Introduction: Multicolor Tracing Copy Machine (Mini)

What is a multicolor tracing copy machine (MTCM)? It is a machine that allows you to trace a design onto another sheet of paper in any color. It has a similar function to a light box, which is a machine the uses light to make a design visible on a separate piece of paper placed on top for the purpose of allowing the user to trace the image onto the second sheet of paper. The main difference is that this machine is much cheaper and will only allow the user to draw the design in selected colors. The lightbox also only allows users to trace an image on thin paper, however, the MTCM will allow the user to trace images onto wood or other thick surfaces. To copy images, many people use printers. Printers, however do not print an erasable image. Depending on the quality of the colored pencils you use, this machine may print designs lightly or dark. Users may need to ink the image after copying it. Some uses for this machine are:
- Replicating a drawing in a different color
- Producing erasable copies of the same image
- Tracing a design onto wood or other materials (the machine can be modified or made larger to accommodate for different surfaces)
- Mass producing handmade designs, such as for a handmade card


- Cardboard
- Wax or parchment paper
- High quality colored pencils
- Dried-out pen
- Large popsicle sticks (2)
- Chopsticks or wooden axel (2)

Step 1: Cut and Color the Wax Paper

Cut the wax paper into a 3"x12" rectangle. Flip it with the silicone-treated side down. Separate it into four 3"x3" sections and mark the borders with a pencil. Use the colored pencils to color each section differently. I recommend using high quality pencils (I used Derwent drawing pencils) to cover the wax paper in as much graphite as possible. The colors I chose are red, blue, and green. I used a prismacolor ebony pencil to color the last square black.

Note: I cannot stress enough how much graphite you must put on the wax paper. If you do not put enough, your machine will print text that is very light and difficult to read.

Step 2: Create and Attach the Axels

For the axels, I used chopsticks. I cut them into one 5” axel and one 4” axel. This was so the axel on the right side doesn’t interfere with my arm while I use the machine (I'm right handed). You can change the axel sizes to your liking. Then hot glue the axels to the wax paper on the non-silicone side.

Step 3: Building the Base

To build the base, you will need one 4"x3" cardboard rectangle. The number of 2.75"x2.5" rectangles you will need varies depending on the thickness of your cardboard, but when stacked, they should be about 0.5” tall. Glue these to the 4"x3" piece.

Next, take 2 large popsicle sticks. Drill two holes in one, 3“ apart. Then draw a vertical line 0.5“ on either side of each hole. Cut along these lines. It may take multiple attempts to successfully drill the holes without cracking the popsicle stick (it took me about 6 tries). Cut the second popsicle stick into 2 small rectangles and drill the same sized holes in both rectangles. Make sure the holes are big enough for the popsicle sticks to fit in and rotate. Glue the 4” popsicle stick piece onto the base of the machine.

Step 4: Inserting the Scroll

Roll up the wax paper scroll until it is about 3” long. Insert the 2 axels with the silicone side facing up and the scrolls facing down. Then add the two popsicle stick rectangles to the front to secure the scroll in place. There should be a thin space in between the non-silicone scroll side and the 2.75"x2.5" cardboard pieces.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

I added small cardboard walls on either side. I also made a stylus to use with the machine. To make the stylus, I cut a dried up pen in half and plugged the ink tube with the hot glue gun.

Step 6: Using the Machine

Insert the paper on which you want to copy a design underneath the scroll on the cardboard pedestal. Next, turn the scroll to the desired color. Place the paper with the design on top of the scroll. Trace the top paper with the stylus. You may also change the color while you trace. This will transfer the graphite from the wax paper onto the paper below, copying the design in the desired color. You may need to periodically remove (it should easily slide out) the scroll from the machine and recolor the segments on the wax paper.

Cardboard Speed Challenge

Participated in the
Cardboard Speed Challenge