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Tracing is Not Referencing (Tracing FAQ)

Journal Entry: Sun Jan 18, 2015, 2:39 PM



I feel like this needs to be explained, since with the recent string of tracing drama around some particular people I've notice a lot of confusion going on. So I'll try to explain for people who may be confused on the subject. If anyone has a topic that they think I should add or discuss, just let me know. If you want to share this journal, then go ahead. No need to ask!

Referencing and Tracing


Tracing and referencing are NOT the same thing.
Here's the distinction most experienced artists would make on the two subjects.
Referencing = Having some pictures nearby to show you how things are done. They're not under your drawing, they're all around so you can see and remind yourself of the proper way to draw something. You're using them as tools to draw your own thing. References are there to keep you on track, but you're doing your own work.
Tracing = You've taken a picture (or more. You can trace from several pictures on one piece) and put it underneath your own picture so you can draw over the exact lines that are already present.

It doesn't matter "how much" is traced. If they traced, they traced.
I constantly see people going "But it's only a hand/eye/upper body!" It doesn't matter. If I stole $5 from you, I still stole. Sure I could take your whole wallet, but just because I only took a bit doesn't mean anything.

When people say it's okay to reference, they are NOT saying it's okay to trace.
Since referencing and tracing are not the same thing, then approving of refs doesn't mean approving tracing.

Referencing is not only okay, it's GOOD!
People SHOULD take references! Every master artist in history used references! You're not required to know how to draw absolutely everything straight from memory. Looking at things and learning how to draw them right is an important part of being an artist and is in no way wrong. If anyone tells you so, they are not worth listening to.

But what about...


But tracing can be helpful!
It can, but it is a slippery slope. Tracing can help, but it doesn't help as much as learning to do things on your own. Your progress will be slow and frustrating, but that is your choice. People who trace to learn do exist, but you should always remember that what you traced is not YOUR art and should not be posted for others to see. If you are letting people assume it's yours, you are stealing. Even if you don't come right out and say it.

But they only traced a little part!
Same as above. It doesn't matter how much they traced. The person who drew the original took time and effort to learn how to put those lines together, even if it's just an eye. All of their knowledge went into drawing that eye, and for someone else to just trace over it for their own use is wrong. Period.

But the trace isn't a perfect match!
Tracers might be wrong, but that doesn't mean they're stupid. Don't you think if I wanted to trace that I would change a few things here and there? Move some stuff around? Make it look like... I dunno... I DIDN'T TRACE IT? Of course I would! You would, too! A clever tracer is still a tracer.

But sometimes lines just match up!
No they don't. A curve here or there, yeah. Some general shape like a triangle or a circle or something, sure. But not a facial structure. Not a whole arm or hand. People who actually know how to draw can't even make exact copies of their OWN art, let alone some random person. Humans aren't photocopiers by nature. We can barely get our own stuff together. So no, the lines of the two drawings are not a "coincidence". If you think so, then try drawing one of your pictures again line for line and overlay them so they are a perfect match without tracing.

But this person is so nice!
Being charming is not an excuse for being a thief. Putting lots of emojis and hearts and cute things in your comments does not mean that you are 'nice'. It just means that you know how to manipulate people. Nice people don't steal from others.

But they admitted it later!
That's great! But it doesn't mean that history is erased. Even if they admitted it after being called out, it only means that they were sick of the pressure, not that they had a change of heart. So no, they did not do some noble thing.

But bashing them hurts their feelings!
They already hurt someone's feelings when they stole their hard work. They brought it on themselves. No, they should not be threatened with bodily harm or anything like that, but people are going to be mad at them and they deserve that. If there are no consequences for stealing, then that's the same as saying it's okay to do.

But why call them out over it? Why not just keep quiet?
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke
Basically, if we are going to be a community of people and artists, we have to look out for what is right because no one else will. Not calling attention to and trying to stop bad things only allows those bad things to prosper.
CALLING ATTENTION TO A THIEF IS NOT HARASSMENT.

But they did a speedpaint from the beginning!
Speedpaints can be as easily manipulated as any other art. It takes literally no time for someone to cut out the part where they drew over another image and renamed the layers. Because everything is zooming by so fast, you wouldn't even notice it. That's basic video editing, and even people who don't trace often cut out stalls in the video or parts they don't feel are necessary. So a speedpaint is not proof.


