006: Tracing Paper Can Help You Correct Mistakes in Your Caricature


Posted: Sunday, September 13, 2015


I had a brilliant instructor in college that used two sayings often in his classes. One he would use in our illustration class when we would make a mistake on an illustration that we were fairly far along with; he would say, “You drew it once, you can draw it again”. He said it in such a passive and jovial way that it was sorta encouraging even though the statement was daunting. In an odd way it was encouraging even if it meant that hours of work could be out the window due to a blemish.


The other saying was, “If you’re not cheating you’re not trying”. I believe the phrase was synonymous with “Work smarter and not harder”.


Today we’re going to focus on the latter. The first saying will have a place in a future post, so stay tuned for that. Today I want to show you how tracing paper can save you when you’re in a bind for completing something or even in your everyday practice.


Last week I drew a picture of Alicia Malone to give her a shout out for her birthday. She had posted a picture on Instagram of her riding horseback and below had a hashtag that read, #imahorsegirl. That sparked an idea to make her caricature that I planned to draw more than a simple likeness; it gave me an idea to play off that phrase for something more creative (as you’ll see below).





The thing is I didn’t nail it the first time out. I practiced her face a few times to get it right and then I drew a torso and then drew a rough horse body. Quick sidebar note: horses are challenging to draw — this is news?





I knew right away that the body I drew was just going to be a template to start from. I also wasn’t pleased with her arm placement. To go back to one of my instructor’s statements, I could draw it again, but I decided to lean more on his other statement and cheat — I think the kids today would call it a life-hack, or in this case an art-hack (not to be confused with a hack artist).





This is a cheat I’ve been using for years, because there isn’t always time to redraw an entire piece and also it’s kind of a pain to do it if you don’t have to. I like to use Helix Tracing Paper, it’s a bit expensive, but it doesn’t curl and tear as easily as most generic tracing paper brands. I will then proceed to overlay the paper on the elements that I need to fix or adjust. Sometimes I need to try a few things out before I get it right, but that’s what the tracing paper is good for.





Once I have a satisfactory template I can scan them and finish rendering them digitally.


There are many other uses for tracing paper that I can expound on in a future post, but for now this is a nice alternative to having to redraw an entire piece all over again. Using the tracing paper you can focus on a few elements and be a bit more free to experiment. It’s great, because there is always the possibility that you won’t be able to draw something exactly the same another time and then you have to worry about that along with fixing what you originally made a mistake on — forget that noise!


I hope you enjoyed this pro tip as a tool to help you tell your caricature’s story. Every face has a story to tell and I want to teach you how to tell it.