How to Use Graphite Paper

Graphite papers, in other words, transfer papers, are a simple method in order to transfer drawings of the same size from one paper to another one. Artists, illustrators, designers use graphite papers to make their work easier and faster.

Graphite papers can transfer images and paintings onto any surface the artist wants. Additionally, these are also fairly easy to use for anyone. The steps following how to use graphite paper are very clear and simple to implement.

How to Use Graphite paper

men draw in graphite paper

Graphite paper is a black and gray colored paper used for tracing artworks in the most efficient way. One side of the graphite paper covered with a thick and smooth layer of graphite.

That side placed onto the canvas or paper surface you want to trace the drawing on. A specific sheet or part of graphite paper can use and reuse a handful of times before the graphite layer on the side completely runs out.

Then that sheet should dispose of, and a new one should be used to get a perfect result in tracing. Usually, graphite papers come as sheets in a roll. While using, every individual has to cut out or tear off the exact size of paper they need from those sheets.

What is Graphite Paper Used for?

The concept of using a specific kind of paper to transfer artworks into another surface has been around for a long time. Graphite papers make that job the easiest; therefore, any artists or designers prefer using it.

This unique paper allows us to recreate a new painting or design from a temporary or practice surface to a final and permanent one. Graphite papers are vastly used for creating banners, murals, airbrush work, tracing, sewing, and many more things.

There’s a long list of mediums of surfaces that graphite papers can help to draw on, such as wood, fabric, leather, plastic, metal, and glass. Moreover, the black surface of graphite paper creates strong lines for the pencil to stand out.

Why Do Artists Use Graphite Papers?

Artists use graphite papers when they need to because it is time efficient and lessens repetition. Suppose someone worked really hard on a piece of artwork or a design for hours on end.

However, a bigger and cleaner version of that artwork or design is necessary for the person to create. Now, in this situation, redrawing the whole thing perfectly on a larger paper is way too time consuming and, to be honest, disappointing.

Graphite papers make a grand entrance in this case. It is possible to use graphite paper and instantly transfer the whole artwork or design onto a larger working surface. Doing this will relieve the artist or the designer of redoing their hard work and preventing their talents’ wastage.  

Difference Between Carbon Paper and Graphite Paper

carbon and graphite paper

Back in the day, carbon papers were using vastly to instantly get a copy of any piece of art. Graphite papers could be seen as an upgraded version of carbon papers; only it has more privileges than carbon papers.

Carbon paper is usually coating with wax, so it is almost impossible to erase the dark black lines onto the canvas after transferring an art. However, graphite papers use erasable graphite, so it is easy to erase and fix the parts as you want. Transferring anything for art purposes will definitely need graphite papers instead of carbon papers for all these benefits.

How to Use Graphite Papers

  • Obtain a paper print or a photocopy of your desired artwork or design. Choosing the right size while acquiring this is extremely important. The print or copy should be the exact size of the surface you want to create the new artwork on.
  • Measure the size of the artwork or the painting and cut a piece of graphite paper of the exact same size. 
  • Set up your working surface onto a smooth ground or table to get an even application. The surface could be of anything- glass, wood, canvas or plastic according to your wish. There are no set rules for this one.
  • Place the graphite paper on top of the surface you want the final drawing to be on.
  • Make sure that the graphite coated side of the graphite paper is facing down and onto the painting surface smoothly. The black cleaner side will be facing upwards towards you where you will draw with a pencil.
  • Tape the graphite paper onto the surface very gently. For the taping, it definitely needs to be an artist tape. Artist tape will not do any harm to the papers involved in the process and will not leave behind any kind of marks either.
  • Get the printed reference photo you collect earlier and position it on top of the graphite paper exactly how you want it. It is very necessary to get the right placement while placing it, otherwise the whole process could need to redone.
  • If you are done positioning the picture on the graphite paper, then carefully tape it in that position making sure that the papers do not move during the whole process. Artist tape should use in this case too to avoid any kind of accidents.
  • After this setup is complete, it is always safe to double check if the tapes on both the picture and the graphite papers are secure tight and will not come off in between the tracing process. If that happens, then it would be extremely difficult to line everything perfectly up a second time and get flawless artwork in the end.
  • For tracing or drawing over the graphite paper, a mechanical or hard lead pencil should be your first choice. Since mechanical pencils always have a sharp point, it would be best to get all the details right with that kind of pencil. Leads with H, HB are really good choices for this purpose as you can copy even the smallest of details onto your working surface through the graphite paper.
  • Here comes the most important and detailed part of the whole process: tracing. The process of tracing usually differs from person to person. But it is best to start off by tracing all the outlines and edges of the painting first. This way, you will have a solid shape of the painting up in no time.
  • If you are tracing a sketch of just a drawing or design without colors, then start off by tracing all the outlines and then make sure to mark every place there’s a light or shadow play. All these marked points will transfer to the paper or canvas under the graphite paper so when you’re redoing the sketches there, it will not waste any time to figure out the right placements for the darker and lighter sketches. Therefore, the sketch or drawing will have a perfect realistic finish and catch the eyes of many people.
  • While tracing the paintings with the hard lead pencil, be careful and mindful about the pressure you use onto the pencil. The pressure you put onto the pencil transfers the graphite from the graphite paper to the surface underneath. So, if the pencil pressure is way too less, then sometimes it is possible that all the details of the painting will not transfer through the graphite paper and you will miss quite a lot of important detailing in the artwork.

