Benefits of Tracing Paper

Benefits of Tracing Paper
February 24, 2016 Daniel Palacios

If you asked me which tools are must-haves when it comes to lettering, I’d say tracing paper and brush pens. They are like air and water. I can’t have one without the other.

These two tools are essential to my workflow.

Using calligraphy, I explore many ideas then gradually refine them with tracing paper. Obviously, there are several different approaches to lettering, but I like to start with a brush pen because that’s how I’m able to visualize the letters and composition.

Rather than writing the same word over and over, you can use a piece of tracing paper to preserve your original sketches as well as make adjustments. These are just some of the many benefits of using tracing paper.

Brush Tip

Did you know that you could extend the life of your brush tip by writing on tracing paper? This is actually a tip I learned from Drew Melton and Neil Secretario one day while at a meet-up. At first, I didn’t understand why they weren’t just sketching on regular paper. After investigating and asking questions, it all made sense. The surface of tracing paper is a lot smoother than most sketch or copy paper. This means less resistance while your brush pen glides across the surface. I encourage you to try it if you want keep your pen around longer.


Like I mentioned earlier, you can use tracing paper to make adjustments instead of trying to nail down a composition all in one try. Trust me, it’s not easy getting things perfectly aligned all in one go. That’s why there’s tracing paper. I recommend using it to your advantage to refine your ideas. You can keep all of the good parts of your sketch and leave out the imperfections using a layer of tracing paper. This way, you won’t need to start from scratch. I personally prefer the Canson tracing pad, but any kind would work just fine.

Point of Reference

As you trace and refine, ideas are bound to evolve. It’s what I call, The Tracing Effect. Essentially, you want to keep your rough drafts intact because you might want to go back in case you hit a creative wall. It’s normal for this to happen during the design process, but it’s always good to have a reference point to bring back some of those original qualities if you choose to. You want to keep your options open, not close them by drawing and erasing directly on the same sketch. Something you did a few minutes ago could be explored and combined with another idea. If you erase everything, your idea is gone.

Practice Sheets

If you signed up to my newsletter, then you received the brush pen guide along with the four printable practice sheets. On Snapchat, I demonstrated how you could use them as templates without ever having to print them out more than once. The trick is to lay a sheet of tracing paper on top. When you’re done filling up the page, just remove the tracing paper and store the practice sheet for another day.

These are just some of the benefits I found while using tracing paper. I’d love to hear how you use it.