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How to Transfer a Drawing from Paper to Canvas

Learn 2 easy ways to transfer your drawings/letters from paper onto canvas for a painting.

Looking for an easy way how to transfer your drawing onto canvas?

In this post I will show you 2 ways to transfer them! These methods also applies to the FREE printable stencils I provide in my painting tutorials.

Why Transfer Your Drawing?

Having a traced design of your drawing (on canvas) before you start painting serves as a guideline of where your colors should go and what your shapes should look like.

That way you can focus on the painting part- without worrying if your proportions of your subject are too big or too small.

This makes painting process less stressful and more enjoyable – especially for beginners.

And you won’t be any less of an artist- even experienced artist use these methods!

Let’s look at the most popular and fastest method first…

Full Length Step-by Step Video Tutorial on YouTube

Click the image below for the full video tutorial

Method 1: Transfer a Drawing using Transfer Paper / Carbon paper

You can get an inexpensive pack of transfer paper and use a sheet between your paper sketch and canvas (or wood) to etch in your design.

This is the quickest method, that doesn’t require prepping your paper. It also provides the sharpest transfer. This works well for simple drawings like the sunflower below or more complex ones like a portrait.

I used this method for my how to paint a portrait tutorial of Beyonce.


(You can watch the full length YouTube tutorial here)

1.Place the transfer paper onto canvas (or wood)

2. Put your paper sketch (or printable stencil) on top of the transfer paper

3. Using sharpened pencil (or mechanical pencil) trace over your paper design.

4.Lift away the tracing paper and printable stencil and yours canvas should now have an outline of your drawing

5. Paint / color / fill in as desired.

Method 2: Transfer A Drawing Without Transfer Paper (pencil method)

This method requires a simple unleaded pencil (which you probably have at home). This method works similarly to the tracing paper method above, but it requires prepping your paper before hand.

Check out the step by step instructions below.

Also, if you’d prefer to watch this tutorial via a video, check out the full length video tutorial here.

Step 1

Take your paper sketch or printable stencil and lay it down on the table with design side down

Step 2

Take your pencil and color over top the drawing (on the back side of the paper)

Step 3

Flip the paper, design side up now and place it onto your canvas or wood panel.

Step 4

Now taking a sharp pencil (or mechanical pencil) trace over your design. This will etch it onto the canvas

Step 5

Lift off the paper design and your traced pencil design will be transferred onto your canvas or wood panel. Paint or fill in as desired!

FREE Sunflower Stencil Printable

If you’d like to try to transfer over the sunflower photo, you can use the free printable below. You can also follow the step by step painting instructions in how to paint a sunflower tutorial.

How to print: Right click on image below, save as jpg to your computer and print out on your printer.

Hope you enjoyed these 2 simple ways how to transfer drawing onto canvas.

Now, have some fun filling in your newly traced design! Get your creative on!



If you want some fun beginner step by step painting tutorials, check them out here!

If you like this tutorial, put a pin on it!

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Faustina Minquela

Sunday 30th of July 2023

I'm very interested in upcycling old, thrift store framed art. I want to add something fun or whimsical, like a UFO in the skyscape, etc. I can't draw to save my life! Would this work transferring images I'd like to infuse in old artwork?

Jasmine Dhillon

Tuesday 9th of January 2024

Hi Faustina,

What a fabulous idea- love it! And yes you can definitely use the transfer method to get the initial shape transferred onto the canvas, then paint it in afterwards. Hope that helps- and love the UFO in skyscape idea :)

Cheers, Jasmine


Wednesday 22nd of September 2021

I have transfer carbon paper and want to trace something onto a black canvas, how do you do that?

Jasmine Khinda

Friday 15th of October 2021

Hi Donna, To transfer your design using carbon paper: place your carbon paper (shiny side up) down on your canvas, then your design over top the carbon paper. Then you can trace using a sharp pencil over the design. Once you're done, lift the carbon paper off and your design should be transferred over. Hope that helps. Cheers, Jasmine


Thursday 8th of July 2021

Hi could you send me the colours you used for your shine bright picture, also couldn’t get to print the sunflower

Jasmine K

Saturday 17th of July 2021

Hi Vicki,

You can access the full sunflower "shine bright" tutorial with paint colors and instructions here: how to paint a sunflower tutorial. The download of the traceable stencil is also available at the bottom of that post. Let me know if you have any issues accessing it.

Cheers, Jasmine

Lee Barnett

Wednesday 24th of March 2021

Dear Jasmine, Thank you so much for your enthusiasm. I love that you are willing to share your knowledge. Art is the best part of life. Lee Barnett

Jasmine K

Saturday 27th of March 2021

Thank you Lee :) It makes me happy to share my love of art with others - And 100% agree art is the best!

Cheers, Jasmine


Saturday 22nd of August 2020

Thank you Jasmine I will. It may take some time.

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