NeoLucida, the 21st-century camera lucida.
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NeoLucida vs Neolucida xl
What happens when two art professors revive an obsolete art technology?
Learning to draw is frustrating.
Even if you’re good at it, drawing can still be frustrating. Both the NeoLucida and the NeoLucida XL are simple technologies that may make learning to draw a little less discouraging, and perhaps a little less intimidating. As a modern reinterpretation of the camera lucida—a 19th century optical drawing aid—the NeoLucida is part of a rich history of drawing technologies aimed at helping people draw.
As someone who likes to draw, and has drawn consistently since I was little, I was surprised by how many people were drawn to (pun intended) these tools I make. Despite high resolution smartphone cameras in our pockets, people like to draw, and a lot of people have the desire to learn to draw.
So what is The NeoLucida Project all about?
- Reviving historical art technologies that help people draw, in order to:
- Demystify drawing and explore how people—past and present—learn to draw.
Drawing accurately from life is not a superhuman ability reserved for "gifted" artists. Armed with a little knowledge and a lot of practice, I believe anyone can learn to draw. Tools like the NeoLucida might help getting started a little less frustrating.
Who’s behind this project? The original NeoLucida was created by art professors Pablo Garcia and Golan Levin, after long conversations about art and technology and history. NeoLucida is manufactured in partnership with Big Idea Design. In 2013, 11,406 Kickstarter backers made the original NeoLucida possible. In 2017, Pablo launched the completely redesigned NeoLucida XL, supported by 5,229 backers on Kickstarter.
Using the NeoLucida
The short answer is: Anything you can put in front of you. Draw portraits, live figure models, still life setups, landscapes. You can even draw still printed images or images on your device screens and use the NeoLucida as a device to make hand-drawn copies of other images.
Find more information on the Using the NeoLucida page.
Absolutely. Make sure you have a solid table, horizontal drawing easel or tripod fitted with a drawing board to keep your setup stable and movement free.
Find more information on the Using the NeoLucida page.
Out of the box, both the NeoLucida and NeoLucida XL can draw up to US Tabloid (11”x17”)/A3 size. The size of the ghost image depends on the height of the eyepiece. Clamp the NeoLucida to a shelf or extended tripod for larger images. With a custom set up, you can draw much larger! See “Know the Limits” at the bottom of the Using the NeoLucida page for more information.
The NeoLucida has no optical focal limit. Unlike camera lenses, prisms and mirrors do not have a focal length. In practice, however, we recommend drawing subjects from 12in/30cm to infinity. We recommend starting with subjects placed about 3ft/1m away so yo ucan get comfortable with the optics. To work very closeup, such as drawing an insect, you could experiment by modifying your NeoLucida with magnifying lenses!
Even if you use corrective lenses (glasses, contact lenses), you can use the NeoLucida and NeoLucida XL. You have to place your eye fairly close to the eyepiece, so your glasses might touch the eyepiece during use.
You only use one eye when using the NeoLucida, so if you have issues with binocular vision/depth perception, you can still use the NeoLucida.
We recommend you begin with one eye closed to concentrate on the ghost image. Some users report it’s easier with two eyes open, but it could be distracting for most first-time users.
Yes! The eyepiece is reversible, so you can either clamp the NeoLucida to the left or right of your paper to leave room for your drawing hand. Out of the box, it is set up for clamping on the left for right-handed use. To switch the handedness of your NeoLucida, follow the instructions provided.
When using the prism NeoLucida, make sure your setup is correct. If you have the prism shield at 45º to your table, check to see if you are looking straight downPAST the prism edge towards your paper. Don't look into the prism. Make a straight line between your eye, the prism edge, and your pencil point directly below the eyepiece. Watch this helpful setup guide.
Light balance is important. There should be equal lighting on your subject and your paper. If your setup has a lighting imbalance, try the following:
- If your scene is too bright, use a small light to illuminate your paper.
- If your page is too bright, shade the paper from the bright lightsource.
- The NeoLucida XL comes with a shader to help balance the light:
- If your scene is too bright, place the shader in the front slot to dim your scene.
- If your page is too bright, place the shader in the lower slot to dim your paper.
Artists have also used toned papers (grey, cream, buff) that reduce glare from the page. This technique also allows the artist to use white colored pencil or chalk to draw highlights.
Not necessarily. New users can become fatigued from prolonged drawing with the NeoLucida. Since the prism splits your vision between your paper and your subject, your eye is trying to focus on two different distances at the same time. This can result in eye fatigue, especially if your prism is close to the page but your subject is far away. With time and practice, your eye will become more conditioned to the setup.
The NeoLucida prism is quite crisp and distortion-free — but, as with any prism, looking at a subject which is too close and below the intended viewing axis will cause distortions. If you notice your drawing is “squished” or compressed in the vertical axis, your subject is too close and/or too low. Elevate your subject to be in line with the prism, and/or move it farther away. We recommend 3ft (1m) as a practical minimum distance.
The NeoLucida prism copies the exact dimensions and design of antique prisms which were used for nearly a century in “classic” camera lucidas.
These prisms are small, just a few millimeters on a side. So it’s reasonable to ask: wouldn’t a larger prism have been better? Well, a larger viewing element does give a wider field of view—but it does so at the expense of precision. As surprising as it may seem, the small size of the NeoLucida’s Berville prism offers users a superior experience because it eliminates parallax and therefore allows for precise alignment for copying. In short, the small size of the NeoLucida’s Berville prism is crucial to maintaining the registration of your drawing, because any slight movement of your head would cause your subject’s virtual image to shift. For more information about this, please see the discussion here
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