tl;dr for naturally artistic-types: posterize smaller images you want to use and then use a large window as a big ol’ lightbox.
This is a post that I have wanted to write since 2015, and I am delighted to finally be sharing this with y’all. Basically, I want to show you how to do this:
Don’t panic!!! I believe that you can do this.
What I’ll be sharing with you is something that my husband Bruce introduced me to: lightboxes.
Here’s a picture of the lightbox that Bruce used as a child:
Nowadays you can search “tracing lightbox” to see more examples of sleeker versions that many different types of artists use.
Okay. Here’s the cool thing: you already have free lightboxes at work and at home – your windows! I know that many of you will read this and think, “I have a projector which basically does the same thing.” True. But usually you need to be in a dimly lit room, and your hand can get in the way of what you’re wanting to trace. My technique can be done during work hours in full view of the public, and both parents and kids get a kick out of learning about what you’re doing.
Without further ado, here’s a step-by-step on how I created the above window display (and how you can, too!):
Find an image that you’d like to enlarge. Once you find something, then you can use whatever computer program you have that can print a “poster.” You’ll have options on sizes, so pick whichever will work best in your space. I opted to do a four-page poster using ledger paper.
After printing it out, you could simply cut and tape the paper together and hang it up that way, but it could look so much better. Like, people might think that you hired a professional artist to create your art.
The most likely limitation you may experience is having large enough paper available to cover your posterized image. Fortunately for me, the large roll of white paper that we use to cover our activity tables happens to be the perfect size.
Once you have your poster taped up onto a window so that it doesn’t move around, then you can cut a larger single sheet of paper to go over what you just taped up. Again, use enough tape to make sure that your top paper doesn’t shift while you work on it.
It’s tough to see in this picture, but I have all four corners of the big sheet taped down.
Next you do a heckuva lotta tracing.
I highly recommend using Sharpie Brush pens – they don’t bleed as much as regular Sharpies, and they easily let you flow from thicker to thinner lines (or vice-versa). And for the larger black areas, I recommend the Sharpie Magnum – it’s a great time-saver.
Now you have the option to complete the entire tracing on the window, or once you get the outlines done, you can take it down and finish up the lines on a flat surface.
If the image is going on a non-transparent surface like a wall, then you’re done! But if it’s going in a window, then you’ll want to flip the paper over. You can either take down your taped-together poster and flip your sheet backwards (taping it up again) in the window to trace the same image, OR if the marker bled through enough, then you can trace it on a flat surface.
Cut out the completed artwork however you’d like. I left a bit of white around the edges to give a nice buffer between the image and the comic book paper. That’s what’s filling out the window: randomly torn up pieces from leftover Free Comic Book Day comics stuck up with many, many small cut-up pieces of packing tape. Many.
And there you have it: an attainable way to make yourself look like an artiste extraordinaire!