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Grand masters from as early as the 15th century used optical drawing tools like the camera lucida to aid them while producing their masterpieces. Or at least that is what has be claimed by artist David Hockney. Many have expressed their concern over this claim and we will probably never know for sure if this claim has any truth. What we do know is that the camera lucida has been in existence for a long time and it is a simple but clever device. The Lucy Camera Lucida is a modern version of this fascinating tool and anyone who has an interest in art can now try it out for themselves.

While the camera lucida itself is not new, surprisingly, your chances of actually buying one is pretty slim. And if you do manage to find one, it is most likely going to be very expensive. We have actually featured a modern version of the camera lucida a while back but even that version is hard to find.

A camera lucida works by letting the artist see both the subject and the drawing surface at the same time. In effect, it looks like a faint or ghostly image has been projected on the surface. The artist then traces over the image thus creating a drawn tracing of the subject.

There are no complicated electronic cameras or projectors used in a camera lucida. It is all made up of mirrors or sometimes a prism is used. There are limitations to the tool. Among them is that it does not work well with a white drawing paper as the superimposed image is too washed out. Normally a black piece of paper is used together with a white pencil.


The Lucy Camera Lucida is not just a simple reproduction of this drawing aid of old but it also introduces a few improvements of its own. Firstly, the superimposed image is much brighter and can be easily seen on even white paper. In fact the brightness can even be adjusted to suit the artist.

Unlike olden versions of the camera lucida, the Lucy can create fairly large images of up to 19 x 27 inches. The optics are mounted on a 2 feet long flexible neck with a clamp at the other end. This provides a lot of versatility when mounting the device. The artist can choose to sit down, stand up or even mount it on an easel while drawing.

While the Lucy Camera Lucida is not exactly cheap, it is a whole lot more affordable for art students or even professionals who want to make use of one to help them with their art projects.

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