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Tracing real photos to help learn

Huglust

most goodest boi
Since I started drawing years ago my skill has constantly been in flux. One day I'm drawing better than I ever have and loving every second, the next I'm drawing like I've never spent hundreds of hours practicing and studying. It's incredibly frustrating.

One day I thought about tracing over my favorite images to try and help see my own art. These images are actual photos not someone else's drawings and all were human form. I didn't trace line for line or do this intending to make finished artwork. I haven't posted any of this work online. It's not worth looking at regardless.

The idea here was to develop a better way of sketching and to get a better sense of perspective and anatomy. What I did was draw on top of the photos as though I were sketching the pose myself and thinking of ways to draw what I was seeing that would help me draw purely from imagination. While doing this I was studying the sizes of shapes in relation to others in perspective as well as how the anatomy looks. I was only rarely tracing line-for-line and that was when there was something specific I was interested in.

What really excited me about doing this is the fact that these are real photos. Everything regarding anatomy, proportion, and perspective is sound so the sketch I end up with will reflect that. By doing this, I can see what a proper sketch looks like. It's also very easy since all the information I need is right in front of me as if I were sketching on a clear piece of plastic with a live model behind it. I have a sense of certainty in what I'm doing whereas I'm often sitting in suspense wondering if I was going to be able to capture whatever I had envisioned before I started trying to sketch it. I genuinely felt like this could be a reliable way to improve.

So, I traced about 50 images over the course of a couple days. When I went to sketch something totally from imagination, I was miles more confident and my sketches ended up looking ridiculously good and realistic compared to anything else I've ever done. However, this didn't last as within a few days I was back to sketching quite poorly again. My imagination just couldn't do it. The results of what practice I did was astounding even if it was short-lived.

Now, my question is; do you think this is a practice worth pursuing? It seems the community is murderously against tracing but I'm pretty sure that's the tracing of others' art line-for-line intending to take credit and/or sell the piece.
 

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
I think that's a very bad idea. You're not learning to draw by tracing, you're only learning to trace.
Just because it's a photo instead of art doesn't mean the creator is okay with it being traced, too.
 

Huglust

most goodest boi
I think that's a very bad idea. You're not learning to draw by tracing, you're only learning to trace.
Just because it's a photo instead of art doesn't mean the creator is okay with it being traced, too.
Perfect. This is essentially what I expected the responses to this subject to consist of . Maybe I'm not interested in the opinions of others. So, you think the act of tracing is a crime regardless of context or outcome and that nothing good can ever come of this horrific act? And this being the case, we won't even consider what this thread is trying to convey even if it happens to be miles away from stealing art.
 

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
Perfect. This is essentially what I expected the responses to this subject to consist of . Maybe I'm not interested in the opinions of others. So, you think the act of tracing is a crime regardless of context or outcome and that nothing good can ever come of this horrific act? And this being the case, we won't even consider what this thread is trying to convey even if it happens to be miles away from stealing art.

If you were expecting it, why did you post the thread? I guarantee no one is going to validate your choice, if that's what you're looking for.
 

Huglust

most goodest boi
If you were expecting it, why did you post the thread? I guarantee no one is going to validate your choice, if that's what you're looking for.
I like to be optimistic. Not looking for validation either. Just wanted opinions and hopefully incite from real artists. I don't know any personally. I expected your opinion from most everyone so I decided to address it now so I don't have to later assuming anyone else responds.
 

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
I like to be optimistic. Not looking for validation either. Just wanted opinions and hopefully incite from real artists. I don't know any personally. I expected your opinion from most everyone so I decided to address it now so I don't have to later assuming anyone else responds.

Oh, so I'm not a "real" artist because I told you not to trace? LOL.
 
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silveredgreen

Guest
If its real life photos and not other peoples' drawn artwork, which it doesn't seem to be, then i personally see no fault in it. However, i think you'd benefit even more from referencing the photos instead of tracing. Basically, doing what you've been doing except you're not tracing over the drawing itself, rather you'd be freehanding it in the same pose as the photo while trying to replicate it to the best of your ability.

And the fact that you haven't posted these online is also a good idea.
 

Diretooth

Dire Wolf and Dragon Therianthrope
Ink, instead of starting yet another argument in yet another thread, taking every statement as a personal attack, and in general acting like an unreasonable person, how about you just post your opinion and leave it at that?
 
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silveredgreen

Guest
Ink, instead of starting yet another argument in yet another thread, taking every statement as a personal attack, and in general acting like an unreasonable person, how about you just post your opinion and leave it at that?

Ink never has anything nice to say tbh...
 

