Is tracing ethically ok and is it useful?

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  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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    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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    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.
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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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    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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    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."
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    Does it really make a picture be the best it can be?...because I think something like tracing would narrow the posibilities is a particular picture.

    Isn´t it better to be trained enought to not have to trace anything??

    I mean Okelvin, you said it, you coudn´t have finished your TD piece if it weren´t for tracing here and there...why depend on such thing to be able to reach a dead line?


    And I don´t mean it as an "arbitrary rule", but no tracing haves benefits in the long run and tracing might spoil you, and it could be a big problem if for some reason you have to make a non-traced picture after tracing 100 before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by evildisco
    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.
    Weird response evildisco.

    Where did I say that tracing, photos, and 3D will help you come up with a better design?

    Things are different with digital painting because people have the ability to use all of those elements. And they will. It's not going to be good if they don't know what the hell they're doing is it?

    And you should look up what Scott Robertson, and Mark Goerner have to say about these subjects (use of photography, and 3d).

    I'm pretty sure that Rockwell used the projector to trace some of his designs from time to time. Rockwell knew what he was doing of course.

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    Learn to observe, and draw what you see, instead of what you see, and you won't need to trace. At least not that often, anyhow. I almost always trace my own work when it comes to redraws, but I won't trace anyone else's work.



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    aslong as the end result looks good, and they didnt murder anyone in the making of it, i dont see the problem..

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    there was an extensive thread on this a little while ago...

    and here it is: http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=71441&highlight=tracing

    I personally don't agree with using other peoples' photos and frames from movies as your key refs (though this is as much for practical reasons as ethical ones) but people need to give the "cheating" issue a rest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rebelismo
    And you should look up what Scott Robertson, and Mark Goerner have to say about these subjects (use of photography, and 3d).

    I'm pretty sure that Rockwell used the projector to trace some of his designs from time to time. Rockwell knew what he was doing of course.
    Because those people employ tracing, should it make it legitimate?No my opinions stays the same, I don't condone it.
    Besides there's a difference between tracing and referencing the two things are very different.

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    my opinions stays the same, I don't condone it
    if you see a painting and enjoy it and later learn that tracing was used in some way to produce that painting, would you no longer enjoy the painting? that doesn't make sense to me.

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    They started us tracing our own sketches in this animation class I am taking. I think I remember seeing documentaries at Disney where they use a lot of tracing, to keep images flowing seamlessly in the animation.

    I have learned to trace my sketches in Photoshop so I can work under the lines, rather than directly on the sketch as I used to.

    The issue confuses me. I see that many professionals use it, but that doesn't necessarily make it ok. It does make it easier to get a realistic image quickly. What would take me days or weeks of modeling skin tones in oil could only take a photomanipulator around an hour. Because I am interested in the field of entertainment art, I suppose this is an issue I will have to confront someday.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavePalumbo
    if you see a painting and enjoy it and later learn that tracing was used in some way to produce that painting, would you no longer enjoy the painting? that doesn't make sense to me.

    It detracts from my appreciation of the piece, if they tell that they traced elements in it. Process is just as important as the end result, of course I value enourmously more the person that does not trace.
    I don't really buy the whole 'whatever means necessary' discourse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavePalumbo
    if you see a painting and enjoy it and later learn that tracing was used in some way to produce that painting, would you no longer enjoy the painting? that doesn't make sense to me.
    Is about loving the process more than the result.
    Is an odd, but a possible way of thinking...And not everyone thinks alike or enjoys things alike, otherwise we would all agree.


    I wouls say yes, if I was to find out something was made from tracing I would be disappointed, because of the interest I had on that particular process. Of course I don´t mean a snobby disapointment in wish you need people to know that you don´t like that picture in order to show your apparent moral highground.......I mean a thing you feel in your chest and keep to yourself...Is uncontrolable, unwilling disapointment...



    Personally I don´t consider it cheating unless you are using pictures that belong to other people, but still, I don´t like it....Just like my sister doesn´t like shrimps.

