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April 19, 2014
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You CAN learn to draw by tracing. by Nyanfood You CAN learn to draw by tracing. by Nyanfood
Thank you :iconsenshistock: for the stock photo used in this tutorial!
Staff Pose Drawing Reference, Mjranum-stock Collab by SenshiStock

This is more or less how I learned to draw things. People say you can't learn from tracing... but I feel like that's a misunderstanding bred from a combination of close-minded education and people not knowing how to learn from tracing. This might work for you. This might not work for you. But in a way, you have to treat this like studying rather than plain drawing. Either way, I hope it helps someone somewhere.

This method is best used with a bit of math. measure out how long certain body parts are according to the size of the head from chin to the top of the head. Approximations are totally okay. This is also a really general guide. You can vary it to make it more detailed by continuing to split what you have already split into halves into even more halves. There does come to a point where there's no point in splitting it even further though.

This method does not work very well if you only do it once or twice. Do it lots and do it often! The aim is to familiarize artists with what features happen where on bodies and when.

Also, note that the contours I followed included the clothing's contours, so there is no valley contour between the boobs.

Have fun!
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:iconsls-scifiandart:
SLS-ScifiandArt Featured By Owner May 10, 2014  Hobbyist
I actually find this more of a study method rather than a "trace" as the objective is trying to understand the form before putting it to application for drawing. When most people are against tracing, they are against tracing over fanart, anime screenshots, and anything around such. I have never seen people complain about tracing stock as stock is there to help people regardless of their methodology background.

Don't get me wrong. I agree about tracing getting a bad reputation and that there are good tracing means such as this for learning tool purposes. Anybody ever heard of stencils? XD How people use stencils are no different than what you are doing here. 
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:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner May 10, 2014   Digital Artist
While I understand what you're saying about study method rather than tracing, I phrased the tutorial this way and called it "tracing" because of the misunderstanding behind the action of tracing itself. People who are against tracing generalize the act of tracing and lump it with the act of art theft involving tracing. When they generalize, they say that "tracing is bad." As a result, people who wish to learn and understand a form are pressured into not using the act of tracing as a method of study. From a marketing standpoint, I felt like my sensationalization of the topic by using the word "tracing" can act as a counter to the damage created by the generalization. It's similar to Taichi. Rather than face the problem with all the force concentrated on a single point like in rapier-fencing, this method follows the movements of the opponent (the movement here being generalization of the word "trace" and the opponent being the idea that "tracing" is wrong) and uses it against the opponent in a way the opponent can agree with.

What I'm trying to combat aren't people who complain about tracing a stock. I'm combating the fear growing artists have of tracing anything due to a common misunderstanding.
Reply
:iconsls-scifiandart:
SLS-ScifiandArt Featured By Owner May 10, 2014  Hobbyist
Ah, I see what you mean. It's nice to get a different perspective in things. Generalizations can be quite harmful and it's nice you gave a better insight to how tracing can help in such methods like this. I will try this method along with observation. The gridding seems quite useful and pretty much highlights what I observe with my eyes! XD It can work like a fact checker for me! XD

Makes sense. =)
Reply
:iconnapandastia:
napandastia Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is very helpful
Reply
:iconzombiefishiez:
ZombieFishiez Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is great! I love how you approached this, especially since tracing is such a touchy matter with many artists anyways. I'm definitely going to try this and hopefully begin to understand anatomy better.
Thank you for this awesome guide!
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014   Digital Artist
No problem! I hope that it'll be of use to you. Have fun~ :D
Reply
:icontswordz:
TswordZ Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014
Lots of thanks. This is a good way to learn drawing bodies. Thanks! :icondragonhi:
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014   Digital Artist
Thanks lots too!
Reply
:iconpinakes:
Pinakes Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
To add, I'd personally would go with drawing the figure once from observation before tracing - for a feel of like doing a test and then being shown the answer. And then another drawing without observation at all after the tracing to make sure I remember the 'new stuff'.

