Tracing paper is a super-thin type of paper that allows artists to trace designs and transfer them to other sheets of paper. However, you can create a finished design on tracing paper, like architects. So, what sizes does tracing paper come in?
In the US, tracing paper is most commonly available in the following sizes:
- 8.5 × 11 inches
- 9 × 12 inches
- 11 × 14 inches
- 12 × 18 inches
- 14 × 17 inches
- 18 × 24 inches
- 19 × 24 inches
You can also find tracing paper in ISO A-series sizes, such as A2, A3, and A4.
In this guide, I’ll explain what tracing paper is, how it’s graded, what sizes it comes in, and how to make tracing paper at home.
What Is Tracing Paper?
Back in elementary school, you probably used tracing paper quite frequently during arts and crafts. Tracing paper is a specialty type of paper that has a lot more in common with tissue paper than regular printing paper.
Tracing paper has a slightly transparent appearance. You can usually see darkened lines underneath tracing paper, which allows you to draw over the design (tracing) and transfer it onto the sheet of tracing paper. However, tracing paper has other uses, such as making origami, drawing intricate architectural designs, or even turning it into a funnel to move dry ingredients from one place to another.
How Is Tracing Paper Graded?
Like any other sheet of paper, you can generally tell what tracing paper is by its weight. The weight of the paper is measured in point sizes, which determine the thickness of the sheet. One point is equal to 1/1,000th of an inch or 0.001 inches thick. The thicker the sheet of paper, the higher its point figure is. Tracing paper usually has a thickness of 0.5 millimeters or about 0.02 inches (20 points).
Another way to weigh tracing paper is by looking at its gsm or grams per square inch rating. Tracing paper has a gsm of between 35 and 50. To put that into comparison, regular printing paper has a gsm rating of between 60 and 120, while cardstock is usually between 250 and 400 gsm. To put it another way, the higher the gsm is, the thicker the stock is, and the more difficult it is to tear.
With all that said, it’s important to note that the exact point or gsm figure of a sheet of tracing paper varies between brands. Some tracing paper is set at 40 to 41 gsm, while you can find heavyweight tracing paper at 112 gsm.
Tracing Paper Sizes
The size of a sheet of tracing paper is all over the place. Some of the most commonly used tracing paper sheets are letter-size or 8.5 × 11 inches. However, there are also specialty tracing paper sizes used by industry professionals.
Some of the largest sheets of tracing paper measure 24 inches wide and have various lengths (between 9 and 19 inches). There are also smaller tracing paper sheets that are half the size of letter paper or roughly 8.5 × 5.5 inches.
If you’re shopping for tracing paper outside of the US, then you will most likely find sheet sizes that follow the ISO 216 sizing standard or A-series sizes. The A-series size collection is as follows:
|A0||33-1/4 × 46-13/16||84.1 × 118.8|
|A1||23-3/8 × 33-1/8||59.4 × 84.1|
|A2||16-1/2 × 23-3/8 in||41 × 59.4|
|A3||11-3/4 × 16-1/2||29.7 × 42|
|A4||8-1/4 × 11-3/4||21 × 29.7|
|A5||5-7/8 × 8-1/4||14.8 × 21|
|A6||4-1/8 × 5-7/8||10.5 × 14.8|
|A7||2-15/16 × 4-1/8||7.4 × 10.5|
|A8||2-1/16 x × -15/16||5.2 × 7.4|
How to Make Tracing Paper
To be completely honest with you, it’s nearly impossible to make your own tracing paper unless you have the proper machines and materials. All of that stuff can be quite costly, which is why you should stick to purchasing tracing paper.
However, if you want to trace something and don’t particularly care about the thickness of your tracing paper, here’s how you can turn regular printing paper into tracing paper.
- Prepare a regular sheet of printing paper. The most common sizes are letter (8.5 × 11 inches) and legal (8.5 × 14 inches). However, you can use any sheet size you have on hand.
- Use a paintbrush and apply a thin layer of vegetable oil on the sheet of printing paper. Make sure to paint past the edges of the paper so that the entire surface becomes semi-transparent.
- Use a paper towel and dab the surface of the sheet of paper. The goal is to remove as much of the oil as possible.
- Let the greasy sheet dry for 24 hours. You can accelerate the drying process by leaving the sheet of paper out in the sun. Alternatively, you can use a hairdryer on its lowest setting and blow the entire surface of the paper.
And just like that, you’re ready to trace any design you want onto your makeshift sheet of tracing paper. This DIY version of tracing paper will not be as flexible as store-bought tracing paper, but it should do a decent enough job of helping you trace designs with dark outlines.
Can You Use Baking Paper to Trace?
Yes, you can. Baking paper, or parchment paper, is another type of thin, semi-translucent stock. It has a gsm of between 41 and 45 (depending on the brand), so it should behave very similarly to tracing paper.
Although you can use baking paper in place of tracing paper, you cannot use tracing paper in place of baking paper in the kitchen. Baking paper is designed to withstand oven heat without crinkling or burning. Tracing paper will almost immediately catch fire in an oven.
Can You Print on Tracing Paper?
It’s possible, but not every residential printer is designed to handle tracing paper equally. Tracing paper is much thinner than regular printing paper. As such, it will not stand on the rack nearly as well, and the wheels inside the printer might cause the tracing paper to fold over itself.
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