Art Discussion

What are your views regarding tracing? Do you consider it “cheating?” Or is it something to be used when the need arises? (I.e. important commissions, to save time)

By B Wolf


  • Claire Moore artist
    Claire Moore (@CMcreates)
    02/21/2021 @ 10:48am

    I view tracing as an opportunity to learn and try new things. I don't do much tracing myself, but if I did, it would be a learning experience. I would be learning to draw something in a new way.

  • Tom Heye artist
    Tom Heye (@TomHeye)
    02/22/2021 @ 11:17am

    Good question, i used to struggle with the same feeling. I refused to trace when i was drawing alot for myself. Mainly because I felt that way i wasen't putting in ''a proper amount of work''. But when I started doing commissions with portraits and poses I started tracing the main shapes and proportions as a time saver.( less hours mean less pay for the client) So now i use tracing for dificunt anatomy poses or faces. An because i knpw I can alsow do it without tracing, i don't feel guilty, it's a matter of workflow when nesesarry.

  • Suzette artist
    Suzette (@Rayedrgn) Plus Member
    02/23/2021 @ 1:06am

    I think it is fine to do to help with proportions and sizing from the reference.

  • Jase • TUNGTiiED artist
    Jase • TUNGTiiED (@TUNGTiiED)
    02/24/2021 @ 2:44pm

    I think as long as it has a purpose and leads to a different destination than the source material then all is fair in Art & War. If it makes the difference between creating and spiraling because you can't-- go for it! Especially if it's just used as a jumping-off point to get your work where you want it to go.

  • Fun Spirit {Rachel} artist
    Fun Spirit {Rachel} (@FunSpirit)
    02/24/2021 @ 9:29pm

    I always believed that tracing was cheating. I think if I learn to trace a long time ago I wouldn't have this belief and my artwork would probably improve Tracing would help.

  • kanaiyah ward artist
    kanaiyah ward (@jadewest)
    02/26/2021 @ 2:10pm

    yeah.ive had some turds curse me for it

  • SEIDOU Elimane artist
    SEIDOU Elimane (@Eliyass)
    02/28/2021 @ 9:04pm

    Pour ma part le traçage est pas de la triche... j'utilise assez cela quand j'ai des commandes de portrait. En plus j'ai appris à faire des illustrations digitales à partir du traçage du coup c'est quand même assez utile.

  • Chavez artist
    Chavez (@Eladio)
    03/03/2021 @ 10:29am

    Copying: It all depends on your intent. What are you trying to do/ accomplish/ say? If tracing helps with your ends, it justifies the means, why deny it?

  • B Wolf artist
    B Wolf (@SedonaEquineArt)
    03/03/2021 @ 11:09am

    @CMcreates @TomHeye @Rayedrgn @TUNGTiiED @FunSpirit @Eliyass @Eladio Thank you for the great insight! I’ve always thought that if I traced something it would degrade the pieces authentic feel or value, and yet it personally feels like a very useful tool Glad to see I’m not the only one who feels this way!

  • Amy Cooper artist
    Amy Cooper (@BabDoo)
    03/04/2021 @ 2:15pm

    I find tracing an invaluable tool!! It improves muscle memory and allows you to learn the lines and shapes. I wouldn’t be the drawer I am today without tracing!

  • Brent Skillicorn artist
    Brent Skillicorn (@kekoaskills)
    03/07/2021 @ 4:32pm

    I'm untrained and have 2.5 years of doodling. I recently got a light box and started some tracing to learn and develop muscle memory etc. Maybe some artist who are trained can skip this? But I think you're asking if it is ok to trace for a finished art piece? What if an artist drew and made their own custom stencil; that would seem ok? Maybe the question is related to - is a DJ a musician if they can't play an instrument? (I know being a DJ can take tons of practice - mixing, turntables and using software take a lot of skill (I have tried a little) but it is using other ppl's work. Then there is digital art. Can I skip coloring and just use the paint bucket and fill in a shape? Can I fix mistakes and change colors, add layers etc? (I'm asking the Universe). Tracing for practice and learning etc seems fine? I remember tracing the little dotted lines to learn cursive handwriting. I also used to play my bass while listening to my favorite bands to get better and I am sure it influenced my style but I would not consider it "cheating" It would be kind of weird if I were not allowed to attempt to play along because I did not write the song? It's also excepted that some singers lip sync at performances to avoid dealing with mixing the vocals with the band or DJ. I guess as long as the audience is happy : )