Again, if the pencil pressure is way too strong, then residue and unwanted graphite smudges could see onto the final working surface, which is not welcomed at all.

  • If you are tracing a colorful painting with a lot of details, then after tracing the outlines of the painting, be sure to draw over all the highlights and shadows. Every single stroke of color subtly changes the perception and strength of the object and the colors. So definitely make sure to trace every such color stroke that signifies the subtle changes in the painting.
  • You can create a thicker or thinner line to mark whenever there’s a color change in the painting. Even if it is just a new or different hue of color, make sure to make a mark over there too. This will tremendously help you later when you apply the colors onto your work yourself.
  • Thus, make sure to trace and transfer every single detail and record all of the visual information of the painting. Once you remove the graphite paper, it is going to quite impossible to fix it again so always do a last check if you have gotten all the necessary points and marks trace or not.
  • After you are done transferring the whole painting to your working surface, slowly take off the tape over your painting first and then the one over your graphite paper. Make sure not to tear any part during this process.
  • Removing the graphite paper, you will find a perfect copy of your painting on your canvas done by graphite. It will just be the first step since you have to dive in and complete the painting as you wish now.

Following all these steps will allow anyone to achieve a perfect copy of the painting they want to recreate. It is a faster and more efficient way to lessen the time spent after one artwork, and so the artist can be motivated to create more and more art in a short amount of time.

Tips for Using Graphite Paper

Tip 1:

Graphite paper can be a lot smudgy due to the layer of graphite on it. So, make sure to clean or wash your hands after you remove the graphite paper from your artwork. Do not touch the canvas without cleaning your hands or fingers first as it could leave smudged fingerprints on the canvas.

Tip 2:

The smudges are the same reason that your traced art could be a little smudged too. However, graphite papers are coating with erasable graphite. So, simply take a clean non dust eraser and erase away the unwanted smudges on the canvas.

Tip 3:

If there are dark lines on the canvas due to the graphite paper, erase it until there are only thin lines to show you where the details are. If you start working on top of those dark lines, the graphite from it might smudge and spread around with your colors and ruin the art as a whole.

Tip 4:

You can slightly lift a corner of the paper to see how much details are being transferred onto the canvas, If you are not sure about the pressure on the pencil during tracing or if the lines are being transferred well or not. But be very careful to not move the papers from their place.

Tip 5:

Then you can put it aside for a while to not disturb the transfer of graphite, If you are not going to paint on the canvas right away. You can wrap the canvas up in glassine and leave it for a while in that case.

Tip 6:

Do not dust or wipe off the canvas afterwards as it also creates chances for the graphite to smudge and cause trouble for the artwork.

Tip 7:

Graphite papers are actually reusable until the graphite layer in the back wears off. So, after removing the sheet of paper from the canvas, keep it safely in a proper manner in order to reuse it in the future. This way, using graphite paper can also be economically beneficial.

Wrap Up

Graphite paper can be officially recognized as an artist’s tool. All around the world, drawing strictly by hand is encouraged greatly, and tracing is discouraged. But professional artists already proved their talent by drawing it on another surface first in order to transfer it. An artist’s skills come to shine after they get to work on the final piece post transfer.

Thus, graphite paper has already become a favorite among artists and designers of all places. Anyone simply interested how to use graphite paper to create beautiful artworks and enjoy the process of painting to the fullest.

About Tom

Tom is a blogger and artist who also loves technology. He spends his days blogging about the latest developments in the world of art, and he enjoys sharing his thoughts with readers on what it means to be an artist today. Tom has always been interested in technology - but it wasn't until he was 13 years old that he discovered how much fun making websites could be! Tom is a fun-loving, adventure seeking creative type. He enjoys reviewing art products and technology gadgets on his blog and has been doing so for over 5 years now! He spends most of his time in the studio, at the beach, or out exploring new places.

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