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Art Event Submission Policies and Guidelines

Mistreil

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For the past few months, we've been drafting a more formal and standardized set of policies and guidelines for art-related events. While the majority of these policies are the same as what we used in art events, the revisions we have made are looser in some places but more strict in others. Where we could, we tried to explain the rationale behind our decision to allow/disallow certain things while trying to keep things concise.

⚠ The policies and guidelines below are not a final version: we have left this thread unlocked so as to hear any feedback!
If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to share them here. While we may not respond to all comments, we will be taking feedback into consideration and having our own discussions and making adjustments as we see fit.
General Policies and Guidelines


Unless stated otherwise for an event, the following guidelines apply to all art events:
  • Both digital and traditional submissions are acceptable.
    • If you are submitting traditional artwork, please make sure the image quality is clear.
  • Your username must be included on your submission.
    • For traditional art, your username must be added to the entry itself and cannot be added digitally.
  • One entry per participant. No collaborations allowed.
  • You do not need to be an artist to participate, but some level of effort must be apparent. If we feel your entry lacks effort or has been submitted as a joke, then it will not be accepted.
  • Do not edit or change your entry after submitting. Make sure that you are happy with your piece before submitting!
    • If you need your entry to be edited, please ask the event host.
  • All entries must meet forum guidelines. Keep it PG-13!

Asset Referencing Policies and Guidelines


The purpose of this policy is to refine and outline our criteria for evaluating artworks in our art contests. As artistic practices (digital, traditional, mixed media) evolve over time, we aim to maintain standardization in the way our Bell Tree Forum staff accepts and/or nominates artwork while continuing to encourage creativity and originality among participants. Due to the number of art-based events and the number of submissions, there have been an increase in incidents where members have been reported to have traced or otherwise used assets. This has resulted in an increase in vigilance necessary for both members and staff, and after some discussion, we have decided to write a formal set of guidelines to clarify what is and isn't allowed.

The intent of this policy is to:
  • Allow for heavy referencing of some assets with credit, with the aim of:
    • Reducing the burden of vigilance on both members and staff
    • Reducing the burden of creating works that are different enough from source material (i.e., so members no longer have to worry about things such as "Does my Animal Crossing leaf icon look traced?")
  • Forbid certain assets (e.g. generative AI)
  • Keep everything else the same: For submissions that do not heavily reference assets, the addition of this policy should not matter.
As such, we have written a set of formal guidelines for what is and isn't allowed for art events below, with regards to the heavy referencing of art assets.

The general intention is that while using references to help with character silhouettes and likeness is now allowed, "all lines, colouring, etc. in your submission should have been manually* done by you."
* Manually is a bit broad when we talk about digital art, but the process of laying down base colours (with a bucket or not), layering, lines, etc. should be done by you.

✔ What is allowed
  • Heavily referencing official art or assets in your submission with credit. For example, you may reference a picture of Tom Nook in your submission so long as you include a link to the image you referenced.
  • Heavily referencing material that you have created yourself. For example, past artwork, photos that you took, and other materials that you would have the copyright to.
  • Heavily referencing TBT collectibles. TBT collectibles fall under the scope of official assets for the purposes of this policy.
  • Using fonts. If you wish to have text in your submission, fonts are fine if you don't wish to use your own writing.
  • Looking at other works for inspiration. This is not considered heavily referencing, and so does not need credit.

❌ What is not allowed
  • Heavily referencing official art or assets in your submission without credit. If we discover you have referenced another work without citing it, your submission may be disqualified.
  • Heavily referencing non-official art or assets in your submission, even with credit. For example, you cannot reference someone else's fanart, submission, or other individual-created works.
  • Editing official art or assets in your submission. For example, applying a filter or painting over an asset: this violates the intention of submissions being "manually done."
  • Using vector assets. For example, you may not use vector assets in their unedited form from other sources (e.g. freepik). You may reference such works with credit, but using assets violates the intention of submissions being "manually done."
  • Using AI to generate your submission or parts of your submission. None of the work is handmade in this case. Additionally, most AIs are built with models use art without permission, and so this qualifies as stolen art.
  • Submitting a work that is mostly heavily referenced from a single piece without significant additions/differences. For example, submitting a traced version of Isabelle without any other changes would not be allowed, as it shows little creative effort.
What do we mean by "heavily referencing"?
By heavy referencing, we generally mean "looking at and copying an asset in a near 1:1 recreation." The main difference between what is and isn't okay is the act of manually creating all parts of the submission. The following are some specific example of what is and isn't okay:
  • ✔ Tracing is okay
  • ✔ Looking at an asset and trying to copy it in a 1:1 manner is okay
  • ❌ Applying a filter over an asset is not okay
  • ❌ Painting over an asset is not okay
If your referenced image looks too much like the original asset, we may ask for proof of your work (layers, WIPs, etc.) in order to confirm that you are not simply reusing the asset.

