportionally larger to fit the new size. So if your drawing is an 8" circle and you need it to become a 16" circle, you will need to draw each square in the grid 2"x2" in size, because we are making it twice as large. I used this method to scale up a 9"x12" value study to a 36"x48" canvas for the final painting ➣ The small test canvas is 9" wide, with each square being one inch on the grid. On the large canvas each square will have to be 4x larger(because 9 divides evenly into 36 four times). Each one inch on the small canvas will become a 4x4" square on the large canvas. So on the small canvas there are 9 columns, one inch wide - and on the large canvas there are 9 columns four inches wide. The small canvas will be divided into 12 one inch rows, and the large canvas will be divided into 12 four inch rows. 4. Redraw your Picture Following the Grid Draw your picture again, but use the grid as a guide to help you recreate it proportionally. You can even divide each square further to help you redraw it accurately if needed. This makes it much easier to piece together elements in the drawing in relation to each other, especially with complicated compositions such as ones with architectural elements and so on. It takes some time, but this is a really accurate and helpful method for complicated pieces. Transferring from a Print-Out If you are tech-savvy and have all the gadgets, the easiest way to reproduce your sketch is to scan or photograph it, and then print it out. If you have drawing software and a tablet or iPad, you can trace it and make any final adjustments too. This is my favourite method, because you can print it to the exact size needed without much hassle. 1. Print your Sketch to Scale If your picture is larger than your printer, you may have to splice it together. For very large pieces I usually draw it out using the grid method, because it's a lot of paper to print and stitch together. 2. Tape it to a sheet of Transfer paper Make sure you keep the messy graphite side facing down towards the table Trim the excess. Tape both down to your panel securely. 3. Trace out your Sketch Using a firm stylus, trace out your sketch. The graphite from the transfer paper will copy it to the surface below. This method works great for canvas, wood panels, paper, etc. Tip: You can reuse graphite paper many times with continued effect, because the lines will usually be in different areas. A roll should actually last you a very long time. Use low-tack tape so that you can un-peel it and reuse it again next time. Tracing Paper and Transfer Paper Explained:

  • How To Prepare A Wood Panel

    Preparing a support properly is the first key to a successful painting. If you are just painting for fun, you may not think it's important to work with archival materials, but as a framer I often see prized treasures come in with irreparable deterioration over time. If you want your paintings to last, preparing the surface properly in the first place is the key. Certainly you need to consider this if you plan to sell your work. Acrylic Gesso is absorbent by nature so it acts as a good ground for paint to adhere to. This means that it isn't providing much of a barrier between your surface and your paint. Prior to using gesso, you want to seal your support with a barrier. Traditionally, artists used rabbit skin glue for this purpose. Today it is usually PVA or other chemical "sizing". Even paper is sized to prevent ink and paint from absorbing into the fibres too much. Why Seal before Gessoing? Sealer(also known as "size") is a barrier between your support and your paint. When you apply paint to a support it will absorb down into any porous layers. If you are oil painting, this is troublesome as the solvents can slowly deteriorate the wood or fabric support over time. It also causes the glossy oils to sink in further, and show on the surface of your painting as dull patches which can be hard to remedy. For acrylics it it very important because of "Support Induced Discolouration". What is that, you may ask? It is usually observed as a yellowing appearance on light coloured or clear areas of acrylic. If you haven't properly sealed the wood, the paint will absorb down into it. Then, as the paint dries by evaporation, the moisture will move back up through the paint film bringing with it any contaminants from the wood. Whites and pale blues will take on a yellow look. Techniques such as paint pouring are especially prone, as you are flooding the surface with a large amount of liquid which takes hours to dry. There is no real way to fix improperly sealed supports once the problem occurs, so it's important to start your painting off correctly in the first place. Wood panels aren't the only surface with this issue, it has been observed with all supports including canvas or linen. I know it's easy to be impatient to begin your new project, but it helps to have several supports prepared and ready to use at any given time. How to Prepare a Surface for Painting Step 1. First you want to give the panel a light sanding. I use a sandpaper block which I made using plywood, ATG double sided tape, and two different fine grits of sandpaper on each side. Sand with the grain of the wood, and smooth any loose fibres or scratches. I always sand the edges and sides a little to smooth them out as well. Once you have sanded it to your liking, wipe all surfaces down with paper towel. You can moisten it with water, but I like to use Isopropyl alcohol so that it doesn't raise the grain of the wood. Make sure you remove all sanding dust and any dirt or hairs. We sell Gotrick brand wood panels, which are made in Canada out of birch wood. They come in different shapes and sizes including rectangles, circles, and triangles. Step 2. We will be using Golden Acrylic's GAC100 as a sealer. You can also use Golden gloss medium, though you may see more brush marks as it's a bit thicker. Many artists seem to use Matte medium, though Golden claims that the glossy ones create a better barrier(matte finishes are a bit toothy and absorbent). Apply your sealer directly to the wood panel, following the grain of the wood. I like to use a large, soft, synthetic brush. Coat the entire surface: front, sides, and back. Tips; Allow the front to totally dry before flipping it over to do the other side. It should be a bit glossy and shouldn't have a tacky feeling to it when it's ready for the next coat. Putting down a piece of parchment paper or non-stick surface helps when flipping it over. Once the first layer is dry, you can lightly sand any raised grain, wipe clean, and then apply a second layer to all surfaces. Step 3. Next you want to prepare the surface for painting. Here I am using white acrylic gesso as a ground. If you want to keep the colour of the wood, you can use clear gesso. There is also black or tinted gesso available. Try this; Add a little bit of acrylic paint into your gesso to create your own tinted gesso. Always keep the lid of your gesso(and acrylics) closed as much as possible. Try to keep it out of the threads of the lid, or it will be hard to open later. It can also create little dried chips which leave flakes in your surface. Use a clean painting knife or other tool to scoop out what you need. Don't dip your brush straight into the tubs, as they can go mouldy with excess water or contaminants. Decide whether you want to paint just the front, or also the sides, and maybe even the back of your support. The nice thing about wood is that you can leave it the way it is and it adds a warm, natural feel to your piece. Black edges are a classic choice, as is white. You can also wrap the painting around the edges for a creative "unframed" look, or just paint it a solid accent colour when it's done. Make sure you do at least two layers of gesso on the surface you plan to paint. Three is better, especially for oil painting. I like to lightly sand in between layers. To minimize the grain of the wood, I alternate which way I paint on the gesso, and which direction I sand. For the final pass, I lightly sand in a circular motion with fine grit sand paper. Of course if you want a more textured appearance, you can omit sanding altogether, and even add the gesso on thickly with rough bristle brushes. Sponges or rollers can create interesting textures to work on. Experiment and find what you like best for your style! Watch the Process in Action:

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