Friday, January 14, 2011

A Bit of Cheating: Designer's Tracing Paper

There is a little robin sitting on the Snowman's hand in my New Year greetings card.

And here is a little secret disclosed: when designing a custom image or a piece of clipart, make it easier by using the 'tracing paper' technique. Find a relevant photo and use the Draw Tool to trace the main parts of the image in the photo.

See the separate shapes that compose the robin and read a few tips on how to draw and colour them in this previous article. And there are two posts on how to draw Picasso's dog with other clever tricks that make more sophisticated pictures possible: The Dog: from smooth to wire-haired and Picasso's Dog - in one line

And a very happy Old New Year to everybody who knows about that great Russian and East European tradition – to celebrate the New Year again with friends on the 13/14 of January. If you didn't know, it's never too late.

Photo: David Jordan


  1. (Nicky writes)
    Hello- I am so embarrassed at my lack of knowledge about Pages. I recently bought a Mac and am kinda looking for the easy way out without spending hours trying to "play and learn." I am trying to create my wedding invitations using Pages. I have a shape that I would like to use I am not sure if I just need to practice more but I am having an issue trying to make it one flowing line from using the "trace paper technique".
    Any advice would be great. Thanks!

    (comment edited)

  2. Nicky, hi,
    I've just posted 'Fancy Shape for Nicky' here:

    Hope this helps - and happy wedding!

  3. Anonymous8:14 pm

    what is 'tracing paper' technique?

  4. god, makes me feel so old!
    I don't know how old you are, but when I was at school we used to draw geography maps by superimposing sheets of rustly semi-transparent paper over the maps in our atlases and tracing the contours of countries and continents with a pencil and then colouring them. Engineers, architects taylors and housewives used the same to make technical blueprints and paper patterns for dress-making.
    Likewise, here I trace the photo in a Pages document with the Draw Tool. Look at the bottom right photo - the contours of robin's body are drawn with the Draw Tool. First make a rough outline, then, to make the shape rounded go to Format>Shape>Make Editable and then Format>Shape>Smooth Path.

  5. Anonymous5:07 pm

    I am new to mac's and only designed basic stuff in Microsoft Word.

    I love your site it has been very helpful.

    So are you saying I should have a picture (your bird) up and then place another box on top of it that is transparent and use the draw tool to trace?

  6. Anonymous5:28 pm

    Ok, I did it! Took forever to figure out what you meant.
    1. Pick a picture
    2. Draw on top of it using the draw tool
    3. Move picture to reveal my drawing

    My picture doesn't look so good but I am going to keep practicing.


  7. yes, that's it!
    I just noticed I didn't put here a link to a previous post where all the separate shapes that compose the bird are shown -
    check this:

    I've updated this post to include that link and also to a later post about drawing Picasso's dog with a few other tricks.

    I'm glad you are enjoying this site.


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