Generally speaking: if we are able to overlay the original asset over your work and see a large amount of overlap, that would be considered heavily referencing. "Heavily referencing" does not include looking at a reference or drawing inspiration.

What do we mean by "credit"?
To credit the original asset, you should do at least one of the following:
  • Linking the original reference(s) used
  • Including the original reference(s) used, either individually or in a mood board/collage
If you forget to credit a reference used, please contact the host and they can edit your submission.

What happens if we forget to credit a source?
If we notice your art looks too similar to an asset, we may ask you to edit your post with credit before we accept it (as opposed to disqualification or any other punitive action.)

✔ Examples of acceptable referencing

1709748461490.png

References:
1709748491991.png
✔ Includes credit to the referenced assets in the form of a URL / image / moodboard
✔ Has additional work beyond the referenced art
1709748461490.png

References:
✔ Includes credit to the referenced assets in the form of a URL / image / moodboard
✔ Has additional work beyond the referenced art

❌ Examples of unacceptable referencing

1709748461490.png
❌ Does not cite referenced official asset
1709748527060.png

References:
❌ References fanart
1709748542154.png

References:
✔ Includes credit to the referenced assets in the form of a URL / image / moodboard
❌ Submission only consists of referenced art without significant additions
1709748556104.png

References:
✔ Includes credit to the referenced assets in the form of a URL / image / moodboard
❌ Referenced work was edited as opposed to manually drawn

Notes and Future Revisions


This section is meant to keep track of comments that we've made and clarifications/notes/future revisions below:
  • When we say "referencing" we mainly mean "heavy referencing" (e.g. things that seem very 1:1, to a point where we wonder whether it's traced or not)
    • When we say "referencing" we don't mean looking at something for inspiration or a general idea of how a character/object looks.
    • We mostly meant "tracing" but wanted to expand the wording to include "copying closely (but not tracing)", so we settled on "referencing" which seems to have been too vague
  • Referencing collectibles is OK!
  • For the most part, we imagine event submissions to be the same as before except in cases that we previously felt were a bit questionable in terms of too much referencing/tracing. The wording in its current state is a bit scary/too strict, so we'll likely try to find better messaging while still keeping things precise.
  • If we do run into a scenario where we think something should be credited but wasn't, the idea is that we'll just ask for the credit to be added and then approve afterwards (as opposed to immediate disqualifications or punitive action or anything of the sort).
  • For more context/rationale behind why we want to require sources and allow tracing, see this post.
[Update March 7, 11:40AM] I've edited the original draft slightly to define heavy referencing (as opposed to the original wording of "referencing").
 
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Ai art is awful. I tried it once. NEVER AGAIN. (it couldn't even identify a PIKACHU.) thankfully, I didn't save any of my prompt images. SO GLAD we aren't using it.
 
Ai art is awful. I tried it once. NEVER AGAIN. (it couldn't even identify a PIKACHU.) thankfully, I didn't save any of my prompt images. SO GLAD we aren't using it.
it's not even really about that, AI art trains on assets from the works of popular artists, usually without their consent, and uses them to generate its images. it's theft.

it's also awful for the environment - a training phase has roughly the same carbon footprint as flying across the US.

hope this isn't too off-topic, felt it was important to touch upon in case anyone had doubts about the use of AI for events.
 
The reference rules are definitely a little bit strange.

For example, for my board game from December, I looked at images of AC tools and I drew them "from scratch" (no tracing), and with the new rules, I have to credit my references, the images I simply looked at?

I kinda get why, but that also seems kinda wrong. Like, if you have to credit official art you looked at shouldn't everyone have to credit everything they looked at at that point.
 
The reference rules are definitely a little bit strange.

