Should You Use Watermarks to Protect Your Art?

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Do watermarks protect you from online art theft or devalue your work?

Let’s face it. Art theft is a reality. We see it happen all the time.

If you post your work anywhere online, you’re immediately vulnerable to those who want to grab it and use it for their latest article, T-shirt, company logo, etc. It’s simply a risk you take by having an online presence.

Watering Down

Some Illustrators choose to protect themselves by placing “watermarks” over there image. This means that they overlay a copyright notice of some form on top of their Illustration to discourage others from using it without their permission.

The question is: Does this cause more harm than good?

As an Illustrator myself, I definitely understand the desire to protect one’s work. After all, the images you create are the lifeblood of your business, so why wouldn’t you want to defend yourself from online predators?

However, it is possible to go too far.

In my opinion, the use of a watermark degrades the experience an Art Director or other potential client has when viewing your work, which is the last thing you want to do. Sure, it can be done in a more discreet way than the ridiculously extreme example above, but the value of an Illustration all comes down to its visual impact, so why would you want to do anything to diminish that?

Even with the dangers of online art theft, I strongly believe that watermarks do more harm to the artist than to the thieves themselves. Furthermore, any persistent pilferer with a basic knowledge of Photoshop can easily remove the watermark without too much trouble, so the benefit to the Illustrator is limited at best.

Finally, it’s important to consider the impression that this makes on your potential clients.

If you protect your images with watermarks, you may unintentionally convey paranoia, defensiveness, or unease, which just might make people uncomfortable, and deter them from contacting you to begin with. It’s not unlike the response you might get if you present them with a 10-page contract full of fine print and overstated legal jargon.

It’s simply not necessary.


Don’t get me wrong. Tracking down and stopping art theft is an incredibly frustrating activity, and it hurts to see your work being used without your permission, but I recommend thinking twice before using watermarks as a form of defense.

I don’t know about you, but when I enter a brick-and-mortar business and see security cameras at every turn, warning signs to “leave your bag at the desk”, and electronic sensors at the exits, I feel a little uneasy, even though I don’t plan on stealing anything.

Why would you want to do the same with your own business?

Do you use watermarks? Why? How do you feel when you see watermarks on an image?

Posted by Thomas James on 11/16/15 under business
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Pick of the Week for WHIMSICAL and This Week’s Topic

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Happy Illustration Friday!

Please enjoy the wonderful illustration above by Carolina Laverde, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of WHIMSICAL. Thanks to everyone who participated with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. We love seeing it all!

You can see a gallery of ALL the entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:


Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the public Gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!


Posted by Thomas James on 11/13/15 under artists,call for entries,weekly topics
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Why finding an agent can be a chicken and egg situation


Illustration by Mike Reddy

“The reason why I’m not getting work is because I don’t have an agent.”

I looked at her for a moment, and was deciding if I should tell her that if she’s not having any luck finding one, is because she should be focusing on doing something else instead. Like finding clients instead of finding an agent. I didn’t have that chance, because she continued to rattle off a long list of agencies that she’s contacted – all without luck, and so here I am.

It got me thinking. How many people out there believe that the answer to all their woes lies in getting signed up by an agent?

I bet there’s quite a fair bit who does. 

I’m not saying that an agent won’t get you work. I know they do. But I also know that a lot of times you’d have to show that you’re good at what you do (with actual paying clients) before they’re likely to take you on. Having a few people who know and have paid money for your work demonstrates that you have skills that people want. And when you have enough people who want to pay you for your services, you’re already in business. 

I’ve seen fresh graduates and a handful of self-taught illustrators scrambling to get representation, purely because they’re scared of what’s out there. Some of them would prefer not to talk about business or money because it’s a difficult subject and one that they’d like not to poke around even if they have a 10-foot pole. Handing all these important things off to an agent, while it’s convenient, does not detract from the fact that they’re better off learning about it at some point. And besides, that’s not what agents are solely for. 

Think of an agent as someone who can manage and find new avenues that you’re not reaching yet. They’re a treasure trove of connections and networking that allows you an insider’s peek at what’s on the table. Agents are great at negotiating contracts and getting you what you’re worth (or try their darnedest). What they’re not however, is a magical character who can guarantee you jobs and success just because your name is on their list.

Which leaves us with the chicken and egg situation:

If you have to beg and grovel your way to find an agent, you might not be ready for one just quite yet. Better to have them come a-knocking on your door (or invite them to see your potential with a well-crafted letter showing them who you’ve already worked with) when you’ve achieved a modicum of success through your own hustle, hard work and the right strategy.

And when that happens, you might just wonder if you need an agent at all.

Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.

