Colors! 3D and our thoughts on tracing

The eagerly awaited Colors! 3D update is still in submission with Nintendo. This is the part of the process where we have no control over the timing, so we sadly can’t give you any accurate information on when it will be released. It will probably somewhere between a 2-4 weeks, but that is just our guess. We were hoping that it would be out now, but Nintendo rejected our first submission as it had a number of small problems. On the plus-side, this makes the update a little bit better, so I hope you can still be patient a tiny bit longer.

I’ve mentioned tracing in a few of my previous development post, but I’ve never really gone into details on it. Tracing is probably the single most controversial issue in Colors! 3D. Half the gallery hates traced paintings, since they get so many likes and therefore drown out a lot of original works. On the other hand, the other half very much enjoys watching 3Difed copies of popular images.

Since we don’t want to tell people what to like and what not to like, our goal is to find ways to allow both types in the gallery without making people frustrated one way of the other. But first, let’s talk about the legality of traced paintings.

Someone sent me this link on how deviantArt handles tracing. I was happy to see that this matches our own policy for how to deal with paintings that somehow use someone else’s work. To sum things up:

We can only deal with copyright takedown request if they are sent by the original artist or copyright holder. While we don’t think it’s ok to use someone else’s work without their permission (and especially not without giving credit), we can’t otherwise know if the original artist mind his/her work being used like that.

And of course, if you ever see your work being used in a way you don’t appreciate you should report it to and we will deal with it as soon as possible.

Now, let’s get back on track and talk about the good stuff. How can we make it less frustration the users who feel that tracing is bad for the gallery? Our first stab at this problem is to:
1. Make it easy for the users to see if a painting used the reference photo feature or not
2. Allow users to filter paintings that did or did not use the reference photo feature

We use the word “reference photo feature” here instead of “traced” because the only thing we can really tell if the camera/import feature was used or not. We know that some people sometimes takes a photo of something that they painted on paper and used that as a reference, but this will still have to fall under the “used reference” category as we can’t really say exactly how the feature was used. For that small group, I suspect they will mention their process in the painting description.


On the left screenshot here, you can see the small camera icon among the tools used for this painting. In this case, the icon is grayed out and you can’t tell if the reference photo feature was used or not (it was not). This is because the painting was uploaded from Colors! 3D 1.0, where it doesn’t registered this. For any painting uploaded from the new version of Colors! 3D, this icon will either be fully black, or not there at all. Hopefully that will reduce the amount of speculation if someone traced a painting or not, that we sometimes see in the comments.

The screenshot on the right might be even more interesting. This shows the new filter/sort functionality in Colors! 3D. Tapping the small button in the top right corner of the screen will bring this menu up. By default, all types of paintings will be shown, but if you want you can use this feature to view only the paintings that uses the reference feature or vice versa. This way, people who are not interested in paintings using the reference feature can easily just browse paintings that were made without using that feature. Initially the “original” version of this list will be very empty, as we will filter any painting uploaded from Colors! 3D 1.0 into the “used reference” version of the list.  Initially both the “original” and “using reference” version of this list will be empty, as it wouldn’t be fair to put paintings from Colors! 3D 1.0 in either of those categories. By the way, the same “filter” option will be used to sort paintings on “date” or on “likes” for a few other painting lists (like an artist’s gallery). I know some of you have been asking for that feature as well, so that worked out nicely.

We can’t really know if this solves the frustration around tracing in the gallery or not, but we believe this is a huge step forward. I guess we will see in a couple of weeks!

The Colors! 3D update for Nintendo 3DS will be a free update that you will be able to download from the eShop. There is no set release-date, but our best guess at this point is 2-4 weeks from now.



Comment from Martin Hoang
Time: February 16, 2013, 7:16 pm

It’s a huge step for me as well. People love attention; anyone will do anything for the likes and views. Some will draw a good picture, or some will try. I’ll take either method. I do not tolerate tracing at all; it’s unoriginal and is a big slap in the face to the original artist who HAS put effort and originality into it. References ARE needed for certain artists, but it’s not really that bad. It’s good to go just by originality and from scratch. I’d prefer that~

Comment from Luffywang573
Time: February 16, 2013, 7:35 pm

Do u know if the update will separate the difference on how people use the photo option. Theres option for the photo ref to be set as background, and for me personally i would just paint from photo ref so i set it to show on top screen only .