For example, for my board game from December, I looked at images of AC tools and I drew them "from scratch" (no tracing), and with the new rules, I have to credit my references, the images I simply looked at?

I kinda get why, but that also seems kinda wrong. Like, if you have to credit official art you looked at shouldn't everyone have to credit everything they looked at at that point.
it's a bit weird to me too since professional artists reference as well as trace to a certain extent all the time, but i can see it being different from what you described. official art was first created by someone else so i can understand citing a reference as you would with an essay, whereas if you referenced a flower outside, that isn't referencing anyone else's original art/ideas.
 
The reference rules are definitely a little bit strange.

For example, for my board game from December, I looked at images of AC tools and I drew them "from scratch" (no tracing), and with the new rules, I have to credit my references, the images I simply looked at?

I kinda get why, but that also seems kinda wrong. Like, if you have to credit official art you looked at shouldn't everyone have to credit everything they looked at at that point.
I definitely understand this perspective and that it feels a bit strange to have to cite everything in that scenario. The general intent was that for images that looked very similar/1:1 to the original, we'd like a reference to be mentioned (i.e. situations where it might seem like there was tracing).

To expand on the rationale for this and contextualize this: there have been instances where people had art that was very similar to the original source -- often of a character or a larger asset (rather than a lot of small assets). In some cases, the art wasn't traced but was just a very close replication due to detailed work, while in others, it was traced. Tracing wasn't something we were comfortable with, but penalizing members for being too skilled also felt wrong. In the end, we settled on "we would accept tracing as long as it credited its source."

It's been a bit difficult for us to formalize when to credit and when to not and where to draw the line, so we've erred on the side of asking users to credit things. It does seem a bit excessive for some scenarios though, like in the case of your board game, which is a bit of a limitation. Ideas for better and less restrictive wording would definitely be appreciated! Although we'd also accept a collage of images as crediting, so hopefully that'd be a bit less painful to manage than multiple URLs/image.

As members who are participating in events, I suppose one of the questions would be: where would you draw the line and how would you define it? That might help us get a better sense of where we might want the final wording to land.
 
I can understand citing your source if you're tracing, but for just looking at something it seems a bit far. On some of my works I use a loooot of references, so this may end up being very tedious. My board game also comes to mind.

Also I often use my game itself for reference. For example I'll look at in item/character in game to draw them, how would I credit that?
 
As members who are participating in events, I suppose one of the questions would be: where would you draw the line and how would you define it? That might help us get a better sense of where we might want the final wording to land.
IMO wanting official art that's directly referenced down to the pose to be cited is fine, though if someone say took just tom nook's head there and gave him a completely different body and background with added assets, maybe not

I can understand citing your source if you're tracing, but for just looking at something it seems a bit far. On some of my works I use a loooot of references, so this may end up being very tedious. My board game also comes to mind.

Also I often use my game itself for reference. For example I'll look at in item/character in game to draw them, how would I credit that?
as someone who has gotten really good at photorealism the past couple years and has been questioned on whether i traced something when i did not, imo it's understandable to ask for both traced work and referenced work to be cited to avoid wrongful accusations.
 
I really really appreciate this implementation and acknowledgement of art ethics 🥹 Thank you for taking the time to do this for the community!!!

I think the referencing thing is something I’ll need to adjust to, I’ll try my best but I’m really sorry if I do it wrong LMAO - I’m understanding it as just showing the behind the scenes process?? I usually use Pinterest and make a collection of stuff I like to inspire a piece, however some of that can be ‘fanart’ due to my algorithm of interests - it doesn’t always drive the entire piece but I might like the way someone has used texture in that artwork (or something???). I’m guessing I’d need to explain this in the references stuff? Idk I think this will be a learning curve but a positive one! Hopefully u guys are here to guide us LOL I hope I’m not overthinking this but I probably am….. just don’t want to do anything wrong 🫣
 
I appreciate the consideration and implementation of some of these rules 🙏🏼♥️ I have a few questions - just wanna make sure I’m on the same page as everyone.

