Cheat Code for Drawing: The NeoLucida Lets You Trace 3D Objects onto Paper

A camera lucida is an old-school device that uses a lens and a mirror to let you trace a 3D object in front of you onto a piece of paper below you.

In 1999 artist David Hockney purchased one. After experimenting with it and a camera obscura as well, Hockney released his controversial book Secret Knowledge, where he laid out a case for how old masters–da Vinci, Caravaggio, Ingres, etc.–may have used optical devices to produce their realistic drawings. This became known as the Hockney-Falco thesis, and it’s fascinating.

Portrait of Mme. Baltrad, 1836, Ingres. Traced?

Having read Hockney’s book, in the 2010s artists Pablo Garcia & Golan Levin created, Kickstarted and began selling affordable mass-market camera lucidas to encourage people to experiment with them themselves. Their initial NeoLucida device was tiny and can still be purchased here; they’ve partnered up with Big Idea Design to keep them in production.

They even set up a Facebook group where NeoLucida users could share their work.

More recently they’ve released a larger version called the NeoLucida XL, designed to make the drawing experience a bit more comfortable.

Here’s what it looks like when you look through the device to trace a 3D object onto paper:

It’s better seen in video:

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The small NeoLucida is $39, and the NeoLucida XL rings in at $75.