A Pouncing Nightmare
Posted on 02/02/2021
I recently finished my largest mural to-date, spanning 44ft wide in a corporate office hallway. The mural's location made it difficult to use a projector for tracing, so I rose to the challenge with the old-school pounce method! From the headline, you probably guessed that things went south for me, LOL! I hope by sharing my disastrous experience, others can learn from my mistakes. While my first attempt SUCKED, pouncing is a reliable way to transfer a design to the wall when you can't use a projector. Read on to learn the basics of pouncing and my failures during the process.
Pouncing is a manual tracing technique used by sign painters, sewers, and crafters.
To begin, you print an outline of your art as a template on paper. Then you use a pounce wheel to perforate the linework of the design. A pounce wheel (also known as trace, dart, or pattern wheel) is an instrument that pokes tiny holes on paper or fabric. Mine is the Excel brand in the medium size. Once the linework is perforated, use painter tape to attach the template to the wall. Next, you need a pounce pad (a cloth pad within a case filled with chalk). You can make one by filling a sock or a piece of cotton t-shirt fabric with chalk and tying off a knot. Apply your store-bought or DIY pounce pad over the template to transfer chalk through the perforations, which is the "pouncing" part of the process. When you remove the template, you should see a tracing of your art in chalk on the wall!
Easy-peasy, right? I thought so, but BEHOLD! The 4 painful mistakes I made:
1. Paying FedEx to print my template.
For an enormous mural, I had to print my design on multiple oversize papers known as engineering prints and tile them together. My FedEx charged 0.85 cents per square foot for black/white. It set me back $360! After complaining on Instagram, fellow artist Erin Wallace shared an affordable online print service called PdfPlotting.com. My prints would've been only $100 with shipping! Ugh!!
2. Using a cutting mat instead of a corkboard.
You need a supporting material under the template to create perforations with the pounce wheel. At first, I used a rubber cutting mat that I already own. The mat was too firm, so I had to press down hard on the pounce wheel to create the holes. I spent 10+ hours perforating; it was TORTURE on my hand, arm, shoulder, and soul! The next day, I got a bulletin-sized corkboard...and HOLY #$@! I almost cried at how effortless it was to perforate through the paper. Imagine if I had a corkboard in the first place. I could've finished this step faster without exhausting my body. :(
3. Pouncing with high-grade chalk.
Usually, I plan ahead, but it was too late to buy a pounce pad and powder online. I relied on my assistant's DIY pounce pad and his supply of chalk. After painting the mural, I had to clean up any remaining visible chalk from the wall. Unfortunately, the chalk was near IMPOSSIBLE to erase! Did I mention the baseboard of this 44ft long wall was also covered in chalk? First, I tried a wet rag, but it smeared the chalk and horribly stained the wall. I then used a natural cleaning solution of vinegar and water, which did nothing! Finally, a dish sponge and soapy water managed to scrub off the stains. The chalk powder came from Home Depot and is meant for construction use. I suspect it has semi-permanent and waterproof qualities. In the future, I'd use charcoal powder (highly recommended by muralist Jing Wei) or buy the pounce powder sold online. I also tested another technique at home where I used a POSCA acrylic marker to draw over the perforations. The marker left a tracing of tiny dots on the wall too! This could be a cleaner alternative that would work on smooth walls!
4. Banging the pounce pad across the whole template.
Turns out there's a right and wrong way to pounce. The proper technique is to pound the pad once against a surface to release the chalk, and wipe the pounce pad against the template. See a quick tutorial video here by Leah Day. A common rookie mistake is to bang the pounce pad repeatedly against the template. This error causes a lot of chalk to release, creating a dooming cloud. Your arm will also be covered in chalk from applying the pounce pad improperly. If you are indoors, the chalk lands on EVERYTHING. We made a massive mess on the baseboard trim and the concrete floor because I didn't think to place a drop cloth to collect the excess chalk. We did our best to clean the floor with a broom and pan. Then I had to scrub the remaining chalk off the baseboard with soapy water. It was so much extra work that I didn't anticipate. This all could be avoided if I knew the right way for pouncing!
Now that you know what NOT to do, I hope pouncing will come in handy for you!
Don't be intimidated by my bad experience. Muralists use this technique all the time for large-scale paintings that span multiple floors outside a building. It's effective for creating accurate and to-size tracings. You can also apply this trick on smaller projects like chalkboards or canvases. I always use a projector whenever possible, but this method can be a lifesaver when projectors are unavailable. I hope you learned plenty from this post, and don't let the lack of a projector stop you from starting that mural!