3 answers · asked · Lesson: Blocking Out Major Forms · Course: Sculpting the Wrangler Game Character

tracing a reference for sculpting, is it good for you?

I noticed that you have traced the reference in some places, but I've heard that it doesn't build skill, is there an alternative way to get the proportions right?

nice tutorial by the way

  • crew

    Hi aamirace77 - Based on my experience I do not agree with the idea that tracing does not build skill. In fact I've found tracing to build skill both when I illustrated as a kid and sculpting now.

    At a beginner level, tracing can be thought of as training wheels on a bicycle. Once a beginner traces enough, they can "remove the training wheels" and draw/sculpt without the underlying image to trace.

    At an intermediate-to-advanced level, tracing becomes another tool in the tool box. Whether you want to sculpt a perfectly accurate 3D version of 2D art or want to double check proportions, tracing is definitely a useful utility.

    That said, too much tracing can be too much of a good thing. For artists that lean too much on tracing and never "remove the training wheels" it can certainly be a crutch. In that way it can hinder the building of skill.

    is there an alternative way to get the proportions right?

    Some teachers come up with proportional formula's to aid shape formation. I think these can be helpful but in my experience familiarity is the best way to use/trace reference less. I should also say that formula's work better for realistic proportions and not so much with stylized things. With stylization based on concept art, the art  should be the bible of the project.

    • Thank you for your in-depth response

    • Formulas sometimes can be confusing. As far as I know there're  for example for the proportions of a realistic head basically two methods when drawing:

      1) Draw an egg shape and divide into two halves horizontally and vertically:

      The eyes are on or close to the horizontal line: Some authors place the eyeballs a little bit higher or a little bit lower than this line, others place them exactly on the line.

      2) Draw a circle for the cranial mass of the skull and divide it as the egg shape above.  The eyes are on the horizontal line. But now you have to extend this circle downwards to get an egg shape. Therefore the eyes are placed higher than with method 1.

      I think, that these formulas can give a starting point as a beginner but you have to leave them behind in order to grow as an artist. Your also have to be aware of the discrepancies of the different methods and even within these methods depending on which teacher you're following. Following formulas too much can also take away the fun which I think should be always there in order to keep you motivated.