Why being a White Knight makes you part of the problem


You're defending a thief
It's pretty self explanatory why this is not a good hing to do. You claim to be "doing good" by sticking by this person, but you're just advocating theft. Your heart is in the right place, but your thoughts and actions are not.

You're disregarding the feelings of the real victim
So much crying goes on about people making the tracer feel bad, but what about the person who had their hard work stolen? How come they aren't the ones being comforted and looked after? By defending a tracer, you are basically telling the person who did the REAL work that they don't matter. That this person was in the right to take their art and use it for their own gain. That they deserve to have their work stolen.

You're encouraging theft
Other people are going to see how these tracers get defended and be reassured that if they get caught, someone is going to be there for them. This makes people who wouldn't have started tracing feel more confident to start.

You're making yourself look like a sheep
You're letting someone manipulate you. You're letting them make you look like a damn fool. These people know that you've got a heart and want to defend someone "in need", so they will act as innocent and helpless as possible to trigger your protective instincts. They've got you going around yelling and screaming on their behalf, while they sit there hiding behind you knowing full well that they are in the wrong. Being a white knight is a misuse of your good intentions.

You think you're playing "Devil's Advocate" but you're not
Even devil's advocates have to know that when people on the other side have indisputable evidence, the only thing they should do is say "I can't argue with that. You're right." A devil's advocate who ignores all evidence and continues to fight even when they are bested is not a "devil's advocate", they are just a jackass.
The hallmark of a mature person is knowing when to say you are wrong.


Add a Comment:
 
:iconshiro-noir:
shiro-noir Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2017  New Deviant  Digital Artist
Now if only they would listen to logic, reason, and plain facts Day68 - Shakes Head :shakehead: Rubesco Shaking Head Day68 - Shakes Head
Reply
:iconcinemacraft:
CinemaCraft Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2016
BUT BASHING THEM HURTS THEIR FEELINGS

i wouldnt give a fuck if you stealing my work
Run my fade
Reply
:iconladyfromeast:
LadyFromEast Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
I absolutely love this journal. It explains so much more people should read it <3

I have a question though. What of the artists that use the grid method for referencing - drawing a grid on the photograph they wish to use as reference, then draw and empty grid on a clean sheet of paper, and then just draw the image square by square? If you make a very fine grid, you can, with a lot of work of course, make an almost perfect match to the photo you're using as reference.  Plus, it also serves well as means for drawing big drawings based or very small reference images. The oponions od this are divided and I would like to hear your opinion on it (ant other people's as well!).
Reply
:iconraynesweetheart:
RayneSweetheart Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great journal! Made me reassure I know what these terms mean <_<;;
I personally think tracing is fine if not posted owo
Typo: at the "You're defending a thief", you wrote "is not a good hing to do" , should be "thing", isn't it?
Reply
:icondrawmeter:
Drawmeter Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2016  Student General Artist
This is super awesome! I really appreciate this guide! :)

I have a question though. I'm not very good at sketching in the actual digital art application, so I will often sketch what I want on a piece of paper, take a picture of my sketch and then trace it digitally before coloring it. Is this the bad kind of tracing? 
Reply
:iconskarlet-kitten:
Skarlet-kitten Featured By Owner Edited Mar 15, 2016  Hobbyist
If I understand right you're replacing the first digitally drawn sketch with a traditional one. That's not bad, you only chose a form of drawing that suits you more. There are people who draw their sketches with traditional tools and alter them digitally or draw the entire piece traditionally and polish it up digitally at the end.
And tracing your own sketch is called lineart, so no worries.:D (Big Grin)
The bad kind of tracing means making a lineart of another actual finished (or even unfinished) artwork or photography from another artist.

Edit: If you have a reference image, make you're own sketch/sketches and take the lineart from there. If you upload them, don't forget to link your resources.;) (Wink) :D (Big Grin) 
Reply
:iconleviiiathan:
Leviiiathan Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This journal is a great help! Thank you! ^_^
Reply
:icontwilight-entropy:
Twilight-Entropy Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
lol, being apart of the sonic fandom, this is something that happens quite often, i had my trace routes, but i eventually learned to draw on my own too, but originally, used tracing to show the characters i couldnt draw digitally, which is probably odd for alot of people, i drew alot before i got into the sonic fandom, or any other fandom. 

but i do have to say, while tracing is still pretty shitty, its often fun to do in the meanwhile with proper permission from the original artist and credit given. 

i usually do one once in a while for a (huge) challenge in a while tho. not sure if its bad or not. 
Reply
:iconiki-fujisaka:
Iki-Fujisaka Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I... I... want to cry so much! Thank you for creating this journal. I thought no one understand me Cry forever

Of course, I'm gonna share it!
Reply
:iconfireytika:
fireytika Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Woow thank you for creating this journal!!
I used to tracing when i was a kid for fun. But, the i learn drawing by myself. It's not that improving when tracing.

