• Fur Affinity Forums are governed by Fur Affinity's Rules and Policies. Links and additional information can be accessed in the Site Information Forum.

Drawing With or Without References?

LuxerHusku

The Unlucky Husky
Do you use a reference or not? Why?

Honestly, I have mixed opinions with using references. I always feel uncomfortable using them because I'm using an image that's not mine to help me draw better and...it feels wrong. I feel as bad as tracing.

But many artist I've talked to told me to always use references. I'm still on the fences about it cause I don't see any other artists use references at all. Are they just feeling sorry for me or they don't want me to know their secret.

It's stuff like this that confuses me today. If it's okay to use references, then how come every other artist I see don't use references? I think references is more of a handicap option, but I dunno...
 
L

-..Legacy..-

Guest
On main work, no

Practice, most certainly. If I'm trying to do a specific look for eyes, as an example:

I'll find one I like, and keep drawing it in my way until I have a good grasp of the concept. I'll eventually end up with my own personal balance of speed and style.
 
S

silveredgreen

Guest
Referencing is absolutely encouraged in improving your art and finding your style. This especially goes for real life photos, since you have to learn realism before you can develop a proper style.

Now, the topic of referencing others' art is tricky and pretty controversial. If you want a style similar to theirs or if they use a pose you're having trouble with (or anything of the sort), referencing another person's art is fine. Just don't copy it line for line, that's tracing. Make it your own in the process by adding your own touch to it.

And if you're worried someone will chew you out for "stealing their style", don't be. Nobody can own a style. There are millions of artists and only so many ways to draw a dog, having a style nearly identical to yours is inevitable.

Also i, as an artist, use references. I reference primarily for poses, but will sometimes use real photos for anatomy purposes.
 

dragonnetstorm

The artistic sarcastic overcompensating Red Dragon
Hia! New to the forums and this topic stood out as I entered. And as I've often used references I felt like replying if that's OK:
Yes! Definitely use references! Worst case scenario they can teach you something you didn't know yet! In that regard I'm talking about you for example wanting to draw a lion but you're not sure how the mane is supposed to go. And when talking Original Characters references are almost obligatory as some, if not most, characters all have unique traits that are sometimes hard to do from memory.
Though there are a few artists out there that can do just about anything from memory and natural skill, most if not almost all artists learn by finding real life examples and trying to copy that. Or find other artists to see how they handled a certain problem, like emotions on fursonas or how to make something look like fur.
Hope this helps. :)
 

W00lies

Member
I try as much as I can not to use references when I do commissions. I would say draw someone based on your knowledge first THEN use references to correct anatomy mistakes. Your picture is already sketched so you're not tracing or copying but you'll learn to spot your flaws and fix them in the future. For study, use references and try to put down shapes on based on the refs. Then you can rotate those around to avoid learning only how to draw a profile in a certain angle. You then put your references away and try to draw what you are practicing in different angles from memory, without looking at the ref or your previous sketches. Something looks really off then use reference again. Correct the shape where something looks wrong then repeat without references.

If you use a pose as a reference do that same thing using shapes. Try not to think of the outlines that you're looking at but rather the skeletal structure and overall shape of the limbs and body. Find these within your reference. Once you've got your naked skeleton down draw on it in your own style. Not only will it your yours but you'll have learn from it.

I currently doing that with wolves since I have in mind a personal project involving a werewolf.
www.furaffinity.net: Wolf study by Chinimasse
I try not to think of the outline and put down the shapes first but I still need to figure out different angles. :eek: But you should make decent progress fast by doing that
 

W00lies

Member
I made a second one so maybe what I talked about makes more sense.
The two top wolves I shaped with references and the 3 bottoms ones are from imagination.

I could now easily put away the references on the two top ones and make them my own by drawing my own style over it + I learned from it.

1510937450.chinimasse_studywolf2.png
 

Butt_Ghost

Caffeine-based lifeform.
Most artists use references. The artists that don't use references got there by... studying using a bunch of references. Artists you see drawing without references have drawn using some sort of reference before, pretty much guaranteed.

Use references, kids.

Also, there's no hidden secret to drawing. Everything you can possibly do or learn to improve is readily available. It's up to you to put the effort in.
 
Last edited:

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
Without, always.
I'll only ever use a reference if I'm struggling with a pose, and I will use a poser application for that, not copy a pose off an existing image.

Copying from existing images constantly will prevent you from learning the necessary skills to make any original work. If all you do is reference, that will be your limit.
Of course you should look up references if you're struggling with a particular thing, but you have to try and work it out yourself. If you don't you won't get very far.

You learn more from doing than looking if you understand what I am saying.
 

