The NeoLucida Project

The NeoLucida is a drawing aid that lets you to trace what you see.

It’s a modern reinterpretation of the camera lucida, an indispensable drawing tool popular in the days before photography. 

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NeoLucida - The 21st century Camera Lucida Drawing Tool

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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?

  1. Reviving historical art technologies that help people draw, in order to:
  2. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions about NeoLucida

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.

Watch this video to see it in detail.

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!

Here's a video that can help you out.

Also Here is a quick guide to the differences between the prism NeoLucida and the mirror-and-glass NeoLucida XL.

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.

Yes! Visit Using the NeoLucida for PDF download links.


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

Customer Service

Global shipping is FREE! If you live outside of the USA, Click here to purchase your NeoLucida or NeoLucida XL from our international website.

You will receive a tracking notice email once the order ships after 1-2 business days from when the order's been confirmed, it may be possible the tracking notice email goes into your spam folder.

We feel that you will love our products. However, if you are not completely satisfied with your purchase from our website, you may return your item(s) within 30 days of receipt for replacement or refund.

You can request a return through your order confirmation page or email for a return label.

If you live in the USA, no you won't need to worry about this.

If you live outside of the USA, you may need to pay an import fee if your country customs decides to charge tax on it. We see many orders can go through the customs without having fees occur, but if it does occur, it will be the buyers responsibility to pay.

All USA orders are shipped from either Chattanooga TN or by Amazon Fulfillment.

Click here to see the video that answers this question.

Usually, you place the eyepiece over your paper and look straight down to see a ghost image of your subject superimposed over a view of your actual hand. But the optics of each NeoLucida operate at 90°-your paper is at a right angle to your subject.

But this means that you can place your subject and paper any 90° relationship and the NeoLucida can still provide you with a ghost image to trace.

Do you have trouble standing for long periods? Maybe you have a sore back? Place the NeoLucida so you see your subject directly ahead and a ghost image of your drawing hand below the eyepiece.

Do you work on a vertical surface like an easel? Orient your eyepiece so you see your subject to one side of your easel.

If you wanted, you could draw the chandelier over your head! Try out different orientations and see how the NeoLucida can help you draw the way that works best for you.