Huglust

most goodest boi
If its real life photos and not other peoples' drawn artwork, which it doesn't seem to be, then i personally see no fault in it. However, i think you'd benefit even more from referencing the photos instead of tracing. Basically, doing what you've been doing except you're not tracing over the drawing itself, rather you'd be freehanding it in the same pose as the photo while trying to replicate it to the best of your ability.

And the fact that you haven't posted these online is also a good idea.
Yes! Someone else recommended this as well. I had completely forgotten about this method because I've always wanted to draw without reference. I viewed the act of imitating an image as something to avoid even though I eventually began to use references for certain things like bark texture on trees as well as patterns in flowers. That's why my tracing idea was even more outlandish to me. Thank you!
 
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silveredgreen

Guest
Yes! Someone else recommended this as well. I had completely forgotten about this method because I've always wanted to draw without reference. I viewed the act of imitating an image as something to avoid even though I eventually began to use references for certain things like bark texture on trees as well as patterns in flowers. That's why my tracing idea was even more outlandish to me. Thank you!

You're welcome! Honestly most well established and succesful artists in this community recommend referencing from real life. You gotta know how things look to be able to draw them after all.
 

W00lies

Member
It's one way to learn but try to learn the overall shape and anatomy of the skeleton and muscles. If you search "skeleton and muscle anatomy for artist" on youtube you'll get a ton of results! When you know a bit more of the basics it's easier to see what you're looking at in a photo. Instead of looking at the outline, you'll find yourself searching for forms and the skeletal structure. It's going to take more time on your end but you'll feel very happy about the result. Overtime you'll be able to "edit" the references as well to change the pose without it looking funky!

It's a pain to study! Sooo boring, I don't like it lol but hey it helped me a lot in 3 mouths (after not drawing for 10 years) so it won't do any harm. :)
 

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
Ink, instead of starting yet another argument in yet another thread, taking every statement as a personal attack, and in general acting like an unreasonable person, how about you just post your opinion and leave it at that?
I'm not starting argument. I'm only saying tracing won't teach you to draw and most people frown upon it.

Stop looking for a fight where there isn't one. Find someone else to argue with if you like it so much.
 

Huglust

most goodest boi
It's one way to learn but try to learn the overall shape and anatomy of the skeleton and muscles. If you search "skeleton and muscle anatomy for artist" on youtube you'll get a ton of results! When you know a bit more of the basics it's easier to see what you're looking at in a photo. Instead of looking at the outline, you'll find yourself searching for forms and the skeletal structure. :)
This is exactly was I was doing. I would look through the image into the skeletal structure of the subject and sketch that over the top of it and then consider whether it seemed right. I focused a lot on the pelvis because it has been by far the most tricky parts of the body for me. I might even say more so than hands or feet.
 

Crimcyan

Chum bucket with the u
However, i think you'd benefit even more from referencing the photos instead of tracing. Basically, doing what you've been doing except you're not tracing over the drawing itself, rather you'd be freehanding it in the same pose as the photo while trying to replicate it to the best of your ability.

And the fact that you haven't posted these online is also a good idea.
This, I found this to be the best thing to do while I was first getting into drawing. Except I was doing it to cartoon characters, just dont post them online afterwards.
 
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silveredgreen

Guest
Once again. It seems like you actively want a fight... find a better hobby

Says the person who makes a hobby out of being unnecesarily hostile on the forums. Look if you hate furries so much you shouldn't have signed up to a forum specifically for furries. Hate what we do? Don't associate with us.
 

Diretooth

Dire Wolf and Dragon Therianthrope
And once more you show that you aren't really here for discourse, but rather to spend your time generating 'Oh! Woe is me!' melodrama and acting like a blatant troll. Every post you make only serves to satisfy your twisted desire to see everything burn. I have better things to do than reporting every instance of your self-aggrandizing monologuing, and yet I find myself sending in report after report just so a moderator or an admin can see all of the trouble you are causing because you are, as stated before, a self-centered troll whose best moments were done in the midst of being a prick.
You keep dredging up the same argument over and over again, causing issues to crop up in multiple threads, and insulting everyone even when they're trying to be civil. Every response you make to anyone is not an age appropriate response, and I honestly cannot imagine what qualities you may have that would compensate for your behavior in public. Every post you make, I think to myself that you have really lived up to your potential, and that being said, I hope the rest of your day is as pleasant as you are.
Now please, stop picking fights in every other thread because it makes me loathe you all the more, even though I an making the greatest effort I can to be polite to you.
 

Huglust

most goodest boi
That's not arguing. I just found it amusing that they said no artists were posting, when I posted

Once again. It seems like you actively want a fight... find a better hobby
I said I wanted opinions from real artists after you asked why I posted this thread when I told you I expected the response you gave and you assumed that response was all I expected. I never said I hadn't already received a response from an artist. You made an assumption and chose to be offended by it. I was wondering if that sentence would be triggering. Let's just calm this down. I'm not throwing jabs at you.
 
