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How To Trace A Picture Using A Projector?

How To Trace A Picture Using A Projector?

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As an artist, you may have often grumbled at the fact that you need grid lines to recreate an image in an enlarged version.

Grid lines are used to maintain the proportion of an image when recreating it on a larger scale. Although they can be handy little mechanisms, they demand a lot of your time and energy.

Many times, artists attempt to recreate small images in larger and bolder scales. Depending on the size desired, this task may be relatively easy or extremely challenging.

For decades, projectors have been used to enlarge images and provide art enthusiasts with a larger copy of pictures for creating wall art, murals, and even portraits. The larger projections are traced out onto the background.

While overhead projectors are very handy for enlarging and tracing out images, what people often fail to mention to first-timers and amateurs is how easy it is to make mistakes if one does not follow specific guidelines.

Different problems can come up, such as; controlling the lighting, tracing without smudging, avoiding crooked outlines due to cast shadows, etc.

Tracing a projected image is not always a piece of cake, but it can be done! I’ll explain the process including the setup the tracing and finishing.

Steps in Tracing a Picture Perfectly from a Projection

The Set-up

a young girl tracing an picture

At this stage, you will be concerned with getting the desired image and setting up your projector properly.

Step 1: Get the picture you want to enlarge. If you have an art concept in mind, you can download the closest thing to your idea that you can find on the web, print it on a transparency, and allow it to dry.

Step 2: Place the printed or hand-drawn picture over the screen of your projector.

Step 3: Prepare the background. If it is a wall mural, you have nothing much to prepare, but if you are drawing a portrait, you will have to set up your drawing paper and board.

Step 4: Turn on your projector and adjust the projector stand. This is so that the image is projected at the desired height, and fits onto the background.

Step 5: Adjust the stand, going backward or forward until the projection fits within the area of the board or background.

Step 6: Darken the room. If it is a small room with multiple light sources, turn off as many as possible, and block out any residual light with heavy clothes. You can also use the projector at night instead.


  • Remember that you want an enlarged image so your projector is going to be some distance away from the desired background. The farther it is, the larger the projection.
  • Secure the paper properly to the board so that it doesn’t fall off.
  • If you don’t have a board you can place your drawing paper against a door or a wall.

Tracing Your Picture

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Once your projector and projection are all set up, you will need your dark pencils to begin the tracing.

Step 1: Trace out the outline of your image using a dark pencil. Trace with small and careful strokes.

Step 2: For wall backgrounds, to avoid casting a shadow or blocking out your projection, don’t stand directly in front of the background. Stand to the left or to the right of it.

Step 3: Focus on getting the outline right and monitor your progress by blocking out the projector’s light, or turning on a brighter light intermittently. It will help you to see how much of the outline you have recreated on your background.

Step 4: If you’re working with a board, keep the board steady so that you do not make any mistakes while tracing.

Step 5: Draw in as much detail as you need or can manage to whilst working in the dark.

Step 6: After completing the outlines, turn off the projector and turn on the lights.

When you take your paper off the board, you will have an enlarged outline of your desired image. You can now go on to the finishing.

Finishing Your Picture

This stage involves the addition of inner details and features like colors, shadows, and any special detail that you may want to include.

You may color in the image on paper or on your wall by hand, and if it’s on paper you can also scan it and use one of the many available art software to color it.

a blonde girl finishes a drawing


1. My outline is misaligned; I have both overlapping and disconnected lines. Why is this?

Most often, this happens because, during the tracing, either the projector or the position of your paper was moved. Either of these occurrences can destroy the alignment of your projection and ruin your tracing.

If you do not monitor your tracing process closely, you may miss when something like this happens.

Secure your drawing paper to the board with paper tape and keep the projector steady in one position until you are finished.

Advantages of Tracing with a Projector

  1. Projectors help create much larger versions of an image with accuracy. They eliminate the need for grid lines which is a blessing if you are drawing on a vertical surface.
  2. Projectors save a lot of time that would have gone into painstaking manual proportioning. If you are a practiced artist, you should have your outline completed in a matter of minutes, giving yourself time for more projects.
  3. With projectors, you can find the best version of your painting before you even get started. By adding certain features to the projected image, you can decide how the finished painting will look with those features. 
  4. A project like this raises the creative confidence of an artist and improves hand-eye coordination.


Projectors make art relatively easy and provide options that would be complicated in any other method.

For instance, a projector allows you to mix two projections to create one picture.

You have to project the two pictures onto your background, one after another. Trace out the parts you want from each of the projections and make sure the lines don’t overlap.

While using projectors to enlarge and trace pictures has its undeniable perks and appeal, it is a delicate process.

Following the steps described in this article will help you achieve better results after tracing.

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