On another note, I would personally darken the green ink of step 2 for a better clarity. If I take the image and convert it to greyscale, the value difference between text and bg is too small IMO.
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014   Digital Artist
Yeah. I noted the green ink as a problem. I just really didn't want to change it. O_o; I don't even know why, but I really really didn't want to.
Reply
:iconpinakes:
Pinakes Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Lolol XD
Reply
:iconbeefxcake:
BeefxCake Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
this is a very good method of learning. it's how i learned to draw and eventually you can recognize what shapes are supposed to look like i won't need to go through these step. this really enforces muscle memory and stuff great tutorial.
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
Thanks lots!
Reply
:iconcelerypony:
CeleryPony Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014
This is more reference study than tracing.
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
Indeed, but many people are afraid of even the action of tracing due to the misconception that all tracing is bad. The evidence can be found in the comments as well. By calling it "tracing," I bring attention to the problem of shaming tracers for any form of tracing and challenge that opinion with reason, thus when someone is seen tracing, people do not jump to the conclusion that the tracer is necessarily doing something shameful.
Reply
:iconfeardeni:
FearDeni Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is actually a really sweet learning method. Whenever I tried to trace it would always end up far more two dimensional looking than what I desired. The use of separating into four sections really seems to bring a better understanding on how the figure moves. Thanks for posting!
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
Thanks for stopping by! I hope it helps. :D
Reply
:iconwolffacedb:
wolffacedb Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014
This is so helpful and makes so much sense, thanks!
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
You're welcome! Have fun~
Reply
:iconcreativenight:
CreativeNight Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
what you have to say on this topic is really interesting, I have tried tracing a few time before and had never learned from it. but I think the problem was that I never went into it with the right mind set, I have always done better drawing what I see but I don`t see any problem with this. and I might even try this on some things I have trouble with.Clap Clap 
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:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
I hope it helps. :D :glomp:
Reply
:iconmangakidart:
MangaKidArt Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I would love to link this tutorial up on theOtaku.com so the artists there can be sent to this page to read your useful advice and tips on tracing!! I have no problem with this type of guideline tracing. What I do not like is when people go around tracing full scans or images and then claiming all copyright without even linking reference pictures. I'm sure this tutorial will help many people with knowing that its OK to trace when you do it the right way to get guidelines and give credit too!
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
Feel free to link away!
Reply
:iconmangakidart:
MangaKidArt Featured By Owner May 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thankyou!
Reply
:iconradicalradio:
RadicalRadio Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist

I have once before been told to try tracing to get a certain thing down, but
with how much anger is also around the word 'tracing' made me too afraid
to give it a try. I surely will now, thank you! ;v;
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
No problem! If anyone gets mad at you about tracing, just poke me.  o vo~
Just remember to credit things if you upload traces. :la:
Reply
:iconradicalradio:
RadicalRadio Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist

Oh of course, I always give credit to
everything! eue I'm a base artist and
do pixels a lot I ALWAYS credit (I wish
more people would D: )
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
You are automatically awesome. o vo
Reply
:iconradicalradio:
RadicalRadio Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist

Oh my not even amg shhh >//<
Reply
:iconchi-ji-dragon:
chi-ji-dragon Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014
I've heard a lot of different opinions about tracing. My mom didn't think it was an okay thing but my dad thought it was okay. I learned by tracing as well though in the end. I remember I started off tracing pokemon and sometimes animals. But when I tired it without tracing I found that compared to before I had improved a lot (I originally had to draw stick figures if I wanted to draw people...). Every now and then I'll trace something I'm not really good at drawing (birds, dogs, dragons, etc...). So tracing can be good. I really don't see the harm in it just as long as people don't take credit for the drawing they traced.
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
I agree~ :D
Reply
:iconpharaoh-ink:
Pharaoh-Ink Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I agree that tracing can be used as an educational tool, whatever helps you understand why things work, that's fine. I think the main issue you'll face with tracing is that people don't use it for educational purposes or as a stepping stone, they draw over something and they call it theirs and it's done and ready for posting. I like the presentation of your tutorial here, because it explains the kind of thought process one should have going into it. Whatever you do in life, go into it with thought and effort.
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
o vo~ Thank you for your feedback.
Reply
:icongidgetech:
Gidgetech Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I have heard a lot of the 'tracing is bad' mentality, not just on the internet either. What amuses me is that in many art classes you are actually *encouraged* to trace things, especially if the point is to learn a certain aspect or work on new techniques (such as color, shading, etc.).