Posted by Amy Ng on 11/12/15 under artists,business,freelance
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Is Your Portfolio Website Too Demanding?


Illustration by Thomas James

One of the most important things to keep in mind when designing your portfolio website is creating a space that is inviting and pleasing to Art Directors and other potential clients.

The best way to do this is to make your design as simple as possible while putting your work, and any other vital information, front and center.

You don’t want to do anything to detract from the quality of your work or place any barriers between your visitor and your bio and contact info. This can be a challenge when you try to balance this with a desire for a compelling and exciting design, professional branding, and a memorable experience.

One of the simplest ways to improve the flow and navigation of your site is to remove anything that “demands” anything of your visitor.

This means not making them have to work or think too hard when they’re working their way through your website and your portfolio.

To clarify, here are 3 things to avoid in order to keep your portfolio website from being too “demanding” of your visitors.

1. Extra Steps

You should remove any extra steps that might be required for an Art Director to get to your portfolio or view your work.

Some examples of extra steps are:

  • Landing Page that your visitor must click through to get to your main site with menu options.
  • “Portfolio” menu button links to multiple Portfolio categories, which link to more specific categories, which lead to thumbnails, which lead to images.
  • Portfolio images that open in their own window, requiring your visitor to go back or even close a window to get back to your main gallery.

By themselves, these examples aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but they can add up quickly to ask too much of your visitor’s patience.

2. Too Many Options

Avoid the temptation to over-segment your work into too many categories. Just like with the images you choose to show, less is more when it comes to the number of categories you wish to include.

Contrary to what you might think, people don’t want to be presented with an overabundance of choices to make. Too many categories means too much thought on the part of your visitor, which slows them down and degrades their experience of looking at your work. Take them straight to your image gallery as quickly as possible without making them work for it.

3. Poor Navigation

Making someone have to figure out how to make their way around your site is another way to make them work harder than they should.

Most of us aren’t intuitive web designers, so it can be challenging to get this right, but if you give navigation the attention it deserves, you’ll be less likely to confuse or annoy Art Directors.

Make No Demands

Whether you follow the specific examples above, the main idea here is to make sure you’re not requiring your visitor to do anything except enjoy looking at your amazing portfolio and keep you in mind for future projects. Anything beyond that just becomes a turn off.

Posted by Thomas James on 11/09/15 under business
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Pick of the Week for BOUQUET and This Week’s Topic


Happy Illustration Friday!

Please enjoy the wonderful illustration above by Helena Perez Garcia, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of BOUQUET. Thanks to everyone who participated with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. We love seeing it all!

You can see a gallery of ALL the entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:


Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the public Gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!


Posted by Thomas James on 11/06/15 under artists,call for entries,weekly topics
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Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Paul Smith





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This week we celebrate the artwork of comics legend Paul Smith! The 600th issue of Uncanny X-Men hit the stands this week and I was very pleased to see that Smith contributed one of the variant covers for this landmark issue. X-Men was really the reason I got into comics as a kid. In fact the very first comic I picked up and read(besides the Bob’s Big Boy comics they used to give away when you ordered a kid’s meal..) was Uncanny X-Men #166 with that glorious Paul Smith cover of The X-Men battling the Brood!

A good friend of mine at the time(probably ’83/’84) had an older brother who collected comics and he had an big, old chest full of them(no bags ‘n boards, mind you..). So, when I’d go over there for a sleep-over, I’d get to rummage through his treasure trove of funny-books and then pull a few out for some late-night sleeping bag reading! Those Paul Smith issues of X-Men were truly magical, and always will be to me. There have been many great artists to work with Chris Claremont on his classic X-Men run, including legends like Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Terry Austin, Bob Wiacek, John Romita Jr, Barry Windsor Smith, Arthur Adams, Alan Davis, Jim Lee, etc. etc, but for me, my favorite X-Men artist will always be Paul Smith. 

Smith is mostly a self-taught artist. He worked as an animator on Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and American Pop before working at Marvel Comics in the early 1980’s. After establishing himself on titles like X-Men, Doctor Strange, and Marvel Fanfare, Smith would go on to do more independent, critically acclaimed series like Leave It To Chance and The Golden Age, both with writer James Robinson. He continues to work in mainstream comics for special projects, and cover illustrations, while also staying very busy with private commission work.

The best place to get updates on what Paul Martin Smith(PMS) is up to and to see more art is on his website here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website – Andy Yates

Posted by Andy Yates on 11/05/15 under artists,black and white,comic,design,illustration,weekly topics
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Illustrator Submission :: Daniel Arriaga

Post by Chloe


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Daniel Arriaga is an illustrator based in the USA whose work often tells a narrative, depicting fun characters. He has worked in various departments at Pixar, and also Disney. He has helped to produce films such as Wall-E, Up!, and Wreck-It-Ralph. Arriaga combines digital art with a subtle painterly style to bring his work to life, and his clever colour palettes create a nice ambiance in all his work.

