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Pounce Pattern

A “pounce pattern” is a method for transferring a design to a surface.  It is the oldest way to reproduce a design.  



Before carbon paper or stencils, the only way to transfer a drawing was with a pounce pattern.  Centuries ago, a piece of cloth, skin, or paper was used to create the pounce.

All the best fresco painters in the 17th century used this method of transfer to help ensure that the finished artwork would adhere to the artist’s original vision.  In fact, Michelangelo used this technique in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Below there are four images from the Vatican.  The three monochrome images are from the Raphael room and the polychrome image is from the library.  It’s pretty amazing to still see the tiny dots in the pattern. These dots don’t take away from the overall design but offer a centuries-old clue as to how they were painted.  As a decorative painter, these clues are fascinating!


Today there are a few modern tools to help make the holes. A stencil wheel will add holes on straight or long lines.  Sign painters use an electric pounce to send an electric current onto the metal to burn in the holes.


To create a pounce pattern, the line of the pattern is pricked with a pin.  Pin-pricks are usually ⅙ of an inch apart, depending on the complexity of the design.  The more detailed the design, the closer the holes.

Once the design is pounced or “stabbed” to include all of the design elements, the paper is positioned on the surface.

Then, using a pounce bag that is filled with crushed charcoal or chalk, rub it over the entire pattern to get every part of the design.  The pounce and rub motion will effectively transfer the design.  If the process is done successfully, tiny dots will remain and will provide enough information to paint the pattern.

Pouncing can even be better than a stencil as it allows for easy cleanup to wipe up the design and reposition it. Also, a pounce pattern can be used repeatedly whereas stencils become worn over time.