Lesson Plan Industry Sector
Arts, Media & Entertainment

Lesson Plan Originally Created By: Mike Morris

Clean Up/Trace Back for Scan Ready Artwork

Part of Unit: Animation Process

Lesson Plan Overview / Details

In this lesson students will be introduced to the methods, techniques and understandings necessary for cleaning up and tracing back drawings so that they are ready for scanning into the computer to be used in bitmap/vector image production. Students will review analyzing characters for basic underlying shapes, forms and volumes, before proceeding to how to clean up and trace back rough drawings. The main technique for trace backs/clean ups students will be introduced to and using is the dagger stroke. The dagger stroke is crucial for creating clean consistent lines in line based animation.

Lesson Time

Anticipatory Set
10 - 15 Minutes
10 Minutes
Guided Practice
40 Minutes


Objectives and Goals

  • Students will earn how to use a dagger stroke to Clean Up/Trace back rough drawings to create scan ready artwork.
  • Students will practice analyzing characters for basic underlying forms and volumes

Activities in this Lesson


    On an overhead or projector have an image of several character-based line drawings of various qualities/stages on display when students come into the classroom. The drawings should range from very rough to clean and broken, to clean and closed off. 

    Students: Write down in your notebook 3-5 observations or comments you have about the different qualities or characteristics of the drawings on screen.

    After five minutes call on random students to share their comments. Write them on the board and discuss or ask additional questions.

    Looking for comments that address the various line qualities, consistencies,



    Resources and Materials

  • his lesson covers the the important animation studio production technique of clean up and trace back of drawings. It is essential that all drawings to be used in a production be properly cleaned up to ready for scanning into the computer.  Clean up on the actual drawing takes a fraction of the time it would take to repair or fix lines in the computer in an image editing program. Line based art work should be consistent and clean and all areas that are to eventually be colored and inked digitally should be closed off as shapes or enclosed areas. If there are gaps in a scanned drawing, when students attempt to fill areas with color, the color will spill into unwanted areas.The technique we are covering is the use of the dagger stroke, which is a tapered drawing stoke, that starts thin, becomes thicker and uniform, then tapers off at the end. Longer lines are created by overlapping the the thin ends of the strokes so that a solid consistent line is created. This is useful in creating longer lines, and curvilinear lines. At the end of this lesson you will have produced a rough sketch and a clean trace back of a character drawing that will be scan ready. 

  • On an overhead/camera/projector show and demonstrate various examples of a dagger stroke (short stroke, longer overlapping strokes, curvilinear stroke). Show how to create the various strokes and have students create their own practice versions.

    Check for understanding: What is the point of clean up? Why spend time fixing and perfecting the line drawing itself instead of fixing it in the computer? What are the defining characteristics or qualities of the dagger stroke (short, long, curvilinear)? 

    Resources and Materials

    • Example diagram of Dagger Stroke [ Download ]
  • Guided Practice Guided Practice


    1) Pass out photocopy of character line drawing to students along with two blank sheets of paper

    2) Place the photocopy of character on light table or table surface.

    3) Place blank sheet over the character, and using your red pencil analyze and draw the characters underlying basic shapes, forms, volumes only. (Rough)

    4) Using blue pencil draw the single lines that will define the character. Remember to define and close off shapes. Do not fill or shade areas as this is a line drawing only. These areas will be filled and painted later once the drawing is scanned into the computer. (Refined)

    5) Place the third blank page over the rough/refined red/blue drawing and now use the dagger stroke to create the final trace back. This should be the clean final drawing. There should be little to no erasing visible on this drawing. Avoid blips where strokes overlap. There should be no gaps or breaks in the lines. All areas to be filled should be closed off as shapes. (Clean Up/Trace back)

    During this working time the teacher should be circulating, checking roughs and trace backs, and the execution of dagger strokes. Make verbal reminders about things to pay attention to and be aware of  like no gaps or breaks in lines where you will later desire to be able to fill areas with color, and use of consistent line weight and quality.


    Resources and Materials

    • Superhero for Tracing of Basic Volumes and Underlying Forms [ Download ] Handout for students to use to analyze for basic forms/volumes
    • Forms/Volumes in Red [ Download ] Example of tracing analysis of basic forms/volumes in red pencil
    • Basic Forms in Red/Committed Lines in Blue [ Download ] Example of next step where student has added committed lines for character are defined in blue pencil
    • Graphite Traceback w/ Dagger Stroke [ Download ] Example of how a final traceback using dagger stroke in graphite should look. Note that no areas are filled and shaded. All shapes and areas are closed off with solid lines. No gaps or holes. This drawing would now be ready for scanning. This is the method to be used in future productions


Assessment Types:
Rubrics, Observations,

Rough drawing (red pencil) should show an analysis and combination of basic of basic underlying volumes (spheres, cubes, cylinders,etc.)

Refined drawing (blue lines) over the basic forms should be as close as possible to the final desired line quality and look of image. But maybe heavily erased and reworked.

Final clean up/trace back should be crisp and clean with little to no erasing evident. No gaps, no filling in. LInes should be consistent throughout the drawing.