What is an art projector? Things to Consider Before Buying

A projector can be used for various purposes depending on their type and projection size. It’s one of the most versatile devices out there.

You have overhead projectors that display words or pictures from a clear sheet of plastic. Slideshow projectors use 8 mm film to showcase different individual photographs. A film projector is used to showcase movies in the cinema.

With that said, what is a projector? What should you be on the lookout for when buying one?

What is an Art Projector?

An art projector is usually a digital projector made for the purpose of enlarging art for tracing. They work like cake decoration projectors. You’re supposed to use projection in order to make art by overlaying your paints onto the projected image.

What is an art projector
What is an art projector?

It Blows Up or Enlarges Images for Tracing

On one hand, it allows for more accuracy when transferring a digital image to a huge printed canvas or billboard without incurring huge amounts of money by having it printed at a printing shop. On the other hand, you can transform the digital art more with your own painted or brushstroke touch.

They’re similar to many home theater digital projectors whether they’re handheld or particularly large, but they come with extra features specifically designed to help out artists in their artistic endeavors when push comes to shove.

What Separates an Art Projector from a Home Theater Projector?

Art projectors are functionally similar to your run-of-the-mill home theater or even office presentation projector with certain key differences that allow artists more leeway in order to use their projectors for tracing purposes. For example, many of them offer custom grid layouts for better image proportions.

Built-In Image Functions Equal Expensiveness

Moreover, they also have built-in image functions that allow you to rotate, skew, or flip the image. They also offer specs that make them more portable, brighter, and superior when it comes to contrast and color accuracy compared to other projector types.

What’s the catch? The catch is their expensiveness. There are models that cost over a thousand dollars or so. Their whole point is to provide tracing abilities, high-resolution sharpness, and amazing clarity for art purposes.

Art Projector Buying Guide

What should you look for when buying an art projector? Keep on reading to find out what specs to look out for this projector type. It varies from image quality to the ability to manipulate digital photos or pictures in order to prep them for artwork creation.

What are the 4 Kinds of Projector for Art Use?

Art projectors can come in the following variants. Or rather, 4 kinds of projectors offer art projector capabilities and benefits, thus making them worthy enough to belong in the projector for art use umbrella.

  • Digital Projectors: A digital projector is available to consumers as either a home cinema projector (since it’s mostly used for viewing movies and TV shows) or as a business projector (since it’s also commonly used for projecting presentations for work or school purposes).

Many art projectors are of the digital variety since they’re widely available, come in portable and non-portable versions, and offer the brightest, sharpest, and most HD of images due to their tendency to be in 1080p FHD or 4K UHD.

  • Opaque Projectors: An opaque projector is a projector that projects the shadow of an opaque object you can fit unto it, like your hand or a plant, so that you can trace the outline or silhouette of said object unto your canvas or tarpaulin. It requires a dark room to work.
Art Projector Buying Guide
Artograph EZ Tracer Opaque Art Projector for Wall or Canvas Image Reproduction

The main advantage of opaque projectors is that they bring out the strongest and most realistic outlines or silhouettes compared to the flatter offerings of a digital projector. They work using prisms or mirrors in order to enlarge reflections of sketches, images, and photos.

  • Slide Projectors: A slide or slideshow projector is a projector that works like a film projector but instead of creating the illusion of movement through the persistence of vision and sequential images moving at 24 frames per second, it showcases each slide image one-by-one.

Slide projectors are particularly noteworthy for showcasing or presenting photographs in film. You can feature each photo one by one to those viewing it while you tell the story behind it during the show and tell. You can use this same technology to trace over photographs.

  • Overhead Projectors: An overhead projector uses the same tech available in slide and opaque projectors in order to showcase images. This time around, instead of using opaque photographs or small transparent film slides, you’re instead using bond paper size (A4) plastic.

You can draw, print, or paint images onto the A4 plastic sheet that you then place on the flatbed surface of the overhead projector, which is then projected in a much larger screen or wall through a series of mirrors. Its art tracing applications should be apparent.

Can Home Projectors Be Used as Art Projectors?

Why not? It’s probably your most readily available option and it can even use projectors normally reserved for home cinemas for the purpose.

You can buy the digital projector for less than $1,000 since they’re so widely common, cheap, and bright. It’s a consumer-grade appliance readily available to you and everyone else, which made them the most popular choice when it comes to enlarging and tracing various artworks.

They’re able to project video stills and photos from nearly any digital source out there such as smartphones, digital cameras, memory cards, PCs, and flash drives. It’s also all-digital—there’s no need to print out images or get transparency or slide made like they do in the old days.

It’s the super-convenient choice for sure. You simply need to have access to the pause button to trace over a film still or the photo gallery feature to access individual digital images.

What Should You Expect out of an Art Projector?

Your art projector of choice should be a handy tool for artists of all skill levels. Some projector options, mostly the non-digital ones, require a bit of finagling in order to get them to work. For example, you need a bond paper size transparent plastic sheet to print out or make an overhead projector work.

It’s the same with slide projectors requiring special film slides or opaque projectors requiring a completely pitch-black darkroom in order to work.

A digital projector is more convenient and affordable for photorealist painters to use for enlarging and transferring photographs from their smartphone to a large canvas. Some might call it tracing or cheating to do this, but it’s a legitimate way to get the best bigger-than-life results.

Aside from projectors, you can transfer images using transfer paper or the grid method. Both are painstaking to do while projections prove to be more intuitive and easier for any artist to use.

Which Method is Best for Art Projection?

Most should use the digital projector exactly because it’s available, cheap, and easy to use. Their projections can fit even the largest canvases. The main reasons why not to use the digital projector is few and far between. They don’t need a dark room to be effective like with the opaque projector.

The main benefit of an opaque projector is that you don’t need a digital image, film slide, or transparency to make it work. You can use a 3D object or a cut out from a magazine and it will blow up that image just fine. It has limits in terms of projection size too.

They’re also superior in terms of photograph fidelity and HD quality, especially if the digital photographs you’ve taken are on high-count megapixel cameras themselves. For those who lack PCs and whatnot, you can use an overhead camera with a photocopied photo on transparencies.

The slide projector is a viable alternative to the digital projector since it works in dimly lit environments as opposed to totally pitch-black rooms like the opaque projector. You’ll need to find photography printing shops that still make slides for these slide projectors though.

What Else You Need to Know

Long story short, the digital projector is your best bet when it comes to tracing photographs for art projectors. With that in mind, we recommend the following projectors for use in painting, photo enlargement, and art project creation.

Artograph Inspire800 Digital Art Projector: We love this projector. It is simple to use. Helps us so much with our art.


As for the Artograph EZ Tracer Opaque Art Projector, it’s a much cheaper projector because it’s an opaque projector specifically made for art purposes. It can only enlarge photos about 2.5 to 5 times the original size, but it saves you the effort of digitizing the photos then putting them on a USB stick.

The Artograph is a better projector for beginners or children and it works great for simply enlarging sketches from the notebook to transfer them to a canvas. The Vamvo can do the same but for digital photographs and artwork, you made on a tablet for transference on the canvas or tarp.

You may also like: smART Sketcher SSP213 Learn To Draw


  1. Art Projector Guide“, Art-is-Fun.com, Retrieved June 23, 2021

James Core

I love my projector system and I am here to help you find the right projector for your needs.

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