Comment from Jens
Time: February 16, 2013, 7:56 pm

@Luffywang573, no, sadly it is not possible for us to make that distinction at this point.

Comment from Peng_1
Time: February 16, 2013, 8:26 pm

Sounds great to me! =)

Comment from soraxcloud
Time: February 17, 2013, 6:03 am

I am very excited! 8D It’s just nice to know it’s actually still coming unlike a certain other 3DS drawing-type app I’ve been waiting for. xP

Comment from Flip King
Time: February 17, 2013, 8:09 am

Could it be possible at all to actually SEE the reference picture of an uploaded painting? That would be especially helpful in deciding if it’s traced.

Comment from Pheenixsta
Time: February 17, 2013, 8:43 pm

This update looks amazing and I’m sure it’ll be well worth however much longer we have to wait. You guys have created a program that quickly became one of the most used on my 3DS, thank you! One little question, though. If (after we finally get the update) I were to re-upload one of my old paintings to the gallery would it then register if I’d used a reference or not? It would be nice if I could do that for a few of my more popular paintings so people using the filter could still see them.

Comment from Wilbuscus
Time: February 17, 2013, 9:18 pm

I know Colors!/ 3D wasn’t built for having this feature but, why not add a teen / mature section for Mature like paintings and only people 18 and up can access this new “zone”.

Comment from Karl_nic
Time: February 17, 2013, 10:05 pm

Sounds very nice! I hope we get this update soon! :D

Comment from Aaron Leonard
Time: February 17, 2013, 11:15 pm

Thanks again for your efforts on this update Jens. We all love Colors! 3d and the gallery.

Comment from Danjel
Time: February 18, 2013, 3:19 am

Fantastic, finally we can sort of filter out traced paintings. Personally I never liked 100% traced drawings. It’s like saying: “Look, I’m a great artist, but I just drawn over an original image!” Can’t wait to get the update!

Comment from Lylatroid
Time: February 18, 2013, 9:31 am

I am very happy to hear that there are good and bad points on tracing, but I still have issues with people drawing inappropriate artwork that should not be there at all. Period. Tracing and rule breaking sickens me.

Comment from MistaBeans
Time: February 18, 2013, 11:08 am

It sounds good, but what if you import a picture just to get colors from it? That wouldn’t be fair to be called traced. And all those amazing self portrait pictures, would those be traced? I guess they are, but they’re still good. Ah, forget those. Oh well, I trust you guys! I can’t wait!

Comment from Jens
Time: February 18, 2013, 2:14 pm

@MistaBeans, if check the article again, you can see that we only filter on if a painting used a “reference” or not. You will have to decide for yourself if something should be called traced or not.

Comment from Jens
Time: February 18, 2013, 2:19 pm

@Wilbuscus, No, for various reasons, the Colors! Gallery will never have an adult section. We currently treat uploaded pornography and other graphic content as abuse. You can read more about our moderation policy here:

Comment from Jens
Time: February 18, 2013, 2:21 pm

@Pheenixsta, yes. Reuploading an old painting will make it correctly register if it used a reference or not.

Comment from Jens
Time: February 18, 2013, 2:31 pm

@Flip King, that is a good idea, but it would be technically very hard for us to do, especially since someone could use multiple reference images for each painting.

Comment from WillowBird
Time: February 18, 2013, 2:52 pm

I will enjoy Colors a lot more now. I did not enjoy it with the lack of updates it had. Tracing never bothered me, for I understand it is entirely the “tracer’s” idea to do it… and as long as they didn’t sell it (which none of them ever did), what harm does it give the viewers of the site? What I am glad on seeing is a easy to use report button and email for abuse for, with any art site, there runs the risk of having shocking/harmful/abusive art, and before… now, Colors had a lot of it. Thank you for the updates on Colors, but do not stop updating now. Every site that features art has to have constant work done to improve it, especially if it has 13 year olds on it.