Butt_Ghost

Caffeine-based lifeform.
You learn more from doing than looking if you understand what I am saying.

If you're doing one separate to the other, you're doing it *very* wrong. Unless your idea of using reference is trying to copy the image you're referencing 1:1. Outside of traditional painting/fine art classes, basically nobody is suggesting that when they say draw from reference.

Plainly put, if you're "trying to work it out yourself" without cross-checking with photo reference, you're further complicating it and you're not going to have a very good point of reference for how well you're doing, either.
 

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
If you're doing one separate to the other, you're doing it *very* wrong. Unless your idea of using reference is trying to copy the image you're referencing 1:1. Outside of traditional painting/fine art classes, basically nobody is suggesting that when they say draw from reference.

Plainly put, if you're "trying to work it out yourself" without cross-checking with photo reference, you're further complicating it and you're not going to have a very good point of reference for how well you're doing, either.

Are you sure about that? A lot of people seem to think referencing is making a copy, many people on FA and DA directly copy poses from existing sources.

I disagree. I've been doing things myself for a long time and I seem to be doing just fine.
You don't really need photo references unless you live your entire life in a metal box with no contact to the outside world. I don't need to go to Google Images to figure out how clouds and the sky work, because I've seen them in real life.
 

Butt_Ghost

Caffeine-based lifeform.
Are you sure about that? A lot of people seem to think referencing is making a copy, many people on FA and DA directly copy poses from existing sources.
That's one use of referencing. There's like a billion others that don't involve 1:1 copying.

I disagree. I've been doing things myself for a long time and I seem to be doing just fine.
You don't really need photo references unless you live your entire life in a metal box with no contact to the outside world. I don't need to go to Google Images to figure out how clouds and the sky work, because I've seen them in real life.
Yourself, huh? How'd you learn to draw faces? Honest question.
 

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
Yourself, huh? How'd you learn to draw faces? Honest question.

By looking at faces.
Isn't that kind of obvious?

The only time I messed up was with hands. The hands I see the most often are my own and I have abnormally long, thin hands. Now most of my drawings have my weird hands. I can fix that though, it just takes time and practice
 

Butt_Ghost

Caffeine-based lifeform.
By looking at faces.
Isn't that kind of obvious?
You draw in a stylized style, I'd figured maybe you'd learned the "circle with a cross through it" thing. Either way, can you articulate what would be wrong with checking photos of actual faces for mistakes/proportions? Unless you can find an actual negative to using reference your argument is "You can draw without using reference so you shouldn't". That's not much of an argument.
And if you're saying you're looking at things to learn how to draw them, you're basically doing it anyway. At that point, what's even the difference? You're trying to remember them instead of looking them up? You don't see how that just makes things more difficult?
You don't get extra points for making things more difficult, and it's pretty unanimous that using reference is the easiest way to learn.

The reason I'm surprised to hear that people think referencing is copying is because there's no debate against referencing in most concept/professional art centered communities and using reference is pretty commonly accepted as a part of learning to draw new things. If we were to argue assuming that "using reference" means "copying a pose/image exactly" then I'd agree, that'll get you nowhere aside from being able to draw things from visual reference.
 
Last edited:

Diretooth

Dire Wolf and Dragon Therianthrope
Speaking as a person who's mostly self-taught, my art is shitty. Look at my goddamn avatar, look at my non-writing FA images. I got, at best, 'decent', and even that was with occasional references. Last month, I went to Iowa after loading my phone up with some pictures I got off of FA so that I could freehand draw to the best of my ability what I saw in front of me, then re-drew without looking at it the entire time, then eventually from memory. I got better. Not by a whole lot, but there was a noticeable improvement because I copied what was in front of me. I'm still a long way away from where I want to be, and the only reason I haven't done it since is because NaNoWriMo came around. Once that's done, I'm going to do it more and more until I can make this derpy turd look like something actually nice and awesome.
The way to get better is to copy, from nature, from other artists, until you have the ability to take what you've learned through it and be able to create something new, until you are so used to making the necessary motions that you can make that detailed image in your brain, until you can apply what you know and understand and make the art that you want to without having to rely on multiple references. The end goal is that you don't rely on references, so much that you only use them as necessary every now and again.
The major thing to remember, though, is if you use someone else's art to better your own skills, that you don't claim your copy as your own art, that you don't take the exact same facial structure and style, add new details to 'personalize' it, and then pass it off as your own. I am currently heavily debating whether or not I should gather up what I'd copied and posting it with proper links to the original artist as well as any other pertinent information just so I can show the process I went through to improve, and I stress what I typed in italics because I want people to know, 'This artist, indirectly, helped me get better, and thus they deserve your attention." That is if, and only if, I feel comfortable showing people such.
 

