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The Transfer Drawing Process

by ArtSister member Ellen Abraham

The oil transfer technique  was often used by  the artist Paul Klee to great effect. I enjoy doing transfer drawings because the result is a sensitive or dramatic line drawing (depending on the pressure & tool  used)  that actually looks very much like a print. It is a simple technique which enables an artist to work on top of the transfer drawing with various media. I’ve used watercolors, gouache , oil pastels, colored pencils, collage and oil sticks on my transfer drawings some of which I’ve included in this short demo.


Step 1. Select a color using a slow drying medium such as oil paint or printers ink & spread the paint onto a plexiglass or acrylic plate using a brayer (Most of my drawings are approximately 18” x 24”.

STEP 2. Place your paper VERY LIGHTLY on top of the plexiglass plate. Draw on your paper without LEANING on the paper so that the only ink or paint that transfers to the paper is the drawn line. You can use a thick or thin drawing implement or both together to create a varied line.(I use Arches watercolor paper for most transfer drawings but any good paper can be used depending on your preference).

STEP3. Carefully, slowly  lift your paper off of the plastic plate & you will  have a REVERSE image of your original drawing on the other side of the Arches paper. (I peep at the underside of my drawing intermittently  as I draw to make sure the line is transferring the way I want it to). You can press hard or lightly to create various lines in the drawing. Some of the paint will probably be picked up in  other areas of the paper, other than the lines that you’ve pressed into the paper with your drawing tool which I find  is an interesting surprise! You can, of course, use more than one color for you acrylic plate.

STEP4. The transfer drawing can then be worked on using any medium you like since it will result in a fractured oil line which will act as a resist to watercolor or gouache when it is painted on top….or it can exist as a simple transfer drawing!  You can just start drawing on your page and wing it! But I usually create a detailed line drawing first & place it on top of my Arches paper to trace the drawing which will be the reverse of my original preliminary drawing.  Have fun experimenting!



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