Comment from WillowBird
Time: February 18, 2013, 2:57 pm

@Jens, no, I don’t believe that is a good idea! People may abuse it to post photos that have really bad stuff in them… or things like faces or personal information. Flipnote Hatena (an animation program for the DSi) came across that problem when they allowed low quality photos to be imported and uploaded. Many cases of online dating came out of it and even photos containing nudity were posted.

Comment from *Puppylove*
Time: February 18, 2013, 5:41 pm

I think this would be a good update. I think you should have more things on the main menu (gallery) like a button to go to your friend code friends gallery. And also a search box would be VERY VERY helpful. I also think there should be a part where you decide what category our painting is, like when you are about to upload it (comic,landscape,anime,animals). It would be helpful if you would like to see a specific type of art. It would be nice if we could BLOCK people. There are some I would like to block, but I dont want to REPORT them though. Sorry for the impossible suggestions.

Comment from CaptT
Time: February 19, 2013, 8:52 pm

What I really want to see is a flag as spam button. This would cover blank paintings, Friendcodes, I need a GF/BF pictures, and check out my gallery pictures. I think that a penalty could be put in place for abusing the spam button, as well.

Comment from ROK
Time: February 20, 2013, 8:19 am

Will the new update fix the undo problem? I just found out about it… the hard way, it’s really frustrating since I experience a lot using the undo function.. suddenly being unable to use it is horrible.

Comment from WillowBird
Time: February 20, 2013, 9:02 am

Don’t worry about the undo button, we can go back in time easily by managing the painting and branching it at a certain time. Spam reports are a must. Spam and advertising aren’t necessarily “mature” so with the current reporting function, they can’t be removed. Thank you for a 3DS report button, pornography is all too common on Colors. Please put the ability to block people before that gets out of hand. There are some very immature users on Colors, but with limited abilities to handle it, there must be as many soon-arriving updates as you can manage.

Comment from Jens
Time: February 20, 2013, 9:32 am

@ROK, yes, there will be a working one-step undo after you’ve hit the 6 hour playback limit.

Comment from Jens
Time: February 20, 2013, 9:34 am

@WillowBird, @Puppylove, thanks for your feedback. We agree with your concerns and a block user button is on our todo-list.

Comment from Jens
Time: February 20, 2013, 9:34 am

@CapT, yes, we are considering some sort of Flag as Spam functionality. Something like that is very tricky to implement right though, as it can easily be abused.

Comment from RedCoreFusion
Time: February 20, 2013, 2:35 pm

I’m kind of worried of the effect,some use there original pics like me.Then all of a sudden YOU STOLL IT!And I’m going to be like,I steal my own DA artwork?!?!?!?They will be like: it’s TRCED!!!I’LL BE LIKE,I GOT TEH ORIGINAL ARTWORK IN MY DA,GO CHECK IT OUT AND GET OUT OF MY LIFE

Comment from RedCoreFusion
Time: February 20, 2013, 2:37 pm

But of course they’re 12 year olds on the gallery (like MichaelNazario).

Comment from ROK
Time: February 20, 2013, 3:05 pm

Great! I’m so happy I can complete my drawing now :) BTW, probably something that is caused by the time limit problem: 1. when I imported a drawing I passed the limit with, to the SD card, the parts I drew since the limit expired didn’t show. 2.when I played a playback of the same drawing, it stopped as if the parts after the limit did not happen, and suddenly, the disappeared from my drawing as well (although it did save them before I played the playback). Just wanted to let you know. Thanks, can’t wait for the update!

Comment from HyperChu
Time: February 20, 2013, 5:11 pm

I’m really excited for the update for the most part. Though, I hope the “follow this user” feature will also notify me when someone follows me and vice-versa. Also, in upcoming updates, could there be a comments section for user profiles? Sometimes I’d rather post a comment to a user rather than on his/her paintings. If this can’t be added to the 3DS, could it be added to the Colors website?

