How to Transfer a Design Without Tracing Paper

Written by katherine harder
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How to Transfer a Design Without Tracing Paper
Windows with large panes work best for transferring designs. (antique door image by Omely from

Many designers and artists first draw sketches of their designs before committing them to the intended surface. Creating a mock-up of your design on a spare, plain sheet of inexpensive paper allows to you to avoid damaging your more valuable fabric, paper or canvas surface with multiple eraser marks or too-dark sketch lines. Tracing paper offers a straightforward transfer solution, but if you don't have any tracing paper on hand, you can use a sunny window or glass door.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Plain paper
  • Pencil
  • Tape
  • Dark ink pen or fine-tip marker
  • Window or large glass door
  • Light fabric, thin canvas or paper
  • Washable fabric ink (optional)

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  1. 1

    Sketch out a design on your plain paper using a pencil. Scale the drawing to exactly fit the proportions of the intended surface since you won't change the size of the design after this point. Tape together several pieces of paper to match the size of your intended surface, if necessary.

  2. 2

    Darken your finished design with ink, creating smooth, bold lines.

  3. 3

    Tape your sketch paper to a window that gets a lot of direct sunlight. Tape your fabric, canvas or paper over your sketch paper, directly over the centre of the design you drew. You should be able to see the dark lines of your design through the paper, fabric or canvas.

  4. 4

    Trace over the dark lines you see using your pencil or washable fabric ink, if you're working with fabric. This process goes more smoothly with large, single-pane windows and sliding glass doors, but you can work around panes with raised edges by using a light touch.

  5. 5

    Gently remove the tape from your fabric, paper or thin canvas, and pull it down from the window. Your design should be perfectly transferred.

Tips and warnings

  • If you're working at night or don't have any windows for this project, you can use a glass table with a lamp placed beneath it or a light box if your design is small.
  • Use an alternate method of transfer: Completely cover the back of your sketch with a dark layer of graphite or charcoal. Lightly tape it over your intended surface, graphite- or charcoal-side facing-down onto the surface, and then go over your design's lines firmly with a pencil or pen. When you remove the scratch paper from your intended surface, you'll find that the pressure transferred an exact copy of your design.

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