How to Use a Lightbox for Tracing

A lightbox is a versatile and invaluable tool for artists, illustrators, graphic designers, and anyone involved in creative endeavours. It allows you to trace and transfer drawings, sketches, and images with precision and ease. Whether you’re a professional artist or a hobbyist, mastering using a lightbox can significantly enhance your creative workflow. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps to use a lightbox for tracing effectively.

How to Use a Lightbox for Tracing

How to Use a Lightbox for Tracing

Here are step-by-step guides on how to use Lightbox for tracing photography.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Before you begin, ensure you have the following materials ready:

Lightbox: Acquire a suitable lightbox. Lightboxes come in various sizes and types, including traditional tabletop models and ultra-thin LED light pads. Choose one that fits your needs and budget.

Source Image: Have the image you want to trace ready. This could be a sketch, photograph, or printed design. Ensure it’s clean and free from any smudges or imperfections.

Tracing Paper or Translucent Paper: Use high-quality tracing paper or translucent paper. The thickness of the paper should allow the light to shine through clearly.

Art Supplies: Prepare your preferred drawing tools, such as pencils, pens, markers, or charcoal, depending on your project.

Step 2: Set Up Your Workspace

Choose a well-lit and comfortable workspace for your Lightbox. Ensure that the surface is clean and level. Place the Lightbox on your workspace and connect it to a power source if necessary.

Step 3: Place the Source Image on the Lightbox

Lay your source image on top of the Lightbox. Secure it in place with tape or clips, making sure it doesn’t move during the tracing process. Position the image face down so the side you want to trace is in direct contact with the lightbox surface.

Step 4: Position the Tracing Paper

Place a sheet of tracing paper over the source image. Ensure it’s aligned correctly and covers the area you want to trace. Use some tape or clips to keep the tracing paper in place, preventing unwanted shifts while you work.

Step 5: Adjust the Brightness

Most modern lightboxes come with adjustable brightness settings. Start with a low to medium brightness level and adjust it as needed. The goal is to have enough light to see the source image clearly without causing eye strain.

Step 6: Begin Tracing

Now comes the creative part. Use your preferred drawing tool to trace the lines, shapes, or details from the source image onto the tracing paper. Take your time and pay attention to accuracy. The light from the box should make the source image visible through the tracing paper, guiding your hand as you draw.

Step 7: Focus on Details

Depending on your project, you may need to focus on intricate details or shading. Adjust your tracing paper as required, and use finer drawing tools to capture nuances accurately.

Step 8: Check Your Progress

Periodically lift the tracing paper to check your progress against the source image. This step allows you to ensure that you have all the details and that your tracing is accurate.

Step 9: Complete Your Tracing

Continue tracing until you have replicated the entire image or the desired portion. Take your time to achieve the level of detail and precision you want.

Step 10: Remove the Tracing

Carefully remove the tracing paper from the Lightbox, ensuring it does not smudge or damage your work. You have a traced image ready for further artistic development or use in your project.

Step 11: Save and Store

If you intend to use the traced image for future projects, consider scanning or photographing it to create a digital copy. Store the original tracing securely to prevent damage or loss.


Using a lightbox for tracing is a valuable technique that can save time and improve the accuracy of your artwork, illustrations, or design projects. By following these steps and practising regularly, you can harness the power of a lightbox to create precise and detailed tracings, expand your creative possibilities, and bring your artistic visions to life with confidence and finesse. Whether you’re an aspiring artist or a seasoned professional, a lightbox is a tool that can significantly enhance your creative process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is a lightbox used for in tracing?

A1: A lightbox is used to illuminate a source image from underneath, allowing artists and designers to trace its details and transfer them onto another surface, such as tracing paper.

Q2: What materials are needed to use a lightbox for tracing?

A2: You will need a lightbox, a source image, high-quality tracing paper, drawing tools, and a clean, well-lit workspace.

Q3: Why is securing the source image and tracing paper using a lightbox essential?

A3: Securing the source image and tracing paper with tape or clips prevents unwanted movement during the tracing process, ensuring accuracy.

Q4: What should you consider when adjusting the brightness of a lightbox?

A4: Start with a low to medium brightness level and adapt it to a comfortable and precise viewing level. The goal is to see the source image clearly without causing eye strain.

Q5: What is the final step after completing a tracing using a lightbox?

A5: After completing the tracing, carefully remove the tracing paper from the Lightbox, ensuring it does not smudge or damage your work.

About The Author

Scroll to Top