Want to boost your drawing skills? The Camera Lucida app uses your phone or tablet to superimpose an image onto your drawing surface, making it easy to draw what you see.
It’s a helpful tool for artists who work with pencil, ink, paint, or even icing for cake decoration. Use filters to adjust the reference image, mirror your display to create larger art pieces, and easily film videos of your creative work in progress.
Here’s how to make the most of the Camera Lucida app’s many features and discover new ways to experiment with a variety of visual mediums.
Getting Started With the Camera Lucida App
Before diving in, download the Camera Lucida app to your iOS device.
Download: Camera Lucida ($9.99)
To start using the Camera Lucida app’s basic settings, you’ll need a reference image. To choose an image, either click on the camera icon to take a photo immediately, or use the book or cloud icon to find a photo from your library.
The bar icon on the lower right-hand section of the screen opens a menu you can use to adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, and gamma of your photo. The circling arrow icon rotates your image.
To effectively use the Camera Lucida app, set up your drawing space. Elevate your phone or tablet on some books, blocks, or another sturdy surface. You can also use one of the best phone tripods for a more long-term solution. To make sure everything stays in place, tape down your drawing surface or work from a sturdy notebook.
Adjust Your Image for Camera Lucida
Once your space is set up, adjust the image to fit your drawing surface. Use the circling arrow icon to rotate your image as necessary. When you’re ready to draw, tap the center icon of a hand holding a pencil, it locks your image in place.
From here, you can adjust the slider to fade between your reference image and your drawing surface. Find a transparency level that works for your project and start drawing.
Alternatively, tap the upward-facing arrow icon in the lower right-hand corner of the screen to set up the Flicker setting, which increases and decreases the transparency of your image at set intervals. It’s a good option if you find yourself fiddling with the fade function too much while trying to draw.
In addition, you can work from the original picture or use preset image selections to bring out different aspects of your subject. For instance, choosing to greyscale or posterize an image can make tracing it easier. If you’re creating an ink drawing, for example, then consider the black and white comic book filter for a cool effect.
Play around with these settings until you find one that works for your project. You can still adjust the transparency of your image with a filter.
How to Draw With Camera Lucida
When working with the Camera Lucida app, you look at the screen, not your paper, in order to draw your image. The process is different from using a projector or tracing from a separate sheet of paper, and it takes a little adjustment time.
One of the coolest parts of using this app is the ability to zoom in and work on details. As long as you have the drawing mode turned on, you can move around the image and zoom in without losing your place. This makes working on complicated portions of your image much simpler.
In addition, because nothing blocks your drawing surface, it’s easy to use rulers, stencils, or any other tools while creating your sketch.
Plus, working with the Camera Lucida app offers a lot of creative control, because you decide what goes on the paper or canvas. Consider the reference image a starting point for your own creations. As the Camera Lucida art gallery shows, artists are using the app for sketches, paintings, cookie decorations, and many more mediums.
You don’t need to be a trained artist to use this app, but learning some drawing skills wouldn’t hurt.
Capture a Video of Your Camera Lucida Drawing
To create a time-lapse video of your drawing progress within the app, tap the red circular REC button in the upper right-hand side of the drawing screen. The video records automatically, and it uploads to your Photos collection once complete.
It only records your progress on the drawing surface, and the app itself is not captured. You can adjust the playback quality and timescale by tapping the arrow icon before recording.
How to Create Larger Art With the Camera Lucida App
With its usual settings, the app can generally work for drawing surfaces about 12 to 14 inches in size; beyond that, you need to make some adjustments to create large-scale drawings. Here’s how to mirror the app to another device for working on a larger surface, in this case, 16 x 20-inch watercolor paper.
To start, set up your drawing space for Camera Lucida as usual. From the main screen, click the upper-left hamburger icon for a quick dropdown menu of the settings. Select the Maximize Drawing Size option.
Next, you will need to use a screen mirroring option to view the app on a separate device. If you’re working within the Apple ecosystem, you can use Reflector. You can also mirror an iPhone or iPad screen to a Windows PC or another device with LonelyScreen. With a little trial and error, you can likely get your tablet or phone to mirror with a laptop or additional tablet to use as a second screen.
Now for the interesting part: setting up your drawing space to work from the mirrored device. In this case, an iPhone running the Camera Lucida app is set up on a table 22 inches above the large watercolor paper, which mirrors to a laptop at eye level via the AirDroid app.
Working directly from the mirrored laptop screen included a bit of a lag, which sometimes made the tracing process a bit disorienting and more difficult than drawing while looking directly at the app on a phone. However, with a bit of practice, it’s possible to produce a sketch with this process as well.
Create Lifelike Drawings in Minutes With the Camera Lucida App
If you’re looking to enhance your drawing, painting, or decorating skills, then the Camera Lucida app is exactly what you need. It’s an incredible tool for visual artists, and even without formal training, you can create lifelike and impactful art in just a few minutes.
Getting your space set up to use the app, particularly for larger art, can take a little time and creative thinking, but this is also part of the fun. It’s well worth a shot for hobbyists and more established artists alike.