How to Trace Pictures on Canvas

Updated April 17, 2017

A canvas painting is performed freehand or with an outline or idea of the design sketched onto the canvas. Artists who cannot draw certain subject matter freehand or want to add details use a craft projector to trace a photo or image onto a canvas. This creates the base of the design, to which paint can then be added.

Prop or hang the blank canvas against or on the wall and place the craft projector several feet in front of the canvas. Plug in the projector and turn it on. Turn off the lights in the room.

Place the picture underneath the projector and adjust the projector head so the image appears on the canvas. Move the projector forward and back until you reach the desired size of the picture on the canvas. Moving the projector closer to the canvas will result in enlarging the image, and the image will shrink as the projector moves away.

Turn the lens on the projector until the lines in the picture are in focus and crisp. Trace the picture onto the canvas with a pencil. Use light pressure, because the pencil can create grooved pencil lines that will not cover with paint.


Use a light-coloured pencil to reduce the chance the pencil lines will show after paint is applied.


Turn off and unplug the projector immediately after use to reduce the risk of fire.

Things You'll Need

  • Canvas
  • Pencil
  • Craft projector
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About the Author

Maude Coffey retired after 10 years working as a professional body modification artist in the tattoo industry. She is certified in principles of infection control and blood-borne pathogens. Coffey received additional training and classes, such as anatomy, jewelry standards and aftercare, from the Association of Professional Piercers. Coffey aims to educate about safe tattooing and piercing practices while writing for various websites.