MAU Art & Design Glossary

Tracing Paper


Tracing Paper

Tracing paper is a translucent type of paper made by refining and processing pulp, the main raw material in paper, to a high degree. It is also called tōshashi or torepe in Japanese.

The translucent quality of the paper lends the medium well to tracing drawings and rough sketches, making the paper a suitable choice for applications like pictorial composition, drafting, painting production, and creating paste-ups. The paper can also provide a protective surface for artwork and printed materials. There is a broad spectrum of other uses for tracing paper, ranging from lighting equipment to material for three-dimensional modeling. Each sheet of tracing paper also has a front side and a back side, which are difficult to distinguish by sight. You can identify the front side by its somewhat smooth surface. Ultimately, however, there is little difference between the sides.

Tracing paper is available in general sheets, large rolls, or pads bound to one side by glue. Thickness (or weight) ranges from ultra-heavyweight and heavyweight to medium-weight and lightweight. (Manufacturers may name these varieties differently.) Tracing paper comes in many other forms, including “double tracing paper,” which sandwiches a thin layer of LDPE between tracing paper for greater moisture resistance, as well as colored and grid tracing paper.

Note that tracing paper is susceptible to moisture damage, which may produce errors in drawings that require strict precision. Store tracing paper in a well-ventilated area and/or use dehumidifying agents to optimize the storage environment.
Tracing paper is available for purchase at art supply stores.

*The illustrations (photos) are test samples designed to illustrate the characteristics of the paper and provide an example of how artists might use the product for expressive purposes. They are not intended to recommend specific drawing materials for certain purposes (the illustrations may even use some drawing materials considered unsuitable for given applications in order to exhibit their traits)


  • Tracing paper (close-up)Tracing paper (close-up)
  • Examples of strokes on a sheet of lightweight tracing paper