Lightbox Trace is…

… a simple app to turn your iPad into a lightbox, allowing you to trace from a digital image!

I have developed this to put my old first-generation iPad to use, so the app is working on all iPads starting from iOS 5.1.1.

  • Load an image from photos or the clipboard
  • Scale, position, rotate as desired
  • lock the screen – the app now ignores all touch events, so you can put a piece of paper on the display and trace the image
  • display brightness is automatically increased to the maximum
  • you can also just show white, for tracing from one paper to another

Here’s a screenshot – not really much to show, except for the toolbar. The sketch is not included 🙂

Detailed Usage

Toolbar buttons (from left to right):

  • Load image by selecting from the photo library
  • Load image by pasting from the clipboard (where you put it before by, e.g., copying an image from your dropbox account)
  • Set the background to plain white (useful for tracing from another piece of paper instead of a displayed image) – you should still use the “lock” button to get maximum brightness and to get rid of the toolbar
  • Rotate the image by 90 degrees
  • Lock the display, making the app ignore any further touch events. Also sets the display brightness to maximum.

After loading an image, you can move it directly around the screen with your finger. Use a two finger pinch/zoom gesture to scale the image. Rotation is intentionally only enabled in 90 degree increments using the toolbar – I found it too easy to accidentally rotate the image a bit when you just want to scale. After all, you can always rotate the iPad itself or adjust the paper you place on top!

When the app is “locked”, you can reactivate the user interface by leaving the app with the home button on the device, then bringing it into the foreground again. Then choose another section of your image for tracing, or load another image.

Note: Not all touch events can be suppressed by an app – you should disable the 4/5 finger multitasking gestures in the general settings, otherwise you might accidentally switch away from the app when you rest your palm on the paper while tracing.

A few hints

How do I get an image onto the device easily?

This depends very much on your workflow, obviously. My process typically looks like this:

  • draw a sketch on my iPad Pro
  • export the image to a Dropbox folder (easy from within Procreate)
  • on the “lightbox iPad”, open the Dropbox app, select the image and copy it to the clipboard
  • open Lightbox Trace, and hit the “paste from clipboard” button

The iPad is too slippery to hold the drawing paper!

I ended up with a very low tech solution:

  • Stick masking tape (or any tape with a rough surface) around the iPad screen area
  • place the drawing paper on top and attach it with two clothes pegs (I use wooden ones, works perfectly)