Please tell me I understood correctly: if we want to use a large part of an asset as reference (e.g. a whole Tom Nook) we should reference the source.
However, if we put together an entirely new artwork using only small snippets of references, it is not required? An example of what I mean: I’m drawing a character off the top of my head but need help from references with a hand or clothing folds, so I go online to look for something that might fit. At the end, the artwork is still a work of my own, but with some parts having been referenced (but altered). You wouldn’t need a list of every single reference used, right? 😵 Sometimes I ✨steal✨ how someone used accent colours or a particular texture I love (halftone brushes for example) but I still do my own thing with it - so I think I should be ok? Can someone confirm pls 👉🏼👈🏼

Another question: what if a pose was traced from a reference, but everything except for the pose is original? Like using a base or an anatomy model of some sort..?
 
as someone who has gotten really good at photorealism the past couple years and has been questioned on whether i traced something when i did not, imo it's understandable to ask for both traced work and referenced work to be cited to avoid wrongful accusations.
But they could still accuse you of tracing if you don't cite your nonexistent source now too.
And if tracing is allowed, then those accusations wouldn't matter anyway.
 
I definitely understand this perspective and that it feels a bit strange to have to cite everything in that scenario. The general intent was that for images that looked very similar/1:1 to the original, we'd like a reference to be mentioned (i.e. situations where it might seem like there was tracing).

To expand on the rationale for this and contextualize this: there have been instances where people had art that was very similar to the original source -- often of a character or a larger asset (rather than a lot of small assets). In some cases, the art wasn't traced but was just a very close replication due to detailed work, while in others, it was traced. Tracing wasn't something we were comfortable with, but penalizing members for being too skilled also felt wrong. In the end, we settled on "we would accept tracing as long as it credited its source."

It's been a bit difficult for us to formalize when to credit and when to not and where to draw the line, so we've erred on the side of asking users to credit things. It does seem a bit excessive for some scenarios though, like in the case of your board game, which is a bit of a limitation. Ideas for better and less restrictive wording would definitely be appreciated! Although we'd also accept a collage of images as crediting, so hopefully that'd be a bit less painful to manage than multiple URLs/image.

As members who are participating in events, I suppose one of the questions would be: where would you draw the line and how would you define it? That might help us get a better sense of where we might want the final wording to land.
Rather than "referencing", I feel like what's being described in the rules above is more heavy referencing/eyeballing, i.e., looking at an image and trying to more-or-less directly replicate it without actually tracing. I agree that referencing is definitely too broad of a word to use here—for example, for my Advent Calendar from 2022...
Advent Calendar.png

I referenced multiple official assets of both Blathers and Celeste to make sure I was getting their designs and general proportions correct, but neither of them were attempts to recreate their official art. Similarly, I looked at screenshots of the Museum across multiple stages of development to make sure the building was recognizable as the Museum, but it's not a 1:1 representation of the ACNH Museum from any specific screenshot/asset either. The parts I'd say I'd heavily referenced/eyeballed would be things like the logo for The Roost, the Day 3 fossil, etc.

I'm mostly in agreement regarding not allowing fanart to be heavily referenced, but I hope an exception will be made for TBT collectibles, or something to clarify that they're being included under official assets! None are close enough that I'd worry that they looked traced, but I drew a number of TBT collectibles (or things inspired by them) for my Advent Calendar here, but under the current guidelines I'd be uncertain how to credit my references/if something like this would still be OK!

But also along the lines of what @/k o i said, I think it's very natural for artists to (intentionally or not) take small elements from each others' styles and processes and incorporate them into their own. I've never copied or heavily referenced someone's fanart, but I'm sure I've looked at ACNH art and gone "oh I love how they draw villager proportions" or "I like how they shaded the wings, I should try something similar for mine" etc. etc. Or tiny things/individual pieces, like, say I'm drawing Isabelle in a ruffly lolita dress—I may look at both photos of lolita dresses and drawn images of ruffles and lace to get an idea of how to draw/simplify it for myself. This also kind of ties back into what I was saying re: referencing vs. heavy referencing above.

Otherwise though I'm quite happy with the new art guidelines, especially the official stance on AI usage! c: Overall it seems very thorough and I appreciate the time and thought that's gone into something like this!
 
I feel the need to clarify that this isn't meant to be too strict/scary, even if the wording does seem that way (tis the consequence of trying to use formal/somewhat precise wording)! For the most part, we imagine event submissions to be the same as before except in cases that we previously felt were a bit questionable in terms of too much referencing/tracing.

