How to Transfer Digital Sketches to Canvas

How to Transfer Digital Sketches to Canvas

Do you want to transfer your digital sketches to canvas perfectly every time?


As a creative, people expect me to a free spirit who can just go with the flow, but that's not me! I need to plan things because I like knowing what to expect.


When I plan a painting, I do the obvious thing: I sketch it out first.


Personally, I love using the Procreate app because I don't have to worry about my sketch getting lost or damaged and it helps my process to just flow. Not to mention I am absolutely in love with the symmetry tool.


Unfortunately, I'm not the best at recreating my sketches. Maybe I work on my sketches too much, perfecting them and falling in love with the exact look. Every time I try to redo them on canvas, they turn out not quite right and the perfect symmetry I want in my pieces gets lost.


Instead of getting frustrated trying to do things "the right way" I cheat a little. I'd ask you to keep that a secret, but I think artists should be open about our tips and tricks so we can get it all out in the open and none of us will feel bad for using tools and techniques that make our work easier!


Here is my method for transferring sketches to canvas (Hint: it's simpler than you think)


Once I get my digital sketch just the way I like it, I send it to a photo editor to resize it to the fit the canvas. Alternatively, you can create your sketch using a digital canvas that's already to scale. If the canvas is the same size as the sketch you can skip resizing.


After resizing, I send the document to the printer. Personally, I like small canvases, so I often can fit my sketch onto a regular 8.5 x 11" sheet of printer paper, but if I'm going big, I need to print it out so that it prints on several sheets I can trim and tape together.


Next, I tape my printed sketch to a prepped canvas. For me this means the background is already painted. If I'm using a light color for a background, I can use a blank canvas. The reason is that the method of transferring will create dark lines on the canvas. They usually show through a light color paint so it's fine if they go down before the background color does.




Once the sketch is secured on one side, I align a piece of carbon paper underneath. Carbon paper is very cheap, especially if you buy it in a roll, and it can be reused multiple times. Just make sure the shiny side of the paper is face down on the canvas.


All that is left to do is trace over your sketch using a pencil or stylus. Just be careful not to press too hard and punch through and ensure you always have carbon paper underneath the section you're tracing.


Be warned: Carbon paper transfers very dark lines that do not erase. It might take a few layers of paint to cover your newly transferred sketch, particularly if the paint is a light color.



If you don't want to use carbon paper, you can use graphite paper, which is lighter and erasable but harder to find. You can also take a dark pencil and cover the back of your printed sketch with graphite or even use chalk, but this can be time-consuming and messy. It all depends on your personal preferences.


Once I'm done transferring my sketch, I simply get to painting!



This example didn't turn out great, but that's my fault for not swatching colors beforehand. Hey, I never claimed this technique made you a better painter. But it does make for an enjoyable activity, sort of like a DIY paint-by-numbers.


P.S. Check out my original paintings to see some examples of how I use this technique!

If you try it out yourself, be sure to tag me on Instagram @mulberrymoonsart or on TikTok @mulberry_moons

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