Comment from IMBATMAN555
Time: February 20, 2013, 5:13 pm

So, If i was to use a picture of….idk something i made in my sketchbook, i would have to bring up that little icon? or what?

Comment from IMBATMAN555
Time: February 20, 2013, 5:16 pm

and by the way, Im 12 and im there….(I’ll be 13 in apirl though) Is that really a problem? I changed the month i was born in….

Comment from SonicColorSuperFan#1
Time: February 21, 2013, 5:13 pm

Looks really great!Im still worried that we cant actually see the picture it was used(to see if it was used to take colors frim it or just to see the shape of something)but for me I can just see the replay & determine if it was or not!

Comment from TECHNO-BITS
Time: February 24, 2013, 4:01 pm

I like everything about the update. Im a huge fan of Colors!3D app. I was wandering, will there be different types of brushes to use? If not thats totally fine, due to seeing how me and others can use them. Thank you for making such a great app for 3DS users!

Comment from TECHNO-BITS
Time: February 24, 2013, 4:04 pm

Opps wrong web adress. Sorry XD

Comment from D17
Time: February 25, 2013, 2:32 pm

Genius and descript concept. Every single detail that you add is always very positive for the Colors! Gallery’s community. I am looking forward to this exciting update!! Even though this is actually a small issue, it doesn’t bother me. Also, did you eliminate some of the glitches amd bugs Colors! 3D had? I was working on a painting one day when suddenly, a layer completely disappeared. Therefore, I replayed it and ended up branching the painting.

Comment from Komodo_Wolfgang
Time: February 26, 2013, 2:58 am

Sounds good to me! I think the other brush idea is a good one. But how about TOOLS? Like what they did with paint on the P.C? Like being able to draw squares and other shapes, fill with colour, ‘spray paint’. I personaly would find the filling and spraypaint useful!

Comment from Spiritchaser2012
Time: February 27, 2013, 9:47 pm

I look forward to the update, no matter how long it takes, I can wait :) The pornography does bother me, and all the tracings of MLP. I work really hard on my art, hours, sometimes days at a time for it to hardly get likes, when all the traced stuff gets the attention. If and when I do a tracing of a Pokemon, I will state that it is NOT my art. I really don’t like tracing, there is no fun in it, no excitement as there is in doing something of my own, or drawing something from a photo, by hand. From now on, when I trace something, it will be one of my own drawings, and I have done that already. Thanks for a great app, I love it! And a color fill-in tool would be extremely wonderful! ;D Thanks to all of the developers who put all their time and hard work into this awesome app. :)

Comment from WillowBird
Time: February 27, 2013, 10:05 pm

Yes, more tools in the painting program will make Colors more fun. The program is a lot more simpler than I thought it was going to be, but it is still very nice. Update soon and please improve ColorsLive to make it a more family-friendly site. Remove all the pornography!

Comment from Linski
Time: March 1, 2013, 7:36 am

Really looking forward to the update. I like the idea of more tools for the painting program, a copy selection function would be handy. Also I’d love to be able to lock layers, because I’m always drawing on the wrong ones :(

Comment from yoshicrazy
Time: March 1, 2013, 9:11 am

Looks awesome to me! :)

Comment from yoshicrazy
Time: March 1, 2013, 9:14 am

I do have a question. Is there a way to block Pornography? Because sometimes my little sister looks at paintings with me, and I don’t like her seeing it. I don’t like seeing it either. :P

Comment from tabster123
Time: March 2, 2013, 2:58 pm

I have been reading through the comments, and what caught my eye is “showing the reference picture used” I think that is a horrible idea. People are still going to trace, and they could just change the reference picture or remove it. If there was a way to show a queue of all the reference pictures used, that is an even worse idea because people would just take a bunch of pictures of whatever (possibly nudity). Another thin to consider is they could just take a bunch of 18+ pictures even if they never used any Of the pictures. It require a lot of work to keep it stable, lots of loopholes that could be exploited, and more arguments will come on the site.