Drayx

Member
Each artist has his own comfort-zone of using references and other materials. In the end you'll find the right balance for your drawings. But from my perspective - every artists who strives to improve needs a challenge - and refs, can be part of it. As some artist on Youtube said - only drawing day after day won't make you better - those who draw a lot of the same stickman won't become better after a year or two.

I assume that as long as you are using several refs to achieve something - you'll come-up with an original art. Using several references will make you question your artistic choices.
Many people here paid attention to anatomy part - but you can use it for other purposes besides anatomy - composition, colors, brush strokes, backgrounds, technical details etc.

There is an interesting presentation from one of the artists of Cupheads, Jake Clark, - and he talks a lot about the way he used references:

 

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
You draw in a stylized style, I'd figured maybe you'd learned the "circle with a cross through it" thing.
???

Um... no. I don't think you can tell how someone draws just by looking at their art, anyway.
I start with the eyes. It's not wise to start with a circle because you'll probably end up with a tiny face and a massive anime forehead

Either way, can you articulate what would be wrong with checking photos of actual faces for mistakes/proportions? Unless you can find an actual negative to using reference your argument is "You can draw without using reference so you shouldn't". That's not much of an argument.
And if you're saying you're looking at things to learn how to draw them, you're basically doing it anyway. At that point, what's even the difference? You're trying to remember them instead of looking them up? You don't see how that just makes things more difficult?
You don't get extra points for making things more difficult, and it's pretty unanimous that using reference is the easiest way to learn.

The reason I'm surprised to hear that people think referencing is copying is because there's no debate against referencing in most concept/professional art centered communities and using reference is pretty commonly accepted as a part of learning to draw new things. If we were to argue assuming that "using reference" means "copying a pose/image exactly" then I'd agree, that'll get you nowhere aside from being able to draw things from visual reference.

Where did I say it's not wrong to check photos?
I just said it will limit your art skill if you always copy from photos. I have no issue of someone googling "human eye" and looking at pictures as a reminder of how eyelashes and eye structure works. But if you're relying on photo references 100% and can't draw something by yourself, that is a problem.

Anyone can learn to copy photos. It doesn't take much. But imagination and creativity is where the true skill of art is. Your technical art skills don't mean anything if you can't create anything original.
 

Butt_Ghost

Caffeine-based lifeform.
I just said it will limit your art skill if you always copy from photos. I have no issue of someone googling "human eye" and looking at pictures as a reminder of how eyelashes and eye structure works. But if you're relying on photo references 100% and can't draw something by yourself, that is a problem.

Anyone can learn to copy photos. It doesn't take much. But imagination and creativity is where the true skill of art is. Your technical art skills don't mean anything if you can't create anything original.

Well it's a good thing that's not what anyone's talking about doing when they say to use reference, then :\ At least in non-fine-art fields.

You words in regards to using reference were "Without, always." Not gonna sugar coat it, that's terrible advice.
 

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
Well it's a good thing that's not what anyone's talking about doing when they say to use reference, then :\

Even if it's not a perfect copy, using references every time and not even trying to do it yourself will also negatively affect your art skill.
No matter what your definition of reference is, in my opinion you should only use it if you've tried and failed to do it yourself already.
 

Diretooth

Dire Wolf and Dragon Therianthrope
I just said it will limit your art skill if you always copy from photos. I have no issue of someone googling "human eye" and looking at pictures as a reminder of how eyelashes and eye structure works. But if you're relying on photo references 100% and can't draw something by yourself, that is a problem.

Anyone can learn to copy photos. It doesn't take much. But imagination and creativity is where the true skill of art is. Your technical art skills don't mean anything if you can't create anything original.
That is why, in my example prior, it was not about copying exactly, but about weaning yourself off of using references. I learned two important things when I did what I did with one particular image, a more realistically proportioned head as well as a few more realistically rendered facial expressions, if I continue on with other things, get used to drawing different ways and different angles, taking vastly different art styles and applying them in new to me ways, then I learn how to draw in my own way, because these references are not a quick and dirty way to make good art, but guideposts toward finding my own way to draw. You copy, you alter, then you draw something completely different using what you learned, that is how it works. From that point on, references should only be used, at most, 10% of the time, and that's only if you are uncertain of how to draw something.
I take pictures of the mountains here in Oregon so I can learn how to draw mountains, I haven't done anything with them because I need more angles, more variations, but eventually I will come to a point where I can realistically render mountains that aren't ^^^^^^^.
 

