• erikalalita

POUNCE 101: The Definitive Walkthrough for Pouncing

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

If you're reading this, you've heard about "pouncing." Perhaps you've been next to a chalk neighbor who whips out a piece of paper, does some sort of hoodoo chalk magic and Voila!, they're starting to render their chalk piece while you're still measuring your grid. Or maybe you've been staunchly Team Grid, but you're curious why half the chalk population chooses Team Pounce and what all the fuss is about (that was me, btw). Maybe you'd LOVE to see what all the fuss is about but you are a perfectionist with a plan and do not want to risk mixing things up because you are very comfortable in the system you've honed for years and want to spare the very real possibility of you being an anxious hot mess before you've even touched chalk on pavement and dumping negative energy into your beloved chalk experience right out the gate (also me)?


There is nothing to be intimidated about. I've structured this walkthrough to be as thorough as possible so that you can put your mind at ease about the process. I was really anxious about trying out this technique at first, too, but I'll tell you right now: there's nothing to stress about. You got this. With the right supplies, a focused mind, and a steady hand, pouncing is (relatively) painless. [1]

First of all, WHAT IS POUNCING? It's the technique of drawing a design on paper, creating tiny perforations, and transferring the design by rubbing powder through the perforated template onto the pavement. (This is how the murals in the Sistine Chapel was created, btw. Look at you, you're a regular Michelangelo!)

You're going to want a large, open, hard-floored space. Get your KNEEPADS, TAPE MEASURE, and whatever preferred grid materials ready (I just use my tape measure and a level to chart my grid lines). Make no mistake: you are STILL making a grid - you are just shaving 2-4 hours on site to do this step at home. That said, it's up to you how perfect you want your measurements to be. I do not obsess over exact, even distances. As long as my margin of error is within a quarter-to-a-half of an inch, I'm satisfied. Why add more stress and time if it isn't necessary (it isn't.)?


A "self-healing" board - As large a size as you can get. Mine is too plasticy and hard, but still works (it was Amazon's suggested best seller - don't fall into this trap). Try and find something that the wheel can really cut into to ensure perforation and to reduce trauma on the wheel mechanics (I did have one break probably due to mine being too hard).

A pounce wheel - small tines are best and easiest to work curves and intricate designs -- I use this one:

(in a general search, Amazon will suggest their best seller. Again, avoid this trap. Yeah, it works alright, but the smaller wheel makes the holes closer together so that it legit looks like a straight up line when the chalk goes through - super clutch.)

1 spool of Bond Paper - I use HP Bond paper, Design Jet, Large-format, Universal, 42" X 150', 21 lb from Office Depot (~$41):


1. Roll out your paper in strips to equal your surface area, making about a 1.5 inch overlap where pieces join. Tape together in small strips to allow for you to draw your design without interference. I find scotch tape is best as it won't interfere with the design so much and it's thin enough for the spikes to easily go through.

See how fun this is?

2. Measure and grid as normal.

3. Draw the basic line work of your design in pencil. It's also a good chance to do preliminary detail work that you don't feel like perfecting on site. PERFECT IT NOW.

4. Review your proportions, adjust as needed, and trace the proofed design in a dark pen or marker if you feel it is needed. (Rather than go back over the whole thing, I've taken to just making notes to myself on the paper: i.e. X-ing out an incorrect line and writing "NOT THIS ONE!" or if I didn't feel like cutting out an extra 2' run of my spool, I'll start my design right at one edge and make a note like "Start 2 feet in" in order to center it on site and spare the annoyance of rolling out more paper just to account for empty background space.)

5. Apply your self healing board underneath the first section you want to start with your wheel, make sure you know where the edges of your board are at all times - I often press down on the edges to create a light crease just so I can see it - and move the board around as you progress.