How about if we tracing photo of human doll, but the picture is taken by ourself? For guidline when drawing difficult pose / angle. Is that still ok?
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's perfectly fine if it's your photo! Tracing can be good practice when used correctly.
Reply
:icondaifuno:
daifuno Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015  Student General Artist
GOD BLESS THIS JOURNAL~ THIS IS SO ACCURATE~ THANK YOU~
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy to help!
Reply
:icontefuani:
TefuAni Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015  Student General Artist
I love this so much! Thank you for making this, everything you wrote is so perfect and all the metaphors and quotes really got to me :D I've always wanted to say similar things but now I can express my arguments if I get into this kind of problem! <3 Thank you!!!
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're super welcome! Glad to be of service :heart:
Reply
:iconredconvoy:
redconvoy Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you!
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're very welcome ~
Reply
:iconmeruuka:
Meruuka Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2015
this is so accurate! bless this ; v ;;
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Glad to help!
Reply
:iconbakafuzz:
bakafuzz Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Your definitions of the topic are absolutely accurate! Tracing is something no one should do, no matter how dire the circumstances. Its practically plagiarism :c  
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Definitely!
Reply
:iconfullerjames:
fullerjames Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2015
yeah, it is plagiarism
Reply
:iconfrozen-fortune:
Frozen-Fortune Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I love you for this <3

I use to trace when I was about 7-8 ish but my mom was always against it and told me I could do better and be far more creative without tracing.

No one really learns from it.
It might get you a few 'likes or faves' but it won't give you the satisfaction of creating something new and pride of accomplishment.

Refs are what teach you how something bends, moves, flows~  <3
I have folders on my computer full of animal pictures so I can see how their proportions are and how the move or stand. How the face looks when turned slightly turned at an angle etc.
I am all about some references lol

I dislike the use of bases and the 'photocopy' art that people do. (Where they draw a picture that they look at, manga art, screen shots, posters, etc. but it's technically not tracing)
I see neither as really being creative. If feels more like borderline theft.

But don't get me started on art theft >:C

Still, love this. You're awesome!
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very much.

At the end of the day, we should be helping each other, not stealing from each other. Being an artist is hard enough without having to worry about other artists taking your hard work. We already have enough people against us.
Reply
:iconfrozen-fortune:
Frozen-Fortune Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
So true.

It's sad that a lot of people think "Oh, you draw? Don't you have something better to do?" or that it's some dumb past time.
Too many people don't care about art anymore. It's really a shame. Unless it has to do with movies or makes them a profit, who cares. -cry-

I think one thing that irks me most are 'original characters' that are pretty much recolors or slight alterations of screen shots or someone else's art.
They flood a good deal of the groups I'm in..
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
dA just happens to be a site with a lot of very young users, and unfortunately they don't all understand the value of hard work and want things instantly. But people learn and grow with time, they just need the right information and drive.
Reply
:iconfrozen-fortune:
Frozen-Fortune Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Unfortunately I think a lot of the older users have given up on trying to teach the new users.
Too many people try to treat DA like facebook and only want the likes.

If more people could read stuff like your FAQ then they could grow.
We can only hope.
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well it's not something that can be stopped completely, because new people show up on dA every day. As long as we do our best, that's enough.
Reply
:iconbook-box:
Book-Box Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Student Digital Artist
referencing is OK!! I do it all the time for my fanart so i can see the character design while i draw
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yep. Referencing is good to do.
Reply
:iconruuruu-chan:
RuuRuu-Chan Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Student Interface Designer
I wish more people would have this same concept in mind. There have been so many tracers and bases lately that it's all over the place.
You broke everything down very easily. Thank you for sharing this with us. 
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No problem, I'm glad it's been a useful journal. 
Reply
:iconxmizu-kun:
xMizu-kun Featured By Owner Edited Jan 19, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
I'm glad I read the part where you said "using referrence is not only okay, but good." I often feel bad after using ref because I feel my art is not 100% original, but suppose that mindset is wrong :D

Excellent post! Kudos to you :)
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You should never ever feel bad for using refs! They're important for your growth.

