(No More) Suffering for My Art


Look at this. This is how I’ve severely damaged my wrist, to the point where I cannot even use a pencil or type this out without pain and discomfort.

This is stupid. I use this method to transfer my images onto watercolour paper, without having to directly draw on the watercolour paper – because mistakes do happen!

I flip the original drawing over, tape it to the sides of the watercolour paper, draw around the picture so I know the boundaries of where I need to aggressively press with a fine point. And yeah, just go nuts furiously on the back to transfer a flipped, fainter image of your original drawing.

This method ruins your original drawing, it's only good for a couple of goes before the paper starts to rip and disintegrate.

Original drawing, if you look closely you can see the dark transfer halo beginning to show through

Awkward flipped version using the stupid transfer method

You, probably like I, have seen this technique all over art blogs and it’s fairly popular, even though is takes a huge amount of time. You can’t see what you’re doing, you’re wasting the lead in your  drawing pencils AND the image is flipped so you just have to pray that you can make it look ‘right’, which isn’t easy, which you then have to spend more time rectifying - if you can … AND you can really hurt yourself as you have to apply a ton of pressure to squeeze every bit of detail off of the drawing paper onto the watercolour paper. 

What’s the alternative? Well there’s transfer paper, but that’s not so good which is why I don’t use it.

You’re still having to use quite a bit of pressure, and it is clunky. There’s no way can you get lines of different thicknesses, which leaves you having to draw many of the finer details in later. Not to mention you are working directly over your original drawing, retracing the lines which spoils the original.

Also it can be mucky if you’ve accidentally leant on your work in the wrong way, big black patches of impossible to remove carbon/transfer muck can appear on your watercolour paper along with your now chunky drawing. Also you are applying as much pressure as you can - because transferring sometimes doesn’t work. You’ll only know if you tentatively peel back the layers, an area at a time or remove them altogether after you’ve finished with your fingers and toes crossed.

How should I transfer an image if I don’t want to directly work on the watercolour paper?

I do have a table, I promise! It was just a mess, so the floor it is ...

USE A LIGHT PAD! I’ve just bought my Huion Light Pad (not sponsored!), and it was inexpensive, easy and one of the better brands. You lay your original drawing face up on the light pad, overlay your watercolour paper on top of the original drawing also face up, turn the switch and alter the level of illumination and you should see your drawing appearing through the watercolour paper.

Using the light pad on a very bright spring day, image still clear through 100lb watercolour paper.

The only caveat is that if you want to get a stronger image appearing on the watercolour paper you’ll have to be in a darker room or at night if you still haven’t sorted out any window dressings ... You can use it in the day but the details won’t come through as easily.

This method isn’t perfect and I’m not going to pretend your drawing is super high definition - the glare of the box in the dark can be a bit much if you’re using it on a high illumination setting. But you’re not messing up your wrist or ruining your original drawings which means you can trace over and over again - tweaking your drawing, making them better, make easy compositions with other drawings, it is brilliant.

Don’t be cheap or stupid - like I was, there are better alternatives to image transfer and using a light pad has really injected a huge amount of joy into an arduous task. You still might have to go back and redraw some of the finer details but at least you don’t have a crippled up wrist.

Please send your prayers and thoughts to my wrist, I’ll update soon once I’m fully healed!