6. Apply firm pressure and work away from you, adjust your body as needed to keep a pushing motion. Countless times you will be tempted to just go ahead and make a curve without retaining a forward motion and moving your body accordingly. I've made countless mis-marks doing this- you will likely lose control of your pressure and miss or exceed your mark. Just keep re-positioning yourself and take your time. YOU REALLY ONLY NEED TO ROLL OVER ONCE WITH FIRM PRESSURE. If you can't see small dots, by all means go over again, but you don't have to push back and forth - this will more likely make more marks than needed, giving you a blurred and obscured multitude of lines once you actually pounce (which isn't a huge deal but just leads to excessive chalk and loses focus on the real, actual edge.). It also can damage your paper's integrity, making it more prone to ripping (which you want to avoid at all costs!!!) The exception is any area your design is on an overlap area, and especially areas where there is tape. Push hard and roll over those suckers a few times to make sure the holes go through.

7. Keep doing this until you've completed your design. Triple check to make sure you've rolled over every area necessary. (It's surprisingly easy to miss a few sections you thought you got).

8. CAREFULLY Flip your paper over. Use a fine-toothed sand paper and rub over your perforated lines in small circles. This also gives a better visual to see if you really did miss a section! I like to rub my hand over the design as I go since you can feel where you've missed sanding or need to sand again. What you're feeling for is anything raised. If it's been sanded properly, you will only feel the flat paper. **NOTE** -- You may be tempted to skip this step like me the first time, regardless of how much this step is clearly stressed among artists. You'll be like, "Oh, I can see the holes and that they've clearly gone through. I'm good." YOU'RE NOT!! You absolutely need to sand the back.

9. Flip the paper back over, roll over any last neglected areas (sand again if that's the case), and CAREFULLY *fold it up as tight as you need to be suitable for travel. It's ready to go! **NOTE** -- This is necessary if needing to fit in a suitcase for travel, otherwise I have found it MUCH more beneficial to ROLL the template and then fold once or twice inwards. Because wind is going to be your worst enemy and a new factor to account for when using a pounce - ROLLING has proven to be the better method of laying out the template [2]. Roll from the bottom-up. That way, you know your loose end is the top and can tape it down to the top of your space, then simply roll it down to the bottom. Tape all edges as fast as possible!!!, weighting with paint, broom, other people, whatever you have as you go. Even the slightest breeze can lift up your paper, and make it susceptible to ripping.

Folded to fit in your travel case.


10. Designate a coffee grinder for this sole function. I use all my purple and orange and brown chalk nubs. This makes a great neutral tone that is a perfect base for skin tones and really just about anything. Some people prefer white, but I find that to be hard to blend without super altering the color (and I'm usually always doing skin tones as a portraitist anyway). Just use whatever you think will be most suitable for your design. Some people use baby powder, but I'd personally get nervous about it blowing away. Using pigmented chalk makes it stick to the surface better. I use my nose filters for this step, it gets very cloudy! Store in Tupperware.


11. Make your tempera base as normal, let dry completely (or your holes will clog and be rendered useless!) The darker the paint, the better your pounce lines will show. I tried it on pure blacktop and even with the blacktop brand new, it was hard to see my lines. :/

Hard to tell, but this indeed is a black tempera base.

12. Carefully roll or unfold and center your design on your surface area. Secure with several strips of tape.

13. Using a small scoop at a time, sprinkle the powder over holes in an area and start RUBBING the chalk powder around your design lines in small circles until complete.

14. CAREFULLY fold your paper INWARDS so as not to spill chalk powder on your design or your neighbor's. If you want to keep it around in case of rain, then fold it up in a way to fit in your case so that is remains covered. You can opt to move it to an inconspicuous place first to shake it out if you're afraid to make a mess in your case, but I've never heard of a clean chalk case, so...your choice. Otherwise, you can now discard it, because your pounce is DONE!

My friend and chalk colleague Naomi Duben wanted to give this a try, and gave it a go using these directions. Check out how awesome she did ;) :

If you have any questions, I can try my best to clarify beyond what I've already described here - just send an email to Happy Pouncing!

1. I want to thank my fellow experienced artists in the Chalk Art community for providing their generous insight into their execution of this process. These instructions are a culmination of the advice given and researched paired with my experience and practice.

2. My husband's idea. He'll be pleased I gave him credit.


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