  • Joer_B artist
    Joer_B (@JoerB) Plus Member
    03/08/2021 @ 12:39pm

    Tracing is a valid method of working. Even if you traced something verbatim from a source, you would still interpret that image through your skill, talent and way of seeing things. Every time I’ve attempted this method, the final image always looked different. I’m always changing things on the fly because I think that it would look better. I would darken/lighten sections. I would choose to emphasize a section here at the expense of a section there. Sometimes it’s because of little mistakes that I’ve made along the way, but I’m always juggling/fighting with the image in my head of what it SHOULD look like versus what I’m seeing in real time in front of me. In the end, the drawing would be my interpretation of the original source.

  • Zom Osborne artist
    Zom Osborne (@zom18)
    03/09/2021 @ 3:52am

    Tracing what? I sometimes trace my own work or a larger copy of a drawing I have done. I wouldn't trace a photograph or someone else's work. I don't see how that helps you learn. It doesn't develop your eye-hand coordination or other drawing skills. Photographs are often distorted and you can see it in people's drawings when they trace photos.

  • Suzette artist
    Suzette (@Rayedrgn) Plus Member
    03/11/2021 @ 1:40pm

    Speaking of tracing, I recently discovered a tool called The Lucy Drawing Tool. It looks really interesting and I am tempted to try it. I wonder if it is any better than using a light box...

  • David Corkery artist
    David Corkery (@DC2021) Plus Member
    03/14/2021 @ 9:18am

    I think tracing is an artists tool, among others.

  • Bleu Hope artist
    Bleu Hope (@bleuhope) Plus Member
    03/14/2021 @ 7:16pm

    As everyone's been saying it's a great way to learn and improve one's skillset when you're starting out. If you know how to it can work out the same way in your art the way collage does, or how sampling functions in music to cite another example. As long as you're adding your own spin on things and not blatantly stealing from another artist, I've no problem with it whatsoever, and I'm sure those in their right mind think more or less the same.

  • JMelven artist
    JMelven (@JMelven)
    03/23/2021 @ 11:13am

    I feel the same way as most people here. Add your own spin and copying is fine. Make it yours :)

  • GLB artist
    GLB (@GBsNightmare)
    03/23/2021 @ 10:33pm

    I like tracing sometimes because it’s fun adding your own spin to the art. I don’t think it’s cheating.

  • CleverOtter artist
    CleverOtter (@CleverOtter)
    04/01/2021 @ 2:57am

    i would feel ripped off if it was a commission, but regular art it's fine, as long as you dont blatantly steal

  • Hannah artist
    Hannah (@DawnClouds69)
    04/01/2021 @ 12:26pm

    I think tracing is totally fine as long as you are not claiming it as your own artwork. If you trace, you learn to see shapes in things a lot earlier than if you didnt.

  • Jay Calman artist
    Jay Calman (@N00CLEAR)
    04/10/2021 @ 4:11am

    I think tracing is a great tool, as long as they try freehand and other techniques too... and if you are doing it just for fun then its great! I'm on the fence in regards to posting in, if you traced or skeletonized a photo I think it's ok (though in many cases you should probably link to the photo?) but if it's someone else's drawing I think is less than ideal if you are trying to build your image as an artist and take art seriously as a career. Ofcourse claiming it's yours is never right, but I think that's separate to if one should trace in general. Tracing/copying movie scenes for layout practice and what not looks so fun but I've not got around to trying it yet!

  • kanaiyah ward artist
    kanaiyah ward (@jadewest)
    04/14/2021 @ 6:47am

    I think you can use it as a time saver or a learning helps time go by faster in commissions

  • Hannah artist
    Hannah (@DawnClouds69)
    04/14/2021 @ 3:26pm

    @kanaiyah ward You should NEVER trace when doing commissions it just gets you in trouble and is not authentic. People are paying to get your work, not someone elses. Even if you put some of your own spins on it it is still "cheating" and you should credit the person who made it.

  • Melissa Scheu artist
    Melissa Scheu (@inkpaperstring)
    05/04/2021 @ 9:29am

    This is actually a really old debate, studied in Western art history through the controversy surrounding the camera obscura ( - basically an old-school projector. If tracing is cheating, then a lot of paintings in art history museums need to be taken down from the wall! I think that tracing can be fine and good if you're not relying on the tracing, and adding your own personality to complete the work. I don't use any tracing for my pieces, but if I wanted to use one of them to make a painting that was a larger scale, you bet your bottom dollar I would make use tracing or projection!

