“Don’t trace” originally started as a warning against tracing as art theft (as in, tracing someone else’s art without permission or credit is art theft) and then over the intervening years turned into “you can’t use references because it’s cheating” and I think that’s one of the worst cases of the telephone game I’ve ever personally experienced

you are allowed to trace as practice

you are allowed to trace your own work (for example photographs you took yourself or to keep architectural consistency)

you are allowed to trace things the original artist is encouraging you to trace

you SHOULD use references

you SHOULD be allowed to pick up other artists’ artistic tics you like (…as long as they’re not offensive, like blackfacing, but that’s a different kettle of fish)

you SHOULDN’T go around moralizing at other people about how they learn best because you can and will lose friends that way and you can and will hurt other artists’ development that way.

Also other than art theft there IS no such thing as cheating in art okay use sparkle pens and fan brushes to your heart’s content why is that even a thing I have to say (…and yes I’ve had conversations in the analog world about fan brushes as “cheating” I’m so tired of snotty artists who think you shouldn’t be allowed to use tools that make things easier because they can do it the hard way)

But honestly, this need to be said louder, as an artist you end up feeling like you aint getting better, trying to draw in perspective without having a guide line . And when others shame artist for using references its like they are expecting the artist to know by memory how everything works on every perspective.

To Consider that fan brushes, or custom brushes are cheating and expecting the artist to do everything in the “original” way is like wanting the cashier to charge you without using a calculator to do the sum. Tools are invented to be used.

“tools are invented to be used” well put

Not allowing using references is same as telling to a chef they can’t use recipes but they have to pull any dish in the world out of their asses just like that.

The first thing, the very first thing my photography teacher told us was “When photographing was invented, ARTISTS took pictures of cities and traced them on their paintings because hey – easier work! Why bother to work hard when you can make it easy for yourself and save your time and energy?”

I’ve been drawing for years, and I still trace. It helps me learn relationships between shapes, and to understand perspectives that are difficult. Other days, I eyeball it until it looks right. 90% of what I have on my computer is reference images. 

Thing is, use what makes you learn best. Don’t steal, but don’t suffer because someone says references aren’t getting.  

Lots of this.

I work in animation.  My boss encourages the whole team, every day, to learn how to draw the characters by tracing them over and over, before trying to draw them freehand.  It helps commit their shapes and proportions to muscle memory and actual memory.

Tracing is an invaluable method of learning.  As long as you aren’t tracing somebody else’s work and calling it your own, you’re in the clear.  TRACE YOUR LITTLE HEART OUT.

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