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silveredgreen

Guest
I said I wanted opinions from real artists after you asked why I posted this thread when I told you I expected the response you gave and you assumed that response was all I expected. I never said I hadn't already received a response from an artist. You made an assumption and chose to be offended by it. I was wondering if that sentence would be triggering. Let's just calm this down. I'm not throwing jabs at you.

I wouldn't expect to get through to Ink, they're so absorbed in their own views that they completely disregard any attempt to talk sense into em.
 

Inkblooded

Him...
Banned
Says the person who makes a hobby out of being unnecesarily hostile on the forums. Look if you hate furries so much you shouldn't have signed up to a forum specifically for furries. Hate what we do? Don't associate with us.

I'm not being "unnecesarily hostile." Calm down.
You are the one who needs to get a bettee hobby, I think. It really does not matter.

And once more you show that you aren't really here for discourse, but rather to spend your time generating 'Oh! Woe is me!' melodrama and acting like a blatant troll. Every post you make only serves to satisfy your twisted desire to see everything burn. I have better things to do than reporting every instance of your self-aggrandizing monologuing, and yet I find myself sending in report after report just so a moderator or an admin can see all of the trouble you are causing because you are, as stated before, a self-centered troll whose best moments were done in the midst of being a prick.
You keep dredging up the same argument over and over again, causing issues to crop up in multiple threads, and insulting everyone even when they're trying to be civil. Every response you make to anyone is not an age appropriate response, and I honestly cannot imagine what qualities you may have that would compensate for your behavior in public. Every post you make, I think to myself that you have really lived up to your potential, and that being said, I hope the rest of your day is as pleasant as you are.
Now please, stop picking fights in every other thread because it makes me loathe you all the more, even though I an making the greatest effort I can to be polite to you.

This is FurAffinity not High School Drama affinity. If you can't reply without being overdramatic don't quote me
 

PlusThirtyOne

What DOES my username mean...?
Ummm... Drama aside, you -or anyone- can draw whatever or however you want. Tracing and copying are just as normal and ethical a method as any. The only reason anybody should have a problem with a trace job is if the artist tried to pass it off as their own art. if anybody wants to trace art in their own private sketchbook, i don't care what or how you draw. Making a big deal out of what someone else does in their own sketchbook is petty as fuck, even if they're tracing photos -which is also going to produce the shittiest kind of drawing by the way so if you can somehow pass off a trace job of a photo as original art, then hats off to ya!

Artists can sometimes take art a bit too seriously. Technique and skill are highly sought after and highly subjective and anybody who challenges that can irk some people. You're not a real artist unless you learned this way. You're a hack if you learned that way. X is stealing. Y is unethical.

You do you.

-But no, tracing photos probably won't get you as far. Studying their anatomy can and drawing over photos for heavy reference CAN help. The outline doesn't matter; it's the underlying skeleton, joints and such that matter and you can learn a lot by tracing base sketches over models.
 

redfox_81

Well-Known Member
Tracing has its place as a learning tool if you're struggling with things such as anatomy and the relationships between body parts. It's very easy to draw an arm too long or a face too large, especially when you're using tough perspective. One way I teach myself is to do figure drawings from reference photos (without tracing), then when I'm done I lay the photo underneath my drawing on a separate layer to see how far out I was. Sometimes it's loads, sometimes it's a surprisingly small amount. Every time I learn something new and it's usually to do with my facial features being too large: eyes are never as big as you think they are.

Ethically, here's where I stand:

Tracing images to help you learn shape, anatomy and spacial relationships, before you then progress to drawing by eye - OK
Posting these publicly online in a sketchbook and sharing your findings, but telling everyone they were traced as study - OK
Tracing photos verbatim and passing the result off as your own art - not OK
Tracing someone ELSE's work and passing it off as your own art - super not OK

I posted the following link in the now infamous "do you use reference?" thread but hopefully it will help ease your mind a little: 10 Things I Remember...About Tracing | Muddy Colors

Here's a quote from the article from the awesome Greg Manchess, if people don't want to be clicking:

"First off, I used tracing to learn anatomy. By tracing, I could actually feel how an arm foreshortened. I could see what length the line was that was needed to foreshorten it. I could understand how eyes, noses, hands looked at difficult angles. I used it to train my drawing skills and improve them."

Controversially, it's also worth noting that tracing is a kind of skill. Lots illustrators out there trace their own comps or their own photo reference (ie. that they've shot themselves), and some even trace faces to ensure an accurate likeness. They still do, however, make adjustments and variations to make the new "traced" drawing more successful. Drew Struzan is one example. It's interesting to note that if you give an artist and a non-artist the same photo and ask them to trace it, you'll get wildly different results.
 
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