There is no perfect solution other than to get to work

My carbon paper showed up yesterday, so I’ve been excited all week to play with it, transferring line-art from a photo into a sketchbook, as a basis to paint over.

This will save me a bunch of time from my current method, where I’m laying down a light grid on my paper, and another on my reference photo, then manually nailing the large/important lines in each grid until you have a (hopefully) accurate transfer of the photo you’re looking to paint.

But there’s a catch. (Editor’s note: there’s always a catch.)

One thing I’ve learned is that there’s no perfect solution to anything, ever. Everything has its pro’s and cons and there are always trade offs.

And this is especially true in art.

I added this carbon paper to my cart because I was watching a video recently and saw someone do it. In the video, it looked easier and faster than it is for me currently, transferring with a grid manually, but – and I’m sure you see where this is going – the truth is, it all takes time. It turns out I don’t have the luxury of post editing, and speeding things up. Who knew?

Yeah sure, using carbon paper saves me the laborious job of having to measure out a grid and place everything absolutely manually, so eliminating that is great… but now you need a printer, and it needs to be able to print a sheet of paper at the same size as you’re painting.

If you’re working off a photo, you need a second copy to scuff up.

Swing back over to the grid, sure… it’s a pain in the ass… it leaves inorganic lines that stand out on your canvas, and it takes a bunch of measuring and marking – not too dark – and you’re still the final word in terms of the drawing getting transferred accurately… but…

What it lacks in speed, it makes up in other ways. For one, it scales to any size you want; so you can print off an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper with your reference on it, and grid that out to the side of a ten-story apartment building.

Add to that, that it’s deadly simple: all you need is something to make marks, and a way to keep your lines straight.

There are other methods as well, of course, like light boxes/windows (which project light from behind your work to trace over – easy, accurate, no fuss, doesn’t leave marks, but doesn’t scale, needs electricity/daylight, etc.), and projectors (again, needs electricity, needs space, but scales well, leaves no marks, and gives you an exact-sized replica to transfer).

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