How to Trace on an iPad

If your printer ever breaks down, like ours recently did, you might just find this tutorial on how to trace on an iPad handy! Never toss old technology. In a pinch, you can upcycle an old iPad (or new one for that matter) into a makeshift light table to trace a drawing!

As some of you know, we participate in a monthly International Blogger’s Club challenge. The lack of a printer was cramping my style for this month’s leather challenge. But why let a broken printer slow you down from an upcycle craft? By the way, check out our post on how to clean printer heads to get your printer working again!

Picture of printer that not longer prints

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After watching a YouTube video about making a barn quilt, I immediately wanted to make a smaller version by upcycling leather scraps! So I drew the pattern in illustrator and air dropped it to my Ipad.

Watch OUR YouTube Video

Now, watch our YouTube video to see how easy it is to convert your iPad into a light box for tracing! It’s a great investment in time for less than 5 minutes!

Can you Use an iPad for Tracing?

You can use an iPad for tracing with a few simple steps, a key one being locking the screen so it doesn’t move around on you every time you touch it!

The first thing to do is turn up the brightness on your iPad so you have the best contrast. You want the lines to shine through the graph paper – like a light box – so you can trace them. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness, then drag the slider to the maximum.

iPad on a desk showing barn quilt pattern for How to Trace on an iPad

How to Trace on an iPad

Place a piece of graph paper over the iPad. I tape it to the table to prevent shifting.

iPad covered with a piece of graph paper before showing How to Trace on an iPad

However, as soon as you try to trace your drawing, the image on your iPad will resize whenever you touch the pencil to the screen. Annoying! But there’s a fix for that.

How to Trace a Picture Without it Moving

These instructions may vary a bit depending on the model of iPad you have. I’m using an old iPad Air.

  1. Open settings on the ipad
  2. Find general / accessibility
  3. Scroll down to the bottom and turn on Guilded Access
  4. Return to the photo and click on your image
  5. Click the home button 3 times fast
  6. When guided access comes up for the first time, set a password
  7. Your screen will now be locked and you can trace away without the image shifting or distorting.

For this drawing, since it’s geometric, I just placed dots at the intersecting lines.

Barn quilt pattern showing through the graph paper covering the iPad for How to Trace on an iPad

How to trace on iPad screen

Then I connect the dots with a ruler. Of course, if you’re drawing something more fluid, just trace it!

a pencil and ruler on top of graph paper

Once your image is on the graph paper, you’ll be able to scale it up as you wish.

Image on graph paper beside the iPad after showing How to Trace on an iPad

However, if you have a definite size in mind for our pattern, you’ll need to do a little math. Otherwise, just scale it up by drawing larger size square on whatever substrate you decide to use and transferring the patter. My plan is to make my ‘barn quilt’ 20″. So here’s what I do. Count the number of squares in height – I have 21.25″. Then divide that number into 20 (the height I want). I end up with .94.

iPad and graph paper showing how to calculate scaling up the pattern drawn

Since I’m working in increments of inches, shift the decimal point over to get the percentage to shrink the 1″ graph paper to when you print. In my case, it will print the graph paper at 94%.

Printable Graph Paper

If you don’t want to hand draw 1″ squares, (and you have a working printer) you can find online sources for printing 1″ graph paper by googling it. Here it is scaled to 94%.

1" grid graph paper that has been scaled down to 94%

Admittedly, once we got our printer working again, I scaled my pattern in illustrator and then tiled it onto several pages. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit!

Leather Barn Quilt

So you may be wondering, ‘where’s the leather barn quilt’? As is sometimes the case, I came up with another idea for the IBC leather challenge and put this upcycle idea on the back burner. Instead, I did this remote control holder. I’m sure you’ll see this barn quilt again soon in some form or other!

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4 thoughts on “How to Trace on an iPad

  1. What an excellent idea! I never thought of using my (now expired) iPad Air this way. My son bought me a lovely light box for Christmas — I will be forever grateful for that gift 🙂 Unfortunately my iPad Air (6 years old I believe) died a couple of weeks ago. I have ordered another iPad (the iPad Air could not be repaired and wasn’t being supported any longer anyway). There is a shortage of iPads at the moment, however I was given a delivery date of between May 10-17. Life if “rough” without it 😀

    • Hopefully you get your iPad soon and get out of your ‘rough’ patch lol. My iPad air is still holding on; that’s what I used for this post 🙂. It’s so frustrating that it isn’t being supported because it’s still perfectly good otherwise. But I will have to give in one day and order a new one too if i want to stay ‘connected’.

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