If you’d like to see more illustrations by Daniel Arriaga, please visit his portfolio.

Posted by Chloe Baldwin on 11/03/15 under artists
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Educating Your Clients About the Creative Process


Throughout your Illustration career, it is likely that you will be contracted by clients who have never worked with a creative professional before. Therefore it is important to be able to shed some light on the creative process. In fact, even when working with those who know how to work with an Illustrator, it is a valuable practice to educate them about your own personal process. As stated in the introduction, it always helps when everyone knows what is expected of them, as well as how the project might unfold.

How Do You Describe Your Creative Process?

A great way to do this right off the bat is at the point of your initial contact, which is often through your portfolio website. For more about this, read my article on the importance of including a Process page on your site.

In addition to this, I find value in outlining my approach when I first speak with them on the phone or via email. This lays the groundwork for the project and helps to instill confidence in the clients who are less familiar with how to proceed. Naturally, your personal style will dictate the way you tackle a given project, but in general it helps to explain such things as how you will gather information and produce concept art, as well as how your client might approach the revision process.

As a further measure, I like to reinforce this knowledge at each stage or milestone to make sure everyone stays on the same page.

Explaining Concept Art

In the beginning stages of a project, most Illustrators produce conceptual sketches that far from resemble the finished product, and this can be difficult for some clients to comprehend. After all, they’re paying you for something that doesn’t yet exist, and the quality of concept art is generally inferior to what they will eventually receive.

Therefore, it’s important to explain the way that they should look at the first work that you produce. Try to encourage them to look at the basic ideas that are being represented in the drawings, instead of the level of detail or rendering of form (or lack thereof). You may find yourself holding their hand much more through this stage, but doing your best to make your intentions clear from the start, and reminding them that the quality of work that they hired you for is still just around the corner, will help them to take the leap of faith necessary to see the bigger picture.

When you make the effort to educate your clients about the ways to interpret the initial concept art, you will decrease the amount of frustration that comes from an unsatisfactory response, or a request to improve small details in particular parts of the drawing that aren’t ready for that level of attention.

One way to get this point across might be to show the progressing stages from a previous project. This can help your client to see how your ideas develop over time, eventually surfacing as a compelling work of art.

Paving the Road

I encourage you to consider doing this extra work early on, as it will help your client to understand you and communicate with you about their needs. Anything you do to smooth the road ahead can be seen as an investment in a successful outcome that exceeds the expectations of your clients and makes your job more rewarding along the way.

Posted by Thomas James on 11/02/15 under business
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Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Jeremy Bastian


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Since this is Halloween Week, I thought how better to celebrate than exploring the intricately detailed work of Cursed Pirate Girl creator Jeremy Bastian! A graduate of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Bastian spent his years studying the works of the great engraving art masters and old time book illustrators. One of the inspirations for Cursed Pirate Girl was a children’s book called The Ship’s Cat, featuring illustrations by Alan Aldridge. It takes about a week for Jeremy Bastian to draw one page of Cursed Pirate Girl. Each page is meticulously packed with the smallest details; it’s fun to just stare at a page and let your eyes wander. You can read about Jeremy’s art process on this blog post here.

Cursed Pirate Girl follows the title character’s search for her Pirate Captain father on the mythical Omerta Seas, encountering many strange and wondrous creatures along the way. The first 3 issues were published by Olympian Publishing and are now highly sought after collector’s items. Much bigger publisher Archaia/BOOM has taken over on Cursed Pirate Girl and if you’re quick enough, you might still be able to find a copy of Cursed Pirate Girl 2015 Annual(52 pages), which hit stands this month. The plan is to do 2 more yearly specials to complete the 6 part story, but there could be more material set in the Cursed Pirate Girl world after that.

If you want to get the latest news on Jeremy Bastian & Cursed Pirate Girl, fell free to follow him on Twitter here!

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website – Andy Yates

Posted by Andy Yates on 10/29/15 under artists,black and white,children's art,comic,design,illustration,Interviews,prints,technique,weekly topics
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Would You Create an Illustration for $5?


Illustration by Mónica Andino

If I told you that there were people who are paying $5 for an illustration, you’d probably balk and hiss at me.

If I told you that there were people who would be willing to do it for $5, you’d fall off your chair, hissing even more and probably spewing some expletives along the way. 

But that’s what’s happening right now. 