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    I don't really buy the whole 'whatever means necessary' discourse
    though I really do admire the romantic notions of a purist, like a knight in a fairy tale, this is also a business and I don't see any practical benefit of placing limitations on yourself. For me, if you can make it look good, do it.

    which is to say we can agree to disagree

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    I understand what you are saying, but the first reason I do artwork is for myself, the fact that I need to sell my artwork to make a living is not why I do it. I don't delude myself with purist notions of selfrighteousness and whatnot, but I know that with enough effort most crutches can be avoided and the result can be a whole lot more satisfying.

    On the subject of tracing, besides that I think it's the cheap way out, you don't really learn nearly as much from failing(even though that sounds weird, it makes perfect sense to me).

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    I'm pretty much with Evildisco on everything (including his name pic ).

    The problem is there will alwaways be ONE guy who thinks 'by whatever means' is ok. And this one guy will spread that type of behavior to other artists because if one is making good money and has the admiration of the crowds by tracing, why wouldln't other people want to do the same? It's a vicious circle where we could end up with a majority of tracers. So I think it is an ethical and moral choice: you have to decide for YOURSELF not to trace (and by that I mean 'tracing over other people work, be it drawings, photos, movies...').

    I believe that what makes you as an artist is STYLE. Style is how you interpret reality as an artist. Mike Mignola didn't become famous because he can make drawings that 'look like photos'. And I could say the same about Picasso, Charles Schultz, Frazetta, Botticelli, Hugo Pratt, or Katsuhiro Otomo. Not a lot in common between all those artists except that they all have their own voice, their STYLE.
    And they don't trace.

    Tracing is evil.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavePalumbo
    though I really do admire the romantic notions of a purist, like a knight in a fairy tale, this is also a business and I don't see any practical benefit of placing limitations on yourself. For me, if you can make it look good, do it.

    which is to say we can agree to disagree
    Wow!

    If it's business you should not place restrictions on yourself?

    So no restrictions at all?

    With that kind of philosophy you can also become a used car salesman, a bank robber or an astrologer.
    Now, do you mind if I trace one of your paintings? I have a client who could be interested.

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    If tracing is used, then on the final artwork it should have something like "Contains sample of the Mona Lisa", like they do on rap records. Tracing is stealing someone elses work, we can't debate that right? Why even trace, wouldn't it also be possible to just outright take someone elses work then claim it's your own. There's is stuff like collage, but everyone knows those pictures are taken from different sources. So if there was some way for the original artist to collect royalties, and the tracing was acknowledged, then I'd be ok with it.

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    ironically, I think it's more of a crutch to draw arbitrary lines which cannot be crossed. I've always felt the tracing arguement is just a more refined (compromised? relaxed?) version of the reference arguement: The idea that you have when you're a little kid that all your favorite artists just conjure it all out of air, drawing everything from imagination (not even crediting memory as a source of reference). I think it's a naive viewpoint. You get older and realize that the guys in the movies don't use real bullets, the guys on the radio do 50 takes to get it perfect, and the guy behind his easel has photo refs to support his education and experience.

    We all know that not just any fool with a prop gun can make a stunning chase scene or any joe with a recording studio can sound like the Beatles. We know that it's the skill, the tallent, and the years of experience that allow them to do these things using the tools at their disposal. Tracing can be an asset or a liability depending on the job and your own level of skill. In the end, it's a tool. I bet all the digital artists in the house make use of the history/undo features in photoshop. Why not make that against the rules too? Why should an artist of any creative field impose limitations for the sake of romance? Marathon runners don't run in dress shoes.

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    So no restrictions at all?

    With that kind of philosophy you can also become a used car salesman, a bank robber or an astrologer.
    Now, do you mind if I trace one of your paintings? I have a client who could be interested.
    I think I mentioned above that I don't believe it's a good practice to use other people's photos as your key refs, which is to say other peoples work of any kind. Please understand what I'm talking about here is under the assumption that you are working off your own photographs and your own layouts. I didn't realize we were grouping plagarism and photo tracing as the same thing

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