Comment from AKA-Link77
Time: March 8, 2013, 1:31 pm

I hope the report button doesn’t get abused….

Comment from JoshHook
Time: March 13, 2013, 4:39 am

I would like to think that I am amoungst the top several hundred of the greatest artists in the Colors3D community, and i personnaly prefer to NOT trace… but a filter sounds extremely good. I think that it would be great to separate the “originals” from the “frauds” per se… I personnaly dont really care who comment on my works, just as long as their skill is equal or better than mine… I take constructive crits very well and Id love to have the option to “eliminate” all traced works from my view… I love your program so much, it gives me an immence challenge to do great landscapes with such a limited toolbox… im IMPRESSED ! ! ! !

Comment from JoshHook
Time: March 13, 2013, 4:47 am

Final Alert 2 Yuri Revenge map-maker here!!!

Comment from angelawithana
Time: March 21, 2013, 4:47 am

This is a great feature and one I will use often. I admire a lot of the artists on here and it is especially frustrating to see their work go on unnoticed or undernoticed while colorized photos and traced paintings get lots of stars and Weeks’ Best. I’ve only had the program for about a month and a half, but love it and the community very much! Thanks so much for this new feature!

Comment from Hylian Dude
Time: March 27, 2013, 10:46 am

Sounds good to me. Some people were talking about the update, and this sounds even better than the way they put it. I do hope some more features like the “flag” and “search” options will be included in the update. I just hope you can do something about people not flagging appropriate pics.

Comment from xComatoseAngelx
Time: March 29, 2013, 12:39 pm

Okay, I use references all the time. Is it considered tracing if you have the photo on the bottom screen, change the option to “Hide Obstructing Layers”, and switch from panel to panel to grab colors and paint? I do that a lot with my human portraits and I would HATE to have that be considered as traced. I use it for placement. I also do that with my wolf paintings, but then show as overlay so I know where the fur pattern goes. I always change the fur color according to someone’s original character. And, when I do trace, i say so because the original concept is not mine, but since I change the hair and eye color a lot it’s also mine in a way… I honestly don’t think it should be considered tracing, but used as reference.

Comment from crystal-kingdom
Time: April 6, 2013, 6:49 pm

i agree with your thoughts on tracing. i hardly ever use the reference tool, but people could still be able to tell what’s traced and what isn’t.

Comment from Unknown648
Time: April 7, 2013, 6:24 pm

Yeah, I’ve got mixed feelings about it. Sure, it can help some of the younger drawers develop their skills, but that takes away from their ability to express themself as an artist. You develop your own style of artwork, not someone elses by imitating. I figure that if you trace, then fine by me. Use it to practice. But don’t post it online and try to claim it as yours. Is that too much to ask for? And, I find that the ‘reference tool’ is a bit over sensitive. It doesn’t matter what is used as a ‘reference’. The system will go and mark the thing with the ‘ used reference tool’ icon. Even something as simple as a black, black background will flag the painting with that icon. That annoys me greatly since I typically use a photo of something I drew on paper as a visual reference to draw from, so I’m not constantly switching from screen to paper and smugging everything beyond recognition. But now I’ve got to worry about someone having a panic attack when they see that icon and having to listen to them screaming ‘Quit tracing’…even though it’s my own work.

Comment from Tim D
Time: April 9, 2013, 3:00 pm

I personally don’t approve. What if I used a sketch I did? But I have this camera icon to become a stigma. Now people will shout “tracer” and so on just because of their ignorance (the real problem with colors! if you ask me). They can be very abrasive. Also I think it akin to getting up on a stage and showing everyone how the magician did his trick. It’s not something a true artist would do.