I, personally, trace when I have issues with a pose or am working on an animal I have never worked on before. I used to trace the entire thing, and while I learned from it the knowledge I gained was minimal. I learned a technique similar to what you show here, I get the basic pose down, and then flesh the image out with my own work. I'm only able to do that because of my past experiences though!

I think the greatest issue people have with tracing mostly has to do when a person traces something (especially something that has been labelled a 'not for public use' piece) and then attempt to pass it off as their own. These people give those of us who trace and then keep the art private (which I often do) and the tracers who use the free, available stock and credit it properly.

As is so often the case, the minority of 'bad/lazy' minority has given the main body a bad name.

Lesson to be learned? Credit, credit, credit! (and only use what has been okay'd for use)
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
Credit is great! All hail crediting!
Reply
:icongidgetech:
Gidgetech Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
*These people give those of us who trace and then keep the art private (which I often do) and the tracers who use the free, available stock and credit it properly a bad name.

(Got ahead of myself again and forgot to end the sentence....whoops)
Reply
:icongidgetech:
Gidgetech Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
And strike that extra 'minority of' from the second to last sentence...dA really needs an 'edit comments' feature.
Reply
:iconiokothepanda:
IokoThePanda Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
wow, that is great ;u;
thankyou<3

I am sure that will help me to become better.
yeah, I actually never did this.
I didn't even copied another drawing.
I always felt ashamed : ' D
 /but that is why I have problems drawing proportions now ;-; /
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
There is no shame. Everyone learns and learning itself should never be a shame, now matter how you do it (as long as you don't infringe on the freedom of others etc etc etc).
Reply
:iconiokothepanda:
IokoThePanda Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
true thing. yeah, thanks a lot again! >w<
Reply
:iconneonnekohime:
NeonNekoHime Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks so much for this! I used to trace, but once I got online everyone said it was bad. But learning the body of a human or animal is not bad, no matter what drawing tool you are using to learn it. Tracing the way you showed is not very different than using a photo for reference as you draw-both are looking for the shape of the body and how the lines are placed.
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
People say tracing is bad because the idea of learning using tracing is misunderstood as a way to get to a goal quickly. They probably just didn't understand that not all tracing is bad. :D

Trace away! Just remember to credit the stock photos if you upload~
SenshiStock has a lot of good ones. 8D
Reply
:iconsackielc:
Sackielc Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Traditional Artist
This is great! :la: When I started drawing I learnt by tracing:meow:
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
Tracing buddies!
Reply
:iconakiawalker:
AkiaWalker Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Traditional Artist
I want to tip this post.
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
XD Thanks~
Reply
:iconaoiitsuki:
aoiitsuki Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
*Q* waaaaaa i used to do this with her stock pictures but i didnt think it was very beneficial to me;;; you should write a book???? 
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
I liked to trace a lot because my memory is pretty good but my observational eye isn't very good, so doing this actually trained me to be better at drawing from observation because I get reminded of how things are made rather than what things look like. XD Chances are you are probably a different type of learner. o vob
Reply
:iconpetiteulis:
petiteUlis Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014
The biggest part of the problem is "at some point, you need to know how to do without tracing at all".

I do trace in my learning process, sometimes it's a make up for not knowing the proportions or how to exactly reproduce -which I'm also learning- and sometimes it's just because the point of the lesson is different (colors, shades...) With the years, my opinion on the subject changed : at first it was out of questions, then I came to collect reference images and now I'm using tracing on what I can't do (yet) by my own knowledge and memory...

And there is the question of mindless "cloning", too...
Reply
:iconnyanfood:
Nyanfood Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014   Digital Artist
I agree~ Tracing in this method helps you relate to how things are made rather than just what something looks like. Observational drawing stresses a beginner's attention to draw what the beginner sees alone. By taking away that stress, an artist can focus on how things are put together rather than just what they look like. Tracing answers the "why" of how something is put together. :D

After tracing, drawing the picture that was just traced is really helpful to understanding body construction. I ought to also encourage memorization through tracing, then drawing from memory rather than observation afterwards... but I feel like that just wouldn't go well with a lot of people. XD;
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