How to transfer a picture to canvas

Written by alexandra sauser-monnig
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How to transfer a picture to canvas
Use a pencil when transferring the image. (hand drawing image by Christopher Hall from

Whether you are creating a painting by collaging several images together or recreating a photograph, it is always a challenge to transfer the image onto canvas. While you can use the age-old superimposed grid method, it is time-intensive and involves a lot of erasing and redrawing. A simpler way to transfer the basic image to canvas is by using a projector of the same variety as you'll find in an elementary school.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Primed canvas
  • Pencil
  • Overhead projector
  • Chosen image
  • Photocopier
  • Transparency sheet

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  1. 1

    Draw or trace the image that is to be transferred to your canvas on white paper. The purpose of projection is to get the basic shapes, lines and angles correct. With this in mind, keep your drawing simple. Texture and shading will complicate your projection.

  2. 2

    Take your drawing and transparency sheets---you may need more than one in case you make a mistake---to your nearest photocopier. If you do not have access to a school or work photocopier, go to a business with pay-per-copy photocopiers. Get the size and orientation of your image correct by making a couple of practice copies on normal paper. You may need to enlarge, reduce or darken your image. Put the transparency sheet in the correct paper tray and copy.

  3. 3

    Set your canvas on an easel, or tack two nails into the wall at the correct height, with sufficient nail length extending from the wall for the stretcher bars to rest upon and hang your canvas. If your canvas is resting on an easel, adjust your easel so that your canvas is perpendicular to the floor. The greater the angle at which your canvas is leaning, the more likely it is that your projection will be distorted.

  4. 4

    Set up the projector on a table or stool. It will take some adjusting of the projector's height to get the image displayed properly on the canvas.

  5. 5

    Turn off the lights and shut any window shades as light will make it difficult to see the image. Turn on the projector and adjust the height, the projector's distance from the canvas and the focus of the lens until your image is correctly sized and oriented in the desired place.

  6. 6

    Trace the image onto your canvas. If your image is distorted, you may refer to the original image for any necessary corrections. Once the image is laid out on canvas, the painting process will be much simpler.

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