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What is a Pounce Pattern?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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Used by sign painters and other artisans, a pounce pattern is a simple format for laying out artwork. It can be used for many different projects, such as marking the positions of hand painted letters and logos, vinyl lettering, plastic or wood letters, or carved or wood-burned designs.

A pounce pattern is simply a traced version of a letter or logo that needs to be applied to a background. The pattern is traced on paper with a "pounce wheel" which makes tiny perforations in the outline of the design. A wheel with 15 teeth per inch is sufficient for most projects. When tracing the pattern, place the paper on cardboard, cork, foam core, or any other flexible material that you don't mind making holes in.

Once the pounce pattern is complete, lay it face up against the background and dust with powder or chalk, either by hand or with a pounce bag. Do not overdo the powder. You only need a light dusting. Too much powder will make a mess, may create an uneven outline, and may mix with paint causing clumps. Remember, if you are using a light background, you must use dark powder, and vice versa.

As the pounce pattern is dusted, the powder seeps through the tiny holes. This creates a light outline that marks the exact placement of letters or logos, allowing them to be applied flawlessly. The outline can be removed easily after the application, by wiping away the powder.

If painting, it is a good idea to make the pounce pattern just a bit larger than the actual letter or design, so you can paint inside the chalk lines. Otherwise, the residue may mix with the paint or create rough, uneven edges. Making the pattern about 1/16 of an inch (or about 1 1/2 millimeters) larger than the design should be sufficient.

Pounce patterns are the handiest method for artwork or signs that require repetitive letters or designs. One pattern will make many copies of the necessary symbols. While this method is seen as "old school" by some of today's artisans, it is still used frequently by many, especially for jobs that require on-site applications. A pounce pattern is also a favorite tool of individuals who do not have high tech equipment or do not have much experience with lettering and similar applications, because it is simple and inexpensive to prepare.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002392 — On Nov 13, 2019

What is the best type of paper?

By fify — On May 01, 2014
@discogrpaher-- I have one too! Isn't it a very handy little tool? I think every seamstress needs to have one whether it's for professional work or as a hobby.

I usually use mine to outline seams (it's better than pinning). My son is taking a wood carving class and he took my pounce wheel to class to trace patterns for wood and said that it worked very well. So I bought one for him to use just for that. I'm sure that a pounce wheel could be used to make patterns on many other types of materials.

By discographer — On May 01, 2014
@bear78-- Were you thinking of something that jumps and springs?

A pounce pattern is actually not inaccurate because the pattern is "pounced" onto something. It's basically transferring a pattern from one material to another. It makes it easy to transfer a set pattern and repeat it.

I have a pounce wheel, also called a tracing wheel. It makes perforations into garment paper or fabric. I use it to trace designs on fabric for quilting and other purposes. It really makes my job a lot easier.

By bear78 — On Apr 30, 2014

A pounce pattern is a funny name. I had imagined it to be something different. I didn't think it would be an artwork pattern.

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