  • Melissa Scheu artist
    Melissa Scheu (@inkpaperstring)
    05/04/2021 @ 9:46am

    @DawnClouds69 No, I don't think that this is true. Tracing cartoon characters to fill commissions is unacceptable, but tracing or projecting sketches or photos or whatever to arrange a drawing or painting, (even if it will be a finished piece) is actually totally acceptable. In fact, it's something that I wish my grade school art teachers had taught me *before* I faced down my first big canvas! If I had spent more time tracing and rearranging the elements of my student paintings, they would be a LOT better. I guess I just mean that "tracing" for artists doesn't usually refer to just going over the lines of someone else's work to pass it off as your own - it just means taking advantage of all the different ways you can use reference images. So tracing is fine and great for finished work, as long as you're using it as a tool and not as the whole trick.

  • kanaiyah ward artist
    kanaiyah ward (@jadewest)
    05/25/2021 @ 10:23am

    I view tracing as a fun learning experience but you must do some of it on your own

  • kanaiyah ward artist
    kanaiyah ward (@jadewest)
    06/17/2021 @ 10:04am

    tracing can help you focus on the physical demands of drawing without worrying whether you're doing it right. it helps develop hand-eye coordination and muscle memory. It's kinda like a rehearsal for your future drawing development

  • Thomas Fullard artist
    Thomas Fullard (@Vindaya)
    11/11/2021 @ 10:28pm

    Oh no it’s definitely a good thing as a references, that’s how being a true artist is about, use references and make different ideas for that figure

  • Scarlett Rose artist
    Scarlett Rose (@scarlettrose)
    09/17/2022 @ 10:14pm

    I think tracing is perfectly fine...when it's needed. I try only to trace if I'm really struggling

  • Sneezy artist
    Sneezy (@sneezywheezy)
    11/01/2022 @ 5:47pm

    well i hear professional artist saying tracing is not bad thing it can help you but for me i would hate to trace somones artwork . i do not feel good at all about tracing. you need to create ur own art in your own style and visions. Tracing to learn is not way to go there are so many other options u can learn art to improve . tracing is not it

  • Sneezy artist
    Sneezy (@sneezywheezy)
    11/01/2022 @ 5:49pm

    i think artists ultimate goal is to create anything from their imagination as good as possible. Think about it all u need is paper and pencil and u can create a world. U don't need reference and all these other things to create just need paper and art mediums and u can just create any reference should be in ur head

  • Dua Rasheed artist
    Dua Rasheed (@dua002)
    02/28/2023 @ 8:19am

    I think at some point all of the artist go through the tracing phase. It's just a step becoming a better artist. Trust me, you learn a lot from tracing but again it's only good for learning and not calling it your own art later.

  • Cari Reder artist
    Cari Reder (@CLynn)
    12/04/2023 @ 10:51am

    I use it all the time, I'm horrible with perspective. Is it "cheating", Not! If it's my photo, I own it, if I trace to get perspective correct, so be it. It helps my confidence, to produce better looking art, in my eyes.

  • Cari Reder artist
    Cari Reder (@CLynn)
    12/06/2023 @ 6:17pm

    @Rayedrgn Hi, I noticed a while back you mentioned the drawing tool "Lucy". I have also seen the ads and was wondering if it was worth trying out. Did you ever try it?

  • Suzette artist
    Suzette (@Rayedrgn) Plus Member
    12/06/2023 @ 7:55pm

    @CLynn Hello! I saw reviews for it and they said the main issue is that sometimes it focuses the picture a bit blurry and it can be difficult to see the lines. I ended up just using an old screen projector instead and traced the outlines of my drawings with that for a while. Pretty much the same thing,

  • Suzette artist
    Suzette (@Rayedrgn) Plus Member
    12/06/2023 @ 7:57pm

    @CLynn If you want to go really cheap you can also just hold your paper up to the screen monitor and trace over that way. :3

  • Cari Reder artist
    Cari Reder (@CLynn)
    12/08/2023 @ 7:50am

    @Rayedrgn Thank you, I use a sunny window like a light box! : ). Someday I may want an easier way.

Leave a comment

Login or sign-up to leave a comment.

Add Doodle Addicts to your home screen to not miss an update!