By now, we should all know what a base is. But just for a refresher - A base is a bald, naked figure for people to 'doll' clothes onto. Lately, more people have been making animal bases as well. Some argue that since they can't be dressed up, they aren't proper bases. But a base is a vague term to begin with.
Why do so many people make bases? What's the allure? Many people just start doodling and end up with a body they don't plan on finishing. So why let it go to waste? They fix it up a bit and let other people use it, so maybe others will find inspiration where theirs left off. Other times people are inspired by a pose, and want to practice their anatomy and draw the body. Sometimes people even have an idea in mind - say... a big set of mermaid poses! And more frequently, people see a piece of art they really love, and trace over the body so that others can make their own creations. This last technique has misled many people into the idea that tracing other people's art is okay, however, and has given bases and dolls a less-than-glamorous reputation.
Making a base is the start of a collaboration between two dollers. People who make bases find a certain happiness in seeing others use those bases, knowing that the bases appealed to them and seeing the wonderful doll they've turned it into. It's also a good way for both artists in the dolling process to improve - the base-maker to work on their anatomy, as well as provide a resource for dollers to practice everything else.
And making a base isn't as simple and quick as it looks! Here's a little quote from wishuponapixel that explains it perfectly.
"Bases are artworks themselves, in my opinion. I create them and put just as much work and detail into them as I would a doll. Sure the body will be covered up and thus it may seem like a waste of time to put that much detail into it, but I don't think that's the case. To me, by adding that much detail into the bases, I learn a lot about how to shade the body, which in turn helps me out when I want to shade the skin on my drawings/non-pixel artwork. Plus the base looks more completed when that much time and work has been put into it."¹
So why do people use bases? I could make up a bunch of reasons, but I asked around², and here's what other people said!
You can make wonderful digital art without worrying about having a tablet, since many people find dolling and pixel art easier with a mouse. Sometimes the only art program people have is MSpaint, and dolling opens up a whole new world of art.
Working with another artist is always fun. Even if it's something indirect like using a base.
Sometimes you just want to design things, and not worry about anatomy!
They can inspire ideas and creativity, just like how stock photos can inspire traditional artists or photomanipulators!
Making a doll sometimes takes less time than drawing a complete piece, while still turning out wonderfully. Sometimes when you need to create art for the calming effect, a quick doll can be just the thing.
They're a good starting point. Even for some dollers who erase 95% of the base, it's nice to have something to start with other than a blank slate. A lot of artists struggle to come up with a good pose, and using a base can fix that problem.
Similar to when people color lineart, one may just want to work on specific things - folds and clothing, shading, or even just colors.
It's true some people just aren't good at anatomy, and want to create art! Many dollers admit that even though they use a base, working with the base makes them familiar with the anatomy and slowly learn the form.
A lot of dollers enjoy how specific dolling can be. Working with something smaller, packing in more detail, and laying each pixel down in exactly the right spot.
Some dollers enjoy the challenge of taking a mediocre base and putting their effort and talent into fixing it up, showing just how much they can change what they started from. Fixing anatomy issues, editing the face - while they're not creating the whole body from scratch, it's still a learning experience.
Now, ready for some info? There's a few different types of bases. Obviously we've got the full-body and portrait - those are self explanatory.
Then we have original bases - bases created completely by the artist.
Next are traced bases, bases that have been created by tracing a piece of someone else's art. (If you trace your own art, it's still considered original since it's all created by you ). These are also known as "anime bases", since... most traced bases are made from anime screenshots or fanart.
The last important type of base isn't really a type of base at all, it's just a different way to provide them. A base set! One style of body, with a lot of different poses, so people can have some freedom with the pose they choose. They can be also excellent for group-dolls or collabs! Let's go get some awesome examples of each of them.
Here are a few awesome traced bases! (Traced with permission!)
Likewise, here are some amazing dolls created on traced bases.
Just a few wonderful original bases~
Some base sets!
And who says dollers need bases anyways? Take a look at a few lovely baseless dolls.
So now we've got a good grip on bases. Let's go into the opposite perspective. There are many people who are against bases. Some people may just not be fully educated about what they are, and believe all bases have been traced without permission. This is not the case! It's very good to speak up for artist's rights, but be sure you know what you're talking about before you try to solve things!! While it is sadly true that there are bases that have been created by tracing copyrighted artwork without permission, we are doing our best to educate and teach people that tracing like that is considered art theft, and very wrong. With the recent tracing boom, many younger artists have gotten the misconception that tracing and art theft isn't that bad, and you might even be praised for it. Obviously, this can cause a lot of stress and tension, and lead to a strong dislike of all bases in general, even if they aren't all traced!
