Transferring a Drawing to a Panel

In several of my works on panel, I have started out by transferring a line drawing to guide my underpainting. There are various well known methods for doing this, including pouncing, gridding up or even using a projector. The method below is another highly effective way of doing it, taught to me by David Cranswick (

Step 1 - Prepare the line drawing

  1. Start by carrying out a fairly accurate drawing of the image that you are about to paint.
  2. Now take a piece of tracing paper and trace over the main lines of your drawing, including all of the detail that you want to transfer to the panel.
  3. Flip the tracing paper over and, using your fingers, rub in some dried pigment until it has fully settled into the grain of the paper. (Note that tracing paper has a good 'tooth' for holding the pigment). In the pics below I am using burnt sienna pigment.)

Step 2 - Transfer the Line Drawing

  1. Take a panel that has been fully prepared with gesso and tape the tracing paper firmly over the panel, pigment-side down.
  2. Now re-drew over all of your lines with a sharp, firm pencil. This step is like magic... when the paper is lifted, the drawing lines will have transferred to the panel, but amazingly the rest of the pigment all seems to stay in place on the tracing paper without imparting smudges.
  3. In order to 'set' the transferred lines onto the panel, you now need to paint over them with a fine sable brush, using a solution of 1 part egg yolk and 3 parts vinegar (or you could use some thin paint medium).
  4. If any of your lines have not transferred successfully to the panel, or are a little faint, you can add some dried pigment to your egg mixture and strengthen the lines with your brush.

Step 3 - Seal the Panel

Now that the line drawing is transferred, it is a good idea to size the panel one last time before starting to paint in oils. (A couple of coats of thin-strength rabbit skin glue is ideal).

No comments: