Is it wrong to trace?

Is tracing cheating in art?

 Do I trace? – YES, I DO – Have I always done that? – NO, I DON’T


When I was at the beginning of my drawing career I did NOT trace because I really thought it was cheating and not fully understanding the process, but as time went by, I learnt and learnt so I can draw FREEHAND, is it easy – NO, is it time-consuming – YES.


I read different stories online from the artists that I admire and they all trace – WHY?? Well, it’s just TIME and that is why I trace, when I started drawing, I was well in my 50’s and I thought in this rate I will never reach my goals in this life…. so, I need to speed up things.

Tracing to save time is perfectly acceptable. It’s a lot more educative than most people think.

Telling you, you shouldn’t trace because you’re not going to learn how to draw for real this way? Well, let me tell you: they are wrong.

Tracing is not cheating in art. In fact, a lot, if not most professional artists trace when it comes to professional work. Even the old masters did it and their work sells for millions to save time and money. However, there is an important note: tracing becomes a bad habit when it replaces the skill needed to create art.

Tracing images is only cheating if you set out to deceive. For most artists, tracing art is a means to an end, merely a shortcut to an outcome.

No one wants to know their favorite artist traced their work. We want the romantic version as a tortured artist alone in his studio slaving away at a masterpiece.

The obvious answer might be that the artist isn’t clever enough to do it any other way. That may, or may not be true but it is certainly the only reason for tracing art.  What if you are on a tight deadline? If you have been commissioned to do some work, would it make sense to take longer than you need? Would anyone care?

Is tracing cheating if the artist knows that the resulting image will be identical regardless of whether it’s traced or done freehand?

People that can’t draw, can’t trace either. The finished work will still look amateurish. I have seen this with my students.

Tracing art isn’t as easy as you might think. Did you know that people tend to trace on the inside of the outline? In other words, it’s become smaller dan you think. A good artist will see the errors but the less skilled will miss it entirely. Bad artists can’t trace either.

Tracing may be used to establish the contours, but the task of completing the work is far from over. Skill is required to complete the piece. The “hard part” of completing the work is still ahead of the artist, even if some form of tracing has been used.

The artist must be knowledgeable of light and shadow. texture, form, color mixing, and application of the medium. Tracing does not aid with any of these aspects. If the artist is not skillful, it will be painfully obvious in the final work.


Can you tell if art has been traced?

When I see “Work in progress” pictures on social media, I know right away that is has been traced. It’s easy to tell at the outline stage. A freehand drawing will be rough and sketchy. There will be more movement and life. Artistically it can’t be beaten.


How do I Use graphite transfer paper to trace an image

Using graphite transfer paper is far quicker and less messy than shading the backside of a photocopy.

I have a magnetic board with magnets on Wych I place the reference photo with the magnets on one side, you can also do this with tape. Why am I only doing this on one side, that’s because you can then lift the other side to place the carbon paper underneath and lift it up in between to see if you’re doing it right and where you left off.

Trace the key areas of the image with a pencil. Don’t press too hard, you don’t want to see very thick lines and damage the paper.

Keep in mind that carbon paper cannot be erased because its ink.

If there’s white somewhere, I’ll skip that and when I am done with all the black, I remove the carbon paper NOT THE REFERENCE PICTURE and I fill the white in handsfree.

OfCourse you can choose for graphite transferpaper but personally it doesn’t work for me.


In this video of Tracing you can see it life how I do that. Just klick on the pink word tracing.


                                                                              Result after tracing

Tracing: my last thoughts

The problem faced by artists in the digital world is the relative ease of making amazing imagery without traditionals skills. The wonder for craft-based art has been diminished.

I know people are concerned with the process, at least it doesn’t put many people off. If they like the drawing/painting they will buy it anyway, no matter how it was done.

Personally, I trace because it saves me lots of TIME and I can’t sketch on pastelmat. I get the accuracy I want but still must use all my skills to get to the point of realism.

There is no shame in wanting quicker and easier results, and if it’s for your living then time is money, right??

So, is tracing cheating? Well, it was Oke for some incredibly famous artists, I think you can trace art with a clear conscience. The finished work of art is most important. The quality of the work outweighs the process. People often don’t mind what process the artist uses to make a stunning piece. If tracing is a part to this process, then so be it. Therefore, tracing becomes a tool for the artist, and it does not make sense not to use a tool that saves time.


So, trace all you want an don’t feel guilty about it! Love Arty By Esther





















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