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The Art of Tracing

Updated: May 1, 2020

When I started practicing art with colored pencils and Crayola washable markers, I used to stress over perfect lines and results. It's hard to let go of perfection when that's all you want your work to be. Perfect.

I hate to break it to you though, perfection is an unattainable concept, not a goal. You can draw a perfect circle, but you can not make a perfect pizza. There is no such thing as a perfect painting, a perfect song or a perfect human. "Perfection" in my opinion is working towards your highest potential, being open to critique, and being willing to make mistakes to later learn from them.

Some people would consider "realistic" paintings as perfect because they look real. In this case, photorealistic work is perfect copying in my opinion. Realistic paintings take practice of course, but also a steady hand, noticing lighting in your inspiration, and some understanding of color theory (if you know how to make orange, green, and purple you're almost a pro).

I think people are afraid to start painting because they can not draw free hand (viewing an image and copying it by only looking at the image). While there are other ways of drawing to maintain proper proportions, this method will make drawing and painting (edible and non-edible) a piece of cake (pun totally intended).

This technique is also taught in my latest tutorial all about the Art of Edible Painting. In the 35 page PDF tutorial, I give every ounce of information I know about the subject to help you improve your edible art or begin your journey into the craft. I provide recipes, invaluable tips and tricks I wish I had when I first started, and a bonus video that only owners of the tutorial receive. If you are interested in learning more or copping the tutorial, you can visit the link provided here:


Now, enjoy a sneak peek of the tutorial and learn all about the art of tracing:

Materials You'll Need:

  • Parchment Paper or Tracing Paper

  • #2 Pencil

  • Painters Tape (optional)

  • Dull Object for Etching (Back of a paintbrush, pen cap, sculpting tool, etc.)

  1. Find an image, text, drawing or photograph and adjust it to the size you want your painting (I stay around 4”-5”, but you can make it as big as you want!). I work with Photoshop to resize digital images, but you can use Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Docs, Google Slides, or even Canva.

  2. Trace your image using a thin black permanent marker. Washable markers will not work as they may not bleed through the copy paper. Refer to picture #2.

  3. Flip the paper over to reveal your template that you will trace! Refer to picture #3.

  4. Tape a piece of parchment paper or tracing paper over the flipped image (I use blue tape).

  5. Trace the black outline using a #2 pencil. Use pressure when tracing with pencil to get darker lines, as seen in picture #5. Pencil is non-toxic and made of graphite, so don’t worry about a tiny amount pencil on your edible painting.

  6. Remove the tape and you have your parchment pencil transfer ready to use!

  7. Application: You must be working with a fully dried canvas (fondant, royal icing, etc.). Place the pencil side down onto the surface you will be painting on. Be careful not to move the parchment on the surface of the canvas as it will smear the pencil. Carefully retrace the design on the backside of the parchment paper (non-pencil side) using a dull object (Back of a paintbrush, pen cap, sculpting tool, etc.). After tracing the design with a dull tool, carefully place your finger on the center of the paper (holding it in place) and check to see how your design transferred. If there are any areas of the pencil drawing that did not transfer, go back with your dull tool and etch accordingly. When you are happy with the transfer, carefully lift the parchment to reveal your design!

I appreciate you taking the time to read this and your willingness to learn. I hope this technique is valuable towards your future creations and I really look forward to seeing your work. If you use this technique, tag me in a post @jaridsawesomecakes on Instagram or on Facebook so I can share your work and brag about you to the whole dang internet! Also if you have any questions about anything at all (my opinion of the perfect pizza, tutorials, hosting classes, life), please feel free to message me on social media. Also you can see this technique in action in this video below:

Much love and happy painting,


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