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Tracing real photos to help learn


I would suggest what I did, anatomy studies. (which I need to do again to get more knowledge and practice)
It's boring, not fun at all but in the end you'll be able to correct your own anatomy without needing to trace.

When you study anatomy you want to learn how the skeleton is attached together and exactly how things move. I know this sounds really obvious and can make some go "well duh! if I move my leg up, it goes up!" but what you would want to know is how the bone moves in it's socket. From there, you learn where muscle tissues are connected onto the bones and so on. Then learning which muscles flex and relax depending how you are moving. It's a long process that I'm still in the middle of learning. When you know anatomy enough you're able to warp the proportions to get your own style but still have something look anatomically correct. If it's not something you want to do that's fine too but you'll find your progress will slow down at some point.

Tracing and copying will still help you learn but, if you first know anatomy, you're REALLY going to understand what you are drawing rather than remember where the outline goes. Oh also learning to draw 3D looking shapes can help a whole lot at well.

I personally don't like using reference when I do commissions because I really want to give something that's 100% me.

Here some studies I did when I was getting back into drawing after quitting art for 10 years (I did maybe 5 drawings in those 10 years)




I also did some figure studies which I really REALLY need to do more!
I used this website: Quickposes: pose library for figure & gesture drawing practice





Here's something I did in 2007:
www.furaffinity.net: Man bird thing by Chinimasse
I didn't use reference and I didn't have basic knowledge of muscle anatomy. I mean it doesn't look bad but I always stayed in my comfort zone. I would also hide things with details and clothes. In the case of this picture I clearly remember not being able to get everything waist down to look right. So I hid everything with details. lol I have my own sets of issues tho like my characters look stiff. That I am still working on but I believe it's improving.

Here's what you could do with anatomy, not perfect but 10 years ago I could only dream to do things like that:
NSFW www.furaffinity.net: Were smut <3 (WIP) by Chinimasse NSFW

For that one I ended up using reference for the ding dong because I don't usually draw them all the time lol. And her left foot (our right) looked funky and I couldn't figure out why so that I blatantly copied off of the ref. Everything else is from my brain but I'm going to admit it probably took me way longer to complete than it should have! XD

As for where to start with studies I will always point people to youtube. Search for things like:
"Human skeleton for artist"
"Human muscle anatomy for artist"
"How to break down anatomy for art"
"Figure Gesture for artist"
"Learning Forms for artist"
I know it seems like a lot but just take your time with it. Good luuuuuck~!


catboy connoisseur
Tracing over real life photographs isn't a terribly abhorrent thing IF you're smart about what you're doing. Exclusively relying on tracing to produce art isn't productive at all, but as a warm up exercise -- or one of those exercises where you trace over a real image, then draw the real image without tracing, then draw the image from a different angle, and then draw without reference -- it's fine.
If it helps you learn, do it, but don't become reliant on it.