This project is one of those "I want stress relief project, something that I can do while watching Modern Family". Especially the tracing is kind of meditative activity, great for unwinding.
So here’s how you can make piece of wall art in your home with an A4 printer, pens/markers and a few hours of spare time. I quite like the end results of this method, which often end up more to my liking than store-bough art prints and cost a fraction of the money.
The results depend more on your patience than drawing skills, which is another nice bonus: almost no freehand drawing necessary!
Step 1: You Will Need:
- Paper for printing
- Paper for your poster
- Tape and scissors
- X-acto knife
- Pencils and marker
I used Photoshop for retouches and sizing up the picture. I highly recommend it, even though there are web pages that do the same-ish job and for a one-time use it is pretty high effort since you have to sign up for the 7-day free preview and then cancel the subscription-style license. But, its surprisingly easy and inspiring to use. And you can do anything with it!
I found my large poster paper in a crafts store, it’s 72*104cm and the type often used in live model drawing. You can choose any size you want to fit in your home, even a wall-sized sheet could work, as long as it’s even slightly translucent and allows you to trace the image with a light table or a big window like I did in childhood.
Step 2: Design/ Choosing What to Trace
Clear line-art designs are better if you have less experience drawing freehand, or your chosen backing sheet is on the thicker side and doesn’t show through as much detail with the light table or window. We used search terms like tattoo, line art, drawing and vector art to find the perfect picture. You can also make your own poster and edit some photos to match your design. Go crazy, but remember, you still have to draw it.
Vector pictures are easier to blow up to large sizes for the printing, since vector graphics won’t pixelate and won’t need fuzzing about with image processing filters to make the edges crisp once enlarged.
We chose Pablo Picasso’s War and Peace. It's a pretty well-worn art print subject, and for good reason.
When you have decided what kind of picture you want, try to find highest resolution picture of it from the internet. Bigger is better, depending on the size of your poster. If you go for a vector art design, resolution doesn’t matter.
Step 3: Editing With Photoshop
I use newest Photoshop CC in this tutorial, but any recent-ish version works for this case.
First, you need to make a new empty template in which you make your design. It needs to be the size of your paper, so you know what it will look like when done. To open the new template from the upper left corner File->New or Ctrl+N. Resolution should be 300dpi, because we are printing this.
Then we focus on the picture you want to use, open it by clicking File->Open or Ctrl+O and choose your picture. Because it’s downloaded from internet, its resolution value is probably on the low side. To change this, go to Image->Image size or Alt+Ctrl+I, you can see this from pictures above. Change the resolution to 300 and input your picture width, this step is seen also in the pictures. Remember to check Resample box and chose Preserve Details (enlargement).
I added a photo where you can see few important tools to edit your image. When studying Photoshop, in my opinion the best way is to get excited about it and test and play with it, learning as you go along. One important step is to duplicate your original photo, and work the Background Copy, so you can compare your changes to the original. To duplicate layer, open layers context menu and there you can see the Duplicate layer-selection.
As you can see, my original picture has a yellow undertone. These kinds of colour mishaps can be deleted with Black and White tool or Levels which can be found Adjustment toolbox. I added a photo of these tools, so you can check it up there. Every tool in the Adjustment toolbox creates a new layer for the applied adjustment, so test different tools! You can always hide the most recent alterations by pressing the eye symbol in the layer toolbox. This makes for a pretty nice workflow for learning the system, since it does nothing irreversibly by default, and allows comparing different effects.
When the picture is just how you like it, you need to flatten the image before moving it to the poster template. Click any layer and open context menu. There you can find Merge down or Flatten image selection. Merge down joins selected layer and one below it, flatten image merges all layers together. Then, duplicate the final picture and drag it up to your blank template file’s tab with the Move Tool.
Now you can align your picture in the poster template. If your Smart Guides aren’t on, enable them from View->Show->Smart Guides. There’s a picture above.
When you’re satisfied with the outlook, save the picture as PDF. To save it go File->Save as or Alt+Ctrl+S.
Step 4: Printing
Open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat Reader and select print. Picture above is about right. Make sure to specify Cut marks: this means it prints little marks, seen above, on paper so you know where to cut. I ended up with sixteen papers all together.
Step 5: Taping
When all the pictures are printed, you need to tape them together.
You don’t have to cut every cut mark slice of the paper, cut just a few so taping is easier. I used an X-acto-style knife to cut the papers precisely. Take your time in taping, the more accurate you do this step, the easier it is to trace in a later step!
When finished, tape printed papers to the window or light table.
Step 6: Tracing
This step is the most time-consuming, but simple, just trace the image from one paper to another. Here are a few tips I found helpful.
First, trace with pencil and use an eraser to fix mistakes. Start from up and go down so you don't mess the pencil lines with your palm.
Remember to take few steps backwards and see what it looks like every now and then. This is important, because when drawing you watch it so closely as to obscure the big picture. Keeping the original handy for reference is very useful.
If the picture has lots of little details closely together, draw little x’s where it needs to be colored. This helps the final drawing step, so you don’t need to keep the big paper and the taped sheets together (coloring a large sheet taped to a window can get a bit tedious) while coloring the big dark areas in.
When drawing it with marker, star from the bottom. I like to do my markering on the floor, so starting from the bottom inhibits messing the pencil lines again. When doing it in this order, make sure to let the marker dry before rubbing your hand on it.
Remember to take few steps back now and then so you see where you at.
I used Promarker-brand markers, you can use any marker you want. The smaller the tip, the tidier and more detailed the individual lines are, but going too small can make the strokes of the final piece look inorganic. This requires some fine motor control, but can be done by a non-artist with relative ease.
Step 7: Admire Your Work
Then you need only frames for your artsy, big, almost free poster.
I bought my frame from IKEA, it’s called a RIBBA. At 70*100cm, it cost 20€ and I had to cut a few cm from the poster's edges. I thought of different hanging options like magnetic wood straps or plywood background, but a simple frame felt best for the room.
My favorite part of this project is when it’s hanged on the wall, it feels and looks great and you have a thing you made by hand. It's designed by someone else, but that's not necessarily a bad thing- not everything has to be 100% original. And tracing is fun! It's like an activity book for adults, only not as lame as those activity books for adults.