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Transfer an Image onto Watercolor Paper

Today I'm breaking down four effective methods for transferring images onto watercolor paper: the Graphite Transfer, the Lightbox/Window Tracing, the Tracing Paper Method, and the Projector Method. Each technique is detailed with step-by-step instructions, making them easy to follow and apply to your own artwork.

Method 1: The Graphite Transfer

Our first method involves the use of graphite to transfer your image. You can buy a graphite stick for a faster process, or pick up an 8B pencil to make your graphite extra dark, or just use any pencil you already have.

  1. Choose your desired image and print it. Ensure the size matches your watercolor paper.

  2. Using graphite pencil, fill in the back of the printed image completely.

  3. Position the image, graphite side down, on your watercolor paper and secure it with tape.

  4. Trace the image onto the watercolor paper, ensuring the graphite is transferred.

  5. Remove the printed image to reveal a light trace of your design on the watercolor paper.

This is what the back of your printout will look like.

Method 2: The Lightbox/Window Tracing

The second method requires a lightbox or a sunny window. This method is excellent for precision and allows you to trace directly onto your watercolor paper.

  1. Select your image and print it out

  2. Position the image on a lightbox or tape it onto a sunny window.

  3. Position your watercolor paper over the image and secure it.

  4. Trace the image onto the watercolor paper.

  5. Remove the paper to reveal your traced image.

Method 3: The Tracing Paper Method

The third method is the tracing paper technique, a classic method favored by many artists for its simplicity and effectiveness. It involves two tracings, allowing your to become extra familiar with your subject.

  1. Print out a mirrored version of your image.

  2. Secure the tracing paper on top of your printout and trace with a pencil.

  3. Remove the tracing paper place it on your watercolor paper, graphite side down.

  4. Secure the tracing paper with artist's tape or any tape that's not too sticky.

  5. Trace over the graphite, this will transfer the graphite onto your watercolor paper.

Method 4: The Projector Method

The final method employs a digital projector, which can be especially useful for larger works. Here's how to do it:

  1. Select your image and digitally upload it or open it on a device connected to a projector.

  2. Position your watercolor paper where the projected image can be clearly seen.

  3. Adjust the size of the projected image to fit your paper.

  4. Trace the image onto the watercolor paper.

  5. Turn off the projector to reveal your traced image.


  1. Roll a kneaded eraser into a coil and roll it all over your watercolor paper if you think your pencil is too dark. The eraser will pick up any extra graphite, just remember to keep kneading it every now and then to keep it clean.

  2. When drawing on watercolor paper, try not to press too hard as it will indent your paper, causing paint and water to pool in those areas, creating unwanted outlines.

  3. Practice these methods and discover which one suits your artistic style the best. Remember, art is about expressing yourself, so don't be afraid to experiment and make these techniques your own.

Happy Transferring!

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