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Thread: Is tracing ethically ok and is it useful?

  1. #1
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    Is tracing ethically ok and is it useful?

    More and more people trace those days. And I'm not talking about the ones that just rip off anatomy books like eldavissimo but people that are using photos, frames from movies and the like, usually plundered form the net. I'm not talking about using reference for something I'm talking about straight tracing when somebody takes a porn picture or a still frame from a Hollywood movie, puts it on a layer in photoshop and draws over it (and sometimes uses part of the original photo in the final art). Countless people now do that PROFESSIONALLY (i.e. making money out of their art), especially in comic books (covers and interiors). Some 'artists' are even really famous for that.
    To me this is ethically wrong, because you basically steal from somebody else, and this is technically wrong because it will never look good. Any pro can spot those images a mile away. They have a lot of perspective problems, anatomy mistakes due to lense distortion and so on. BUT a lot of average customers and clients cannot see this, especially if the final picture looks 'like a photo'.

    So I'd like to hear some opinion on this. Is it right to make money by tracing something, be it a character, a car, a building, a whole scene, of somebody else work (photo, movie, drawing, etc.)? This is to me a new problem because in the past it was never that easy to trace over things, but Photoshop and the current taste for 'realism' make it tempting for people without talent or shame to rip some reward.

    What do you think?
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  3. #2
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    I use it as a learning tool only. And even then, it is tracing portions of a photo which i am finding impossible to eye-ball. The more i do it, the less i need to. essentially. I'm also a student, i'm all about learning. In a professional setting, unless you are are a traditional 2d animator, i don't think such a thing can be entirely legal. I mean, that is saying you are tracing something other then you're own work.
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    Tracing and recolouring something, especially for commercial purposes, is definitely unethical, and probably illegal, though I don't really know about that stuff. I know more than one person who traces the drawings of others and passes it off as their own stuff. It's art theft to claim it as your own.
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    I consider it one of the cardinal sins, personaly.

    But that's just me.

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    i am learning, and i usually draw something from eye, then make a quick trace, and see how much i can improve, but using it as a pro is wrong, i mean if you understand color, balance anatomy and great enought to be called a pro, why should you trace something, use what you learn
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    Tracing, photo manipulation, 3D backgrounds, whatever. More and more people use it in digital painting. I guess that's where it's heading.

    The thing that's going to make someone stand out is good design.
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    Cardinal Sin.
    I can see the usefulness in using it as a learning tool for paintovers, etc., in photoshop. I've managed to avoid it, however.
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    When you copy something for practice.. either a master drawing or a photo... When you're done you can trace your copy and place it over the thing you copied and see what you did wrong.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rebelismo
    Tracing, photo manipulation, 3D backgrounds, whatever. More and more people use it in digital painting. I guess that's where it's heading.

    The thing that's going to make someone stand out is good design.
    Which of course those things you mentioned don't help you make a better design but more blatantly point out your shortcomings.

    Copying for exercise purpose yes, tracing is counterproductive instead.

    Yes it is something I personally stir away from, so yeah it is a 'cardinal sin' for me as well.

    People who trace things to get advantage in the workplace should be barred from ever working professionaly and subsequently shot in the face.

    Rebelismo: your position and nickname are very fishy, just saying.
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  11. #10
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    I don´t like it either.
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    Beyond plagiarism, I say do whatever it takes to make the piece look as good as possible as fast as possible. If you're putting up arbitrary rules that prevent you from making your image look the best it can, then you should rethink those rules.

    That goes both ways. Tracing can just as easily make a piece look worse if you don't know what you're doing. It takes skill, just like everything else involved with creating art.

    "If you can't draw, you can't trace.
    And by that, I don't mean shouldn't. I mean can't."
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    PS. I would have never finished my Thunderdome image on time if I didn't use a little tracing here and there.
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  13. #12
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    I use to trace when doing line art. It still sometimes gets hard for me, just because it's such an easy way out and I don't want to take it.

    I admit, I've "traced" when painting digitally, but only because I felt insecure about painting textures and such with a mouse. I'm weening myself off, but I still have photographic references. Also, I often trace when I do tattoo flash, just to keep consistency if I have repeating images.
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  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by 0kelvin
    Beyond plagiarism, I say do whatever it takes to make the piece look as good as possible as fast as possible. If you're putting up arbitrary rules that prevent you from making your image look the best it can, then you should rethink those rules.

    That goes both ways. Tracing can just as easily make a piece look worse if you don't know what you're doing. It takes skill, just like everything else involved with creating art.

    "If you can't draw, you can't trace.
    And by that, I don't mean shouldn't. I mean can't."
    -Elwell
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