There are lots of different ways to transfer an image from point A to point B "your airbrushing surface). The technique I am about to show you is one that I developed for myself to eliminate the use of transfer papers. The supplies you will need to follow along are a graphite pencil, or soft graphite stick and a photocopy of the image you want to transfer. This technique is allot easier to pull off with a soft graphite stick which are available at most art stores for about a buck a piece. With that being said lets begin.
The first thing your going to want to do is make a clear photocopy of the image you want to transfer. Make sure all of your important details are clear. The photocopy itself should be printed using a draft or fast print setting. You will want the copy light enough that when you begin to trace it out you will see your line work. See my photo copy below. For this demo I will be using art from one of my favorite artists Boris Vallejo.
Step 2: On the reverse of your photocopy you are going to begin laying down your graphite. This is where the advantage of having a large graphite stick comes in. You will want to cover the entire reverse of your image. You can adjust how heavy your transfer is by how much graphite you lay down here. So a very light coat for a light transfer, a very heavy coat for a darker transfer. One of the reasons I tend to use this type of transfer over Saral paper is that once the transfer is made using Saral paper it is very hard to modify, or remove. With this method you can add to, erase or modify your transfer very easily.
In step three you are going to position your photocopy on the surface which you plan to transfer the image to. Position and then tape the photocopy into place. I tape the top edge of the copy so that I can create a hinge. This allows me to lift the photocopy and then lay it back down without shifting the photocopy. The second way to go about this step is to position you photocopy and then create registration marks, so that the copy can be moved and then put back into place by aligning the marks, or registration marks you created. I almost always opt for the tape and hinge method and sometimes for a back up I will tape and also use registration marks. Either way this step is very important! If your photocopy shifts during the transfer and you dont have some way to line it back up your done. Erase and start over!
Now you will begin to make your transfer by tracing the image out. Be sure to use a pen or a pencil with a very fine tip that will allow you to see which areas you have traced. If you dont use something that leaves a visible mark of where you've been you will loose your lines and become lost in the image. You will obviously want to trace out the base image, but you might also want to mark shadows and highlights. I normally make dashed lines of these borders so when I am airbrushing I easily differentiate between border lines and shows and highlights.
So at this stage your transfer should be complete. You can now go over your transfer and prepare it for airbrushing. I always keep my transfer lines as light as possible. That usually means using an eraser to knock back lines. Sometimes areas of the transfer are not dark enough though and need to be gone over with a pencil. As I mentioned before the graphite makes this type of transfer ideal. With carbon copy type papers you are usually stuck with what you transfered. There is really no easy way of modifying it.
As basic as this transfer method is it is invaluable to me! When I need a direct image transfer for airbrushing this is the method I use 95% of the time. So stuff this one deep down in your little bag of airbrush tricks.