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How to Transfer a Repeating Image or Pattern with a Pencil

Want to add a pretty painted embellishment on a piece of furniture or a decor item, but aren’t sure how to transfer it? Here’s a look at how to transfer a repeating image or pattern with a pencil. You don’t need fancy material like a lightbox or a printer, just some tape and a light source like a sunny window. I do mostly make my own patterns, stencils and decorations, but if you don’t have an original design or find you are much of an experienced draw-er (technical term 😉 …) anything from a book, wall paper, fabric, canvas or card works. Black and white clip art with solid lines is the next best thing for beginners. Copy-right free clip art is all over the web and The Graphics Fairy is a great place to start for vintage patterns and images.  If you are feeling creative you can even draw your own. But this is one of the many amazing transfer techniques to make art easier!
Draw your own pattern to trace

Besides clip art or a design you’ll need:
*large blank piece of paper
*regular pencil
*a ball point pen
*Old crayon
*a watercolor pencil
*Painter’s tape
* a bit of time
Once you have your clip art or original image ( I am drawing a wheat motif here for an example), set that aside. If you are going to paint your image as a repeating pattern on furniture, you need to first make a template of the surface you are going to be painting your design onto. This will help you lay it out correctly.
Trace the edge of the furniture to place the image for transfer
Use large sheets of thin drawing paper, like the kind that is super cheap and comes in big rolls that the kids draw on.  Tracing paper for a porject this size would be really expensive. Take one of your kids old old crayons and do a grave-rubbing style impression of the edge all of the way around. This will help you set up you pattern so you know exactly how it will lay on your furniture. I do this for odd-shaped door fronts and curved surfaces a lot. A square edge is much easier to work with. Cut it out in the exact shape. If your piece of furniture is bigger than the paper, tape sheets together. You are ready to start tracing and repeating your pattern. This is going to be an exact transfer, so you don’t need to mirror image your design.
Tape the pattern over the image to transfer
Then on a large window or sliding door, tape your initial printed pattern printed on a sheet of paper to the door. Then place  your furniture template over the top where you want the design to start and the window will act as a light box so you can see your pattern from underneath.
Line up the designs on the template
 Trace over the top with a pencil. Once you trace the entire thing design, reposition your paper to how you would like the pattern to repeat and keep going. Moving the paper on the top over the design underneath. Trace that and move it again. You don’t have to do a single repeating pattern either. You can layer your images how ever you like. And don’t just think edges, but edges, middles, doors drawers, sideways, frontways, upside down and backwards :)…..  I thought it better to start simply.
Add the repeating pattern by tracing
Once your pattern is completely done on your template, step back, look at it, see if there is anything you would like to change or add. Then with a WATERCOLOR pencil (a special pencil watercolor artists use, it pretty much dissolves in water) rub the entire back side of the a pattern with a shade close to your paint color, but bold enough to see. Press hard, you want it to be thick enough on there to transfer to the surface. You can get these pencils an any art supply store for about a dollar. They are amazing and have many uses besides just art. I like to make my nail holes to hang things because they pretty much wash off the walls.
Rub a watercolor colored pencil on the back of the image
Once you finish going over the entire reverse side of the pattern (you may have to re- sharpen several times.), flip it over and tape it securely to your surface. Trace the entire pattern with a pen with a roller tip. I Lift a tiny flap while you are doing it very carefully to make sure you are pressing hard enough. It doesn’t have to be a heavy line, just dark enough that you can follow it to transfer.
Draw your own pattern to trace over to transfer and image
If you need to, go over the entire outline once the entire thing is traced again with your watercolor pencil. Once you life the paper, you’ll see all of your transferred lines. As a little tip: Pick a color that blends easily into you paint, but for a light surface use a dark watercolor pencil  like blue or green and for a dark surface use a light one like yellow or tan.
Image transferred into a table top
Then, the hard part is finished (another good stopping point). You are ready to paint, just follow your lines!
Use acrylic paint to add a design to furntiure
This makes painting large patterns  to create your masterpiece so much easier than having to freehand all of your drawing!
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Dra your card board across your paint to make your pattern
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  1. I think the watercolor pencil idea is especially clever! Thank you for posting this! And, I want to tell you that I especially wanted to make sure to comment because I have a couple of how-tos on my blog that get hundreds of hits, and one or two people are all that have ever taken the time to reply. That’s just not right 🙂 . . . especially after all of the effort that you put into sharing this with us . . . so I am here to tell you that I appreciate what you have done. 🙂 Thanks!
    ~ Debbi

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