Butt_Ghost

Caffeine-based lifeform.
Even if it's not a perfect copy, using references every time and not even trying to do it yourself will also negatively affect your art skill.
No matter what your definition of reference is, in my opinion you should only use it if you've tried and failed to do it yourself already.
It's weird, then, that the general consensus in the entire art community is pretty much exactly the opposite to what you're trying to suggest and there's a tonne of different tried and tested teaching methods for learning creative drawing that involve using reference to get better, faster.
Gesture drawing, for example. Most of the methods for drawing creatively from any acclaimed instructor, art school or learning resource tend to involve extensive use of reference.
This is for drawing creatively, mind, and there are "fine art" life drawing methods like grid method and pencil measuring that do absolutely focus on reproducing images. They're not useful for drawing creatively, but I've never heard anyone suggesting their use in learning to draw creatively either.

Even if it's not a perfect copy, using references every time and not even trying to do it yourself will also negatively affect your art skill.

I'd argue it's the opposite. If you start from a base of trying to work out absolutely everything you're doing from scratch then you set yourself up to make more mistakes than you would making appropriate use of reference, and both learn slower and potentially open yourself up to learning to make mistakes. If your only way of drawing poses and gestures, for example, is using constructive method without any reference or a floating pose doll, you're not going to pick up how muscles move about in the real world, how gravity effects natural gesture, any of that stuff.
I'll refer to something you said in your first post, "You learn more from doing than looking". This applies to memorization, as well: you'll learn more from looking at human anatomy and trying to draw it in the same process than you would trying to memorize anatomy separately and then drawing it later. Either way, you're memorizing anatomy - the latter method's just a worse way of doing it.

edit: typo
 
Last edited:

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
It's weird, then, that the general consensus in the entire art community is pretty much exactly the opposite to what you're trying to suggest and there's a tonne of different tried and tested teaching methods for learning creative drawing that involve using reference to get better, faster.
Gesture drawing, for example. Most of the methods for drawing creatively from any acclaimed instructor, art school or learning resource tend to involve extensive use of reference.
This is for drawing creatively, mind, and there are "fine art" life drawing methods like grid method and pencil measuring that do absolutely focus on reproducing images. They're not useful for drawing creatively, but I've never heard anyone suggesting their use in learning to draw creatively either.

General consensus doesn't mean it's the right answer.
Learning is also a different process for different people so there really isn't one "tried and tested method" that everyone should adapt.


I'd argue it's the opposite. If you start from a base of trying to work out absolutely everything you're doing from scratch then you set yourself up to make more mistakes than you would making appropriate use of reference, and both learn slower and potentially open yourself up to learning to make mistakes. If your only way of drawing poses and gestures, for example, is using constructive method without any reference or a floating pose doll, you're not going to pick up how muscles move about in the real world, how gravity effects natural gesture, any of that stuff.
I'll refer to something you said in your first post, "You learn more from doing than looking". This applies to memorization, as well: you'll learn more from looking at human anatomy and trying to draw it in the same process than you would trying to memorize anatomy separately and then drawing it later. Either way, you're memorizing anatomy - the latter method's just a worse way of doing it.

Maybe that's your experience, but that's not how it worked out for me.
Just having eyes gives you all the reference you need to understand how things work. It's better to experience things in real time than rely on photos.
If you want to understand how water looks, go to a pool or the beach, don't just google image it. It will make more sense if it moves and you can interact with it.
Most things can be understood logically. It's really not difficult to understand how muscles work as you draw.

It's also not just about learning, it's about viewing, and the end result of your art.
If everything you do is heavily referenced or copied, it's probably boring.
That's why still life paintings, even if the artist is stilled, are uninteresting.

I think art is supposed to be self expression. I don't see the point in being the artist if your art style and content is identical to everyone else.
 

Butt_Ghost

Caffeine-based lifeform.
It's also not just about learning, it's about viewing, and the end result of your art.
If everything you do is heavily referenced or copied, it's probably boring.
The thing is, the end point of learing creative art through reference isn't "copying or referencing everything you draw", I don't even draw most of my work from reference. It's another way of getting to the end point of working out how to draw independently, and there's enough data on its use to say that it's decisively better for learning and teaching creative art to most people than the method you're describing. The list of highly skilled creatives that learned using reference and make fantastic, original imagery is staggering and the general experience is that it's easier to learn with it than without it. It's a consensus for a reason.
While we're on this train of thought: I do learn by interacting with/logically deconstructing things like you're describing. You can do that while learning with reference, the two aren't mutually exclusive.

I think art is supposed to be self expression. I don't see the point in being the artist if your art style and content is identical to everyone else.
You've got to do a lot of mental gymnastics to arrive at "learning from reference = your stuff's going to look the same as everyone else's", considering the sheer amount of people that learned using reference that all have different styles.
 
Top