How to Use Carbon Paper

by Kimberlee Leonard; Updated September 26, 2017

Carbon paper is a type of paper with a waxy dark film of carbon on one side. It is used to make copies of written items by transferring the carbon to the sheet below. The need for carbon paper has been greatly reduced since the creation of electronic printers and copy machines that can make multiple copies with the push of a button. Carbon paper is still used today for a variety of purposes, from making copies of patterns onto fabric to making copies of handwritten or typewritten business forms.

Items you will need

  • Carbon paper
  • Cardboard (equal size or larger than carbon paper)

How to Use Carbon Paper

Step 1

Place the cardboard on a hard, flat surface. The cardboard with serve as the bottom layer to prevent the carbon from making a copy onto the surface below.

Step 2

Place piece of paper that will become the copy on top of the cardboard.

Step 3

Place the carbon paper, shiny side down, over the paper that will be the copy.

Step 4

Place the original to be copied on top of the dull side of the carbon paper.

Step 5

Use a pencil or a pen to write on the original by pressing down firmly to make sure the carbon is transferred. You can write words, draw a design or even trace a picture. If you are tracing a picture, simply place the picture on top of the paper, and trace it with a pencil.

Step 6

To make more than one copy using carbon paper, repeat Steps 2 and 3. Then place the original to be copied on top of the last piece of carbon paper. The more copies you make, the harder you will need to press down to ensure that the carbon transfers to the bottom layer.

Step 7

If you want to use a typewriter to make copies, repeat Steps 2 through 4. Then place all three sheets into the typewriter as if they were one sheet, and begin typing.


  • Carbon paper can be messy. Avoid touching the shiny side of the paper, as it can get on your hands, which may cause you to smudge your copies.

About the Author

With more than 15 years of professional writing experience, Kimberlee finds it fun to take technical mumbo-jumbo and make it fun! Her first career was in financial services and insurance.