However, even some people who know this are still against them. Let's explore their reasons. Though we did make it clear earlier that using bases can help you learn anatomy, it's obviously not as helpful as creating something from scratch. People believe it's a lazy art form, hindering your learning process. The same can be said about shading. Most bases come with shading already on them, which again, leaves something for the doller to not worry about, and therefore not learn! It makes it difficult for beginner dollers when the base has shading, and when it comes to shading of the clothes, it's all guesswork. Another reason people see bases as hindering is because the pose is already there. When you create a piece of work with something in mind, you sculpt the pose just how you'd like, to fit the feeling and mood of the piece. With bases, the pose is already there, which can make something look stiff, or leave the viewer feeling not completely moved by the end product.
A lot of people don't realize that a base is something to work off of, and are afraid to edit the base at all. Sometimes, the base's style and the doller's style can clash so much, that the end result looks very chaotic. This gives a disconnect from the doll and whatever the doller was aiming for, which can also be a reason people find bases unappealing. Sometimes, it can even end up looking like a strange sort of clone - no personality or distinction in faces of dolls makes them unbelievable. Which character was this again? I don't remember, they all look the same! Some dollers just think dolling is a shortcut to drawing, and want to make something that looks good as quickly as possible. When someone doesn't put effort into a doll, it can show!
It can be said in all types of art that when someone doesn't put in all of their effort to make something look good or to improve, it can make the entire art style they're working in look bad. Using bases and creating dolls is no different!
Some of the more drastic people against bases have even shocked fear into beginner dollers, making them believe that if they create a base (even completely original!) they will be harassed. Some dollers feel like they have to hide their works, and even block comments on their doll if it gets on the front page (popular within 24 hours).
How on earth can we fix this, then? Well... the biggest problem here is a lack of education and knowledge. People don't know that not all bases are traced, and jump to conclusions. People don't know that you can edit bases, and leave them unedited. People don't know that dolling is a complete art form, and not a quick little blurb for when you're bored. So... how will they know?? We can tell them!
Obviously, no one likes it when they are told "you're wrong!" or "this is bad!", so the best way to approach it is constructive criticism. With some quick searching, I've found some amazing guides to helpful critiquing, so that you can get your point across without offending anyone!
There's one more thing! (My goodness!!) With the popularity of making bases booming, a lot of people aren't even sure what they're making. "What's a base?", "People can use this... it must be a base, right?", "I used something to help me create this, so I used a base.... therefore I made a doll?"
Here's a quick overview of many common miscategorizations people make, not knowing what a base or a doll is. You can find a more in-depth article about miscats here!
Lineart - Sure, a base may be lines for you to work with, but when something is a complete lineart with hair, clothes, and maybe even a background, that's not a base! A lineart is closer to a coloring-book page. Now, who's ever heard of a coloring-book page where you can erase and edit the lines?
Dollmaker dolls - End results from dress-up games (even the ones were you make animals) are not bases . This can be confusing, because they are called 'dollmakers' after all, but in 99% of the artist descriptions, they let you know that anything you make belongs in Scraps! This is because even though you may have put the outfit together, they still drew the art and came up with the designs.
Memes - Everyone loves memes! They come as big blank canvases with guidelines for you to have fun with. However, they aren't bases! Even if you've completed a meme, they still belong in their own category.
Dolls - Completed dolls! Yes! What's that? No! Completed dolls are not bases! Not unless you want someone using them, and coloring over them because they were in the base category.
3D Models - Lately, many people have been submitting their 3D models into the dolling and bases categories. Remember! Just because you've used a base model to create that cool 3D person, it's very different from a base or doll!
Animations and .gifs - It's true that DeviantART limits where .gifs can be posted, but don't just guess and click! If you're ever in doubt, check the help desk and FAQ! In this case...
FAQ #78: Where do I submit to if I'm not sure?
FAQ #39: I just tried to submit a file to X Category, but it told me the filetype I am trying to upload is not allowed. What can I do?
Thank you for staying with me and reading through all of this! I hope you've learned a bit, and in turn can help others learn. One last little plug! Here's a few other great articles that go over the wonders of bases!
LadyHazy's Why Bases Rock!
AssClownFish's Appreciation For Original Bases
FionaCreates's On The Subject Of Bases
FionaCreates's All Artists Were Amateurs Once
Zagittorch's Fall In Love With Dolls and Bases
¹ Comment by wishuponapixel
² Journal of people answering questions about bases!