6 Do’s and Don’ts of Using an Artist’s Work

And by Artist I mean anyone who created something.

In this post I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of copyright, that’s for another day – today is simply about having respect for creators.

  1. Do not use any piece – whether to post on your blog, social media, get printed for your wall, etc. without prior permission from the artist. Yes, for every single piece you need individual permission. Just because an artist gives you permission once, does not mean you can use whatever whenever.
  2. When you do share an artwork around the internet, or show it off to your friends in person, give the artist credit. Proper credit typically includes the artist’s name and website, or if not website, some other way that the viewer can find more of the artist’s work.
  3. Along with this, be clear in how you give credit for work. If you’re using a piece for your book cover, but someone else overlayed the text, clearly separate those two attributions – i.e. cover illustration by so and so, cover design by another so and so. If you’re not sure how to distinguish between types of credit, ask the artists how they would prefer to be listed.
  4. If you are publishing or sharing the artwork in any way – on your book, in your magazine, on your blog or even if you’re simply sharing on social media, do not crop or edit the image in any way with out permission from the artist. An artist creates a piece to be a specific way for a specific reason – if you change that you are destroying their vision. Think of this like defacing a painting at a museum by drawing all over it – just don’t do it.
  5. Unless you are going to offer adequate payment, do not ask an artist to create or modify something for you. Understand that creating something takes a lot of time, frustration and patience, and can cost the artist money in materials, etc. If you wouldn’t do your job for free, don’t expect anyone else to. If you’re not sure what an adequate payment would be or even if you think you are sure, ask and expect a back and forth with the artist in regards to their fees.
  6. Don’t be offended if an artist asks you to sign a contract or agreement before they begin creating a piece for you. An agreement is beneficial to both you and the artist, clearly outlining timelines, payment, how the work will be used, etc. It’s not the artist saying they don’t trust you, its them saying “let’s make this a good business partnership, where both our interests are clear and we both come out happy and maybe even willing to work with each other again.”

Artists love having their work spread far and wide on their terms. And what good does it do them if no one knows who created that viral piece? Help out artists and treat their work with the utmost respect.

Are you a visual artist? What would you add to this list?

Are you a writer, musician, or any other kind of creator? How would you rephrase the above to suit your work? What else would you add to the list?

Hope this is helpful. Leave your thoughts below.

Coming soon:

Part 2 Finding Royalty Free Images

Part 3 The Artist and Copyright

13 thoughts on “6 Do’s and Don’ts of Using an Artist’s Work

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  1. This is a very timely piece full of good ideas. I hope people take this to heart. I try to use only royalty free images for which the artist has already given permission for extensive modifications. That keeps me out of trouble :) But I am skilled enough to make whatever modifications I need. Others are not so fortunate and I can understand the appeal to them for using whatever imagery that comes to hand.

    1. Thank you. I do hope it’s helpful. Royalty free is the easiest way to go for sure for images for blogs and such and I think I’ll do a follow up on where to find royalty free images and another on copyright.

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