In this installment of Episode Explained, we’ll be covering some questions around the restrictions on using copyrighted images or images of celebrities in your story art and covers. In particular, we will try to answer questions surrounding tracing and reference use of outside art.
When I’m making art, why can’t I just use any image as a base?
Bases are common in the Episode art community. They’re often simple line drawings or outlines that artists create and allow others to use for their own work, giving the person using them the creative freedom to change the artwork to best fit their use.
There are plenty of Episode artists who create bases for others to modify or edit. Many of them make it clear in the description of the art that it is a free-to-use image, and often request that you provide them with credit for using their art. A creator owns their original work, be it a photograph or an illustration, and if they don’t state anywhere that they’re allowing you to use it, you can’t without violating copyright.
If an artist does not explicitly state that their art can be used freely, you cannot take that piece and copy it directly. Copying can mean tracing, coloring in line art, or taking pieces of it to add to your own art. Even if your intent is to change the art to better fit your story and characters, this is a copyright violation and is not allowed in your Episode stories.
For an example of tracing art, I’m going to be using the Episode owned and created story card for Why Me? as an example of a piece of art that cannot be used in a story because Episode is the copyright holder and has not given explicit permission for it to be used freely.
Though in the above, you can see that the details of the original art were changed, the core of the copied artwork was taken directly from the original, meaning I have used this art without permission. This is a violation of copyright, and would potentially be rejected by our image review team.
But what about using real-life photographs as references?
Using a real-life photograph as a reference is allowed, but it’s important to understand the difference between directly copying an image, and using it as a reference.
If you’re taking a copyrighted image that you do not have permission to use and copying it directly, that would be a traced image. This applies both to using a part of or the entire image. Neither case is allowed on the Episode platform because it against our guidelines around using copyrighted materials in your stories.
Here is an example of a traced photograph. Photo source 12 (available for free use without credit).
Despite changing some of the details (such as creating a different face) this is clearly a trace of the photograph. If I didn’t have permission to use it, I would be breaking the copyright held by the photographer.
With photographs of real people, particularly celebrities, you also run into the issue of using a person’s likeness without their permission. This is also covered in our content guidelines and is not allowed on the Episode platform.
How can I make art without breaking copyright rules?
This is a great question! If you have permission from an artist, whether you’ve purchased or licensed (like a stock photo) an image or are using a base that was created to be used by others, this isn’t violating copyright.
When you’re creating your own work, using real-life examples to better define drawings in your style is an important part of growing as an artist. Taking your own reference photograph, or using photographs that are free to use is a way to prevent any copyright issues.
In the example below, I’ve used the photograph of a dog which is from a website that allows you to [use their photos for free] as a reference for my own drawing.
The difference here is that while I used the original photo as a guide for how to pose my own dog and the proportions, I drew it freehand in my own style. You can see when the images are aligned that there is no direct match between the two.
Along with using images that are free to use, only using them as a reference is a great way to create your own art without running into any issues.
We hope that this has clarified the guidelines around how to best create your own art for your Episodes.