If we do run into a scenario where we think something should be credited but wasn't, the idea is that we'll just ask for the credit to be added and then approve afterwards (as opposed to immediate disqualifications or punitive action or anything).

I think for most of the scenarios presented thus far, our intention wasn't to make much more work for all of you nor for you all to have to present your entire workflow (although, on my end, I really like seeing people's moodboards/art process/etc. but that's not actually relevant here). So we definitely need to work on the messaging a bit! 😅

Also, collectibles would be fine! We'll make note to allow that too.
 
But they could still accuse you of tracing if you don't cite your nonexistent source now too.
And if tracing is allowed, then those accusations wouldn't matter anyway.
staff seems to work based on solid evidence, so i don't think they would get involved if whoever said i was tracing couldn't provide the image i allegedly traced from.

"And if tracing is allowed, then those accusations wouldn't matter anyway." sure but you're saying only tracing should be cited. if i didn't trace, i shouldn't have to list my sources then, but if my work is nearly a 1:1 match to my reference how would staff know? that's why it'd be more fair to just have everyone show their sources.
 
Thank you for putting this together for the community! The amount of time and discussions I imagine this took is much appreciated! 💗 When it comes to my AC art entries, I tend to draw stuff the way they appear in games. I’ve never traced anything for my artworks, but since some small parts of my art look so close to the source material, I’m always terrified that it looks traced or outright stolen when it’s not.

For example, in my board game design for All A Board, I drew the happiness reaction icon on some of my tiles. I wanted to reference what it looks like in-game, so I tried to keep the shape, shade of purple and expression relatively the same, but I tried to individualize it a bit by using a thicker brush to draw the expression and adding a heart. I also drew wrapped presents the way they appear in-game as well as some of the game pieces, and referenced the Post Office in New Leaf. I drew everything myself, but I obviously heavily referenced stuff in New Horizons and New Leaf the way they look in-game, so I was nervous submitting it LOL
1709755040806.jpeg

It’s very dumb, but some of the art prompts inspire me to try and draw my entries as if they were merchandise being sold by Nintendo, so I referenced stuff like villager renders, items the way they look in-game etc, but drew it all myself. No tracing. This has started to make me incredibly anxious every art event though, so I’ve been working hard to learn how to and experiment with drawing different poses, outfits, styles etc. My artworks aren’t great by any means, and I still have a lot to learn and a lot of practice ahead of me, but the progress and changes I’ve been making has helped me become more confident in my art. I’m also not as scared every time I submit art for an event now LOL. I appreciate the clarifications!

Though, just to clarify further: when it comes to referencing small stuff like the AC leaf icon, reaction icons etc, are we supposed to credit those as well? Or is it only for bigger stuff like characters, poses etc?
 
It's like a photo of the material used when doing craft, we just put all images used on a page with our submission.

When I was drawing Goose for an event I used as reference photos of boxers and an image of Goose, but found out at the end that the result looked too much like Goose card that I didn't use, I got super worried and tried to change the legs position but it was too late to change everything. Now I would just cite all references and it would be fine because drew manually with different additions. I just hope I won't have to show all my layers, because the staff we see how messy I am, with folders not named properly and layers all mixed up, haha!
 
Love these new guidelines, especially the stance against AI. Now, I do have a question about which kind of contest this would apply to. For instance, there are certain events where we decorate our profile to match an event theme, which includes not just Art but Photoshop or images one can find online. Will these rules be applied to that specific contest as well? Would we need to reference profile pictures we find online? I presume some people have used other peoples fan art for the contest, if we were supposed to reference but can’t use fan art, would that be against the rules going forward?

I know this is for Art Events but I’m not sure if that will be labeled under that. Would you guys be referencing this post every time you guys do an art contest as well?
 
As someone who enters art contests here for a while now, here are my honest thoughts:

The first part of the rule made sense.

Although, my only gripe about the new policies is how the the "referencing" part of the rule is very vague.

What about the artists that basically just want to use a reference picture of the official character as a point reference to what the character looks like, but draw an entirely different pose and artstyle for the said official character? Do we still need to post proof of reference pictures used or post our portfolio of past art?

I felt like the second part of the new policy needs to be tweaked a bit and have more clarification since it's a bit controversial.

If anything, I'm just a bit wary about this whole thing since I enjoy making art for art contests.

Again, those are my honest thoughts of the matter.
 
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