Computational research with continuous representations depends on obtaining continuous representations from human labellers. The main method used for that purpose is tracing. Tracing raises a range of challenging issues, both psychological and statistical. Naive assumptions about these issues are easy to make, and can lead to inappropriate requirements and uses. The natural function of traces is to capture perceived affect, and as such they belong in long traditions of research on both perception and emotion. Experiments on several types of material provide information about their characteristics, particularly the ratings on which people tend to agree. Disagreement is not necessarily a problem in the technique. It may correctly show that people’s impressions of emotion diverge more than commonly thought. A new system, Gtrace, is designed to let rating studies capitalise on a decade of experience and address the research questions that are opened up by the data now available.