Comment from Gogatsuchu
Time: April 12, 2013, 1:01 am

Glad that we’ve got the update BUT i have seens others taking other peoples paintings from Colors and they put “Like the Original”, i don’t like how some users use Colors as if it was a site like Photoshop or Instagram, the worst part is how that the stolen versions tend to get more likes just like with traced work, i do use the reference feature often only to get the correct colors and to get different parts of a character accurate or to trace my own sketched work although i think this is unfair on those who are using the reference feature fairly but atleast this should solve the issue ^^

Comment from Gogatsuchu
Time: April 12, 2013, 1:07 am

(sorry for the double post >w>”) I forgot to say that i don’t mind if someone is tracing just to help develop their own skills then fine as long as they say that they don’t own the original image but they should still try and draw with no references or tracing to help develop their own art skills and art style.

Comment from wiilli
Time: April 13, 2013, 9:41 pm

i love the gallery and i’m fine with tracing unless the person says its original. sure sure i’m 10 but i just block mature things. Havent seen a mature pic in months :D thanks colors. Even though i’m fine with tracing i dont feel like looking at it so… that filter sounds awesome! I guess the report button is cool but it might get abused.And the show reference pic idea… eh people might take nude pics of themselfs so nah

Comment from Mike
Time: April 23, 2013, 5:10 pm

I’m fine with tracing and i think it’s Cool. :)

Comment from welp
Time: April 27, 2013, 8:17 pm

I think that it’s good that you’ll be able to filter out all of tne traced stuff, but now I am a little worried for my stuff. Virtually all of my work is traced, but it’s all from sketches done on paper by myself. I just find it easier to draw the rough thing on a big sheet of paper, as opposed to my tiny 3DS, and then colour it later. I think I may have an even bigger dislike for these “tracers”, simply because they are abusing this tool that I really do find helpful when I use thix program. I don’t know, take this however you want, as a 15 year old girl mercilessly pouring her boiling cup of rage onto the expensive persian rug that is the internet, or as a there-is-still-hope-in-humanity kind of thing wow I’m off topic so I’m just going to stop right here.

Comment from Rawr the Umbreon
Time: April 28, 2013, 9:05 pm

my coisin has colors he uses a ref though but its from is S.B.soo idk wat 2 tell him

Comment from finnthehu
Time: May 2, 2013, 8:03 pm

im fine with tracing, my friend does it alot

Comment from angrybaldman666
Time: June 7, 2013, 11:18 am

I use photos to help but do not trace its just easier to see them on the upper screen

Comment from someone
Time: June 13, 2014, 11:50 pm

I am about to join colors! 3D community, but i’m concerned about one thing: I heard that there are people that “trace” or steal someone other’s artwork. And I mean like someone’s, who has posted into colors 3d gallery. They download it, and repost it and claim it as their own. Or then someone call’s your original artwork as their own ( RedCoreFusion’s case ). You should really implement some kind of system that recognizes reposts, like a system they used in Flipnote Hatena: Spin-off system assigns post that have used other posts as base, and gives them spin-off icon, shown on thumbnails. It also shows original post(s). Until that I have thought up a idea. While painting your picture, just write your signature somewhere and then remove it…or not. In any case, if someone playbacks stolen painting they can see your signature there briefly. This works as evidence. But I ask, is there way to report stolen artwork or do I contact moderators ( There was Email somewhere here in admin’s post. ) Sorry for long comment, but I’m looking for answers.

Comment from Brian Small
Time: June 16, 2014, 10:10 am

@someone, We have a system in-place that detects if a painting you’re trying to upload was created by you or not. So, if someone downloads another artist’s work and tries to re-upload it, they will be prevented from doing so. Tracing is possible by importing any image as a background reference. If an artist finds someone has done this and is not ok with it, by contacting us at with evidence of the original and copied work, we will take down the painting.

Comment from wildfire456
Time: July 7, 2014, 12:02 am

hello guys. im having a bit problem. what happens is i love to draw and have made some really fantastic drawings or paintings but to upload them i try to create an account within the application but it says sorry we cannot create an account for you at this time is anyone having this problem if so please help

Comment from wildfire456
Time: July 7, 2014, 12:06 am

and one more thing i have been trying to make the acc from over a week and still cant . thanx for any help:)

Comment from Brian
Time: July 8, 2014, 10:22 am

@wildfire456, For privacy reasons, please contact us at with the reference number you receive with that error message, along with your date of birth.

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