Action Sketching: Using an LED light tablet for tracing

My objective in creating this blog is to inspire soccer fans to draw the game as well as view or play it. The best way to do that is to show you how to quickly and easily get into the sport of action sketching.

A problem with learning how to sketch action figures is seeing three-dimensional subjects (people) as “flat” so you can draw them on a flat piece of paper. The only way you can do that, without years of unsatisfactory results, is to view three-dimensional actions through flat reference material, like photos or other sketches.

Amazingly, tracing will not limit your artistic growth. Rather, it informs that growth so in a short period, you’ll be able to draw physical maneuvers without always having a non-moving image as reference.

Start your artistic growth journey by using a LED Light tablet together with photos or other sketches. Tablets generally look like the one below.

LED Light Tablet

LED light tablets, which feature LED lights behind a glass panel, are sold online and in some craft stores. Buy one that advertises it has even light coverage across its display surface. For most people, the panel should be around the size of printer paper, but smaller and larger ones exist.

To use a LED light tablet, turn on the lights, place a printed image on top of the glass, then a blank piece of paper on top of it. Depending on how thin your paper is, you’ll be able to see the printed image through it, enabling you to trace key lines (reference points) on the blank paper.

The example below shows a video snippet I used as inspiration for a finished, watercolor sketch. Production time was less than a half hour, which is important if you want to produce images for manga, cartoons, or manuals, not to mention for your own portfolio. In terms of physical stance, my drawing is not perfect, but I can use it as an illustration for my next blog post.

video image and resulting sketch

Sorry! Tracing alone will not achieve satisfactory output. It might, however, make you an expert in drawing body outlines for murder mystery novels.

simple trace

Hopefully, by this time you acquired an artist’s manikin and a LED light tablet. (If you cannot afford the LED light tablet, at least acquire a manikin. Future blogs will show you how to work freehand.)


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This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching.


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