I think people get too caught up in being "original" in their art. There's only so many ways to draw something, and someone has done it before you, and someone did it before them, too. Every idea came from somewhere, so don't put yourself down for it. As long as you're being you, that's as original as you need to be :)
Reply
:iconsloxed:
Sloxed Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah dA Is full of tracers.
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Unfortunately true.
Reply
:iconinfernoztorm:
InfernoZtorm Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015   General Artist
I hope you don't mind if I shared this on my journal and on Twitter. :3
It is really true to the point and must be shared as you have said! :)

And I admit I did some tracing before and I didn't appreciate it. (It may have be "helpful" to some but not for me. ^^;)
Then and now, I'm still trying to improve my drawing skills very slowly. It may take time but I'm so determined I'll try and get more done this year. :)
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I don't mind you sharing it at all.

If you strive, you can definitely get where you want to be in art and everything else, so good luck!
Reply
:iconinfernoztorm:
InfernoZtorm Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015   General Artist
Okay.

Well looks like I found what I need to do this year XD
so thanks. c:
Reply
:iconanaluizacg:
AnaLuizaCG Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Student Digital Artist
I traced from some Tinker Bell drawing when I was like eight and felt horrible afterwards, I seriously can't understand how popular artists who trace a lot can sleep at night, I'd be paranoid 24/7 if I was one of them.
Journals like this should be a mandatory read when making an account on DA
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I don't understand it either. Everyone probably traced at some point (I distinctly remember tracing an Ash Ketchum picture in elementary school and feeling pretty crappy afterwards), but to not have any remorse about it is really baffling. Wouldn't it feel so much better to accept praise on your own work? But I guess instant gratification is all people are concerned with.
Reply
:iconwallachianbard:
WallachianBard Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Was always against tracing.Still, wouldn't tracing scraps be better than doing nothing?
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I got into that topic above. Tracing can be used as a learning tool. It's just way less effective than other methods. Like how you can do one push up a day instead of 5. Sure, you will be one push up stronger, but that's not really a lot compared to being 5 push ups stronger. 0.01% is always better than 0%, but it's not really a lot for the effort.

But if a person thinks there's either "trace or do nothing", they probably need a less intensive hobby than art.
Reply
:iconxxdarkmoonspiritxx:
xXDarkMoonSpiritXx Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Yuppers I haven't "traced" since I was maybe in elementary school when I really liked something not counting my art class I took senior year when I had to trace my own work for a project but I developed my own style I do a lot of referencing now not tracing. I've always hated tracing even when I was little because it (to me) stumps your creativity for your own work and Lady-Suchiko is right it is stealing another artist work and their effort put into it. When I am doing really good on a drawing I tend to put way more effort into it. I had someone try to steal a piece I had worked on they tried to pass it off as their own but they immediately got called out on it as soon as they posted it up. They didn't trace but copied the picture and posted it as theirs. I was so great full to the people who caught them because even though it wasn't one of my best drawings it was still mine. I applaud you Lady-Suckiko for informing people the difference and that it is not ok!
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm glad you found it informative. People who trace are not always "evil" or doing things to be malicious, but it's important that they realize what they are doing to avoid disrespecting someone else.
Reply
:iconxxdarkmoonspiritxx:
xXDarkMoonSpiritXx Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I understand the evil part but it still not ok it is good that you are informing people so that it can be avoided by others and the people who are accused to be backed up by others to see if they really did trace or not friends or not I wouldn't like it if someone traced my work and said it was theirs. That why when I reference or draw something quiet similar to another artist I try to say so when I post it up or talk to someone about it.
Reply
:iconre-pyper:
Re-Pyper Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:clap:
Reply
:iconlady-suchiko:
Lady-Suchiko Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:3
Reply
:iconkitkatnis:
kitkatnis Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
once one of my friends were being accused of tracing.. she swore she didn't do it, and we all believed her, but someone tried to prove it so much, they made a video of how the lines matched up, even though it wasn't perfect and he said my friend made it sloppy on purpose, i didn't know what to believe, of course I defended my friend, because she wasn't one to lie, I'm curious to hear what you think about that situation
Reply
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