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Mary Lawler Art Blog

Tracing Paper Mystery

by marylawler , February 17, 2009—12:00 AM

Topics: Canson, art materials, tracing paper, vellum

2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the invention of tracing paper by Canson. A bit of trivia you might not ponder on a daily basis but it is interesting non-the less. Used since its invention, by artists, architects, engineers and draftsman. Tracing paper and tracing vellum has become a staple in every design, architectural and fine art studio. Canson developed tracing paper in 1809. No one is sure exactly how the concept came about or how much trial and error was involved in the development. One medieval recipe involved marble dust, fish glue and garlic. So glad we improved on that! To this day Canson__™s technique for making tracing paper is kept secret. All that is divulged is that the transparency is achieved in the pulping stage of the process.

In Annonay, France, the Canson paper mill has making the finest art papers in the world for nearly 450 years. Descendants of the founding Montgolfier family work today in the Rhone Valley mill where the company first produced paper in 1557. Canson__™s history tells the story of the development of fine papermaking, and includes such milestones as the manufacture of the first French vellum fine writing paper in 1777, and the use of the Hollander (cylinder) for pulp beating in 1781. But the company__™s most publicized accomplishment came in 1783, when brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier invented the hot-air balloon __" made of paper! In 1807, Napoleon awarded a patent to the Mongolfiers for a pulp coloring process. It was a son-in-law named Canson who patented a technique for incorporating sizing into paper.

Tracing paper__™s semi transparent quality allowed for the overlay of images for comparison and fitting as well as the copy and transfer of shapes and images long before copy technology made it possible. The surface of tracing paper while seemingly quite smooth has a tooth that is excellent for pencil drawing, colored pencil and pastel. The surface is also excellent for pen and ink, technical pen, and marker.

Pergamano Parchment Craft is a popular, rediscovered craft rooted in an art form that stems back almost two thousand years. Today's parchment craft projects are delicately beautiful, lacy designs created by a combination of techniques including embossing, stippling, perforating, cutting and coloring.

Tracing paper can also be used as carbon paper. After tracing the desired shape(s)rub the reverse of the image area with a soft pencil or graphite stick. Rub lightly with a tissue to remove the excess powder. Turn right side up, position and retrace the original shape. The graphite on the reverse will leave a faithful mark.

In addition to it__™s familiar uses, tracing paper and tracing vellum have found new uses in the 20th century. Tracing vellum can be put through a laser printer and keep a crisp image but doesn__™t work well with ink jet printers. Tracing vellum can be used as a wrapper, slip-sheet or as an overlay for original drawings and formal documents. Made from cotton fibers, today's parchment (vellum, tracing paper) is translucent with a smooth surface and light gray color.

Canson__™s tracing paper is 100% cotton fiber and contains no translucence, chemicals, bleaches or optic whiteners. For more information on the entire line of Canson__™s fine artists papers and art materials go to




  cheap papers ( homepage )

08/08/2010 * 08:38:27


Thanks for sharing this tracing paper mystery here online. Buddy really helped me



  carbonless paper, ( homepage )

08/08/2010 * 06:35:32


Hey many articles on tracing paper mystery are published these days, each with new idea!




02/19/2009 * 11:40:05

I have been working with Canson and Arches paper since I was in art school.Not too long ago I found a sheet of Mi-Teintes in the bottom of one of my file drawers that had to be 25 years old. I compared it to a new sheet I had and there was virtually no difference in color. Now that's what I call quality control. All of their papers are superb and very cross usable. Some of their "printmaking" papers are great for painting, lettering and book making.
The Vellum is just yummy.


  Zander Lassen ( homepage )

02/18/2009 * 20:37:00

I've always enjoyed working with Canson paper, now I know why. Thanks!

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