The culture of Fiverr and 99Designs is very real. For those who don’t know what Fiverr is, it’s a website that connects people with others who are willing to help them out, for $5 a pop. 99Designs is a website that offers crowdfunded ideas for logos, etc; gathering a pool of designers to pitch their work for a project. As a designer, you don’t get paid for your efforts unless you were picked by the client.

There are lots of people probably throwing their hands up in the air, poo-poohing with disgust over what’s happening to the creative industry and throwing their pencils and brushes in retaliation. I get it. Everyone’s angry. Everyone’s indignant. 

But there’s no reason to be. 

No one can stop evolution. It happens slowly and without much fanfare, until it gains enough traction that it now becomes a threat to the previous ecosystem. This is what it is – an evolution of the design industry. And it’s not going to stop or go away.

I do want to point out that my ideas and points differ quite wildly from the masses – but with good reason. So instead of dwelling on the negative, I’d like to offer three viewpoints for opportunity, from where I stand.



The Fiverr culture can be extremely hair-pulling. But the ones who do offer their services on the platform are usually creatives who offer their services for cheap to gain some recognition and traction for their work: first timers, new graduates or self-taught artists who wants to show off what they can do. Think of it as a $5 coupon for the first trial – if people liked working with them the first time, they’d most likely work with them again the second time, and it shouldn’t cost them $5 anymore (unless it is, then I’m not sure what their business model is for the long term).

The fact is, it’s a free market out there. Willing buyer, willing seller. Suppose you use the platform as a way to reach and connect with others instead? What can you gain from it? Or perhaps you pit your skills among others in 99Designs. If your work is good, you’ll shine among the rest. I’ve seen works on there – it can swing wildly between mediocre to well done. Like cream, the good ones always rise to the top.

Both of these websites to me, are great practice grounds for those who are looking to spread their name out there. Of course, there is a question that will inevitably arise – what are the quality of clients on there that you’d want to keep (especially since they’re used to paying such a low price?) The answer is this. The good clients – the paying clients – already work with great people. They know the value of a great artist or designer, and they’re willing to pay for the work done.

I recently was brought into a project involving a food-based startup. They wanted to redesign their logo after they had used the 99Designs platform. I frowned. I wasn’t frowning because they had used the platform. But rather, I was underwhelmed at the quality of the submissions that resulted. There were about 50 different logos for them to choose from, and yet none of them fit the company at all. There wasn’t a proper understanding or context from which these designers could build from, and it was glaringly clear that the startup needed help from someone who knew what to do.

Of course, if the clients are happy with their selection – it doesn’t matter. Their choosing to work with platforms such as Fiverr and 99Designs might be a bit of a gamble too. Or perhaps to them it’s not the most pertinent detail that needs ironing out. Or maybe they don’t know where else to turn to. I like to think that I give people the benefit of the doubt enough to not point to them as the sole problem. Willing seller, willing buyer, remember?



I know there are a lot of people out there who get really angry about this. The fact that artists are not being paid enough (or at all). And while I do agree with some of the arguments out there, I like to see things from both sides of the coin.

Five years ago when I was just starting out as an illustrator, I didn’t mind doing things for free. I didn’t mind because I had nothing to lose. Future income wasn’t something I held in my hand right now – I had nothing. My biggest worry was what if no one ever saw my work. Or that I didn’t get a chance to prove myself. So I put my hand up when someone asked if I would be willing to do work for a charity organization. Why wouldn’t I? I had time. I didn’t have money. If I stayed where I was – waiting for the right opportunity to come along – the equation would remain the same. What did I have to lose?

Five years on, I still get referrals from that stint. Good, paying ones too.

Maybe I got lucky. Or maybe it was also because I didn’t know whether I was good or not. And so by extending my hand, it was an invitation to get the feedback I needed from my market. If I wasn’t any good at what I did, then I wouldn’t have repeat customers; and it would be a chance for me to learn from my experience and improve. If I was deemed worthy, then I’d start charging for my efforts because I’d know I’m valuable. Remember that your value is almost always in the eye of the beholder.

I’d seriously doubt anyone who said that they have never been in the same position as I did – young, eager, and hungry. The only difference is, is that when I take on a job, no matter how big or small, I do it for myself first. Sure, clients will still get what they want at the end, but so will I. A lot of the whining I hear these days stem from those who feel as though they’re being ripped off, and that they are powerless to dictate the rules. And that’s not true at all.

Don’t play the victim.



Everyone can draw. The ability to draw doesn’t make you an illustrator. It’s the same with photographers and designers too – everyone with a camera can take pictures, just as much as anyone with Photoshop can design. The beauty lies in the value we are able to provide, which can’t wholly be summarised in our work. It lies in personality, process and story. It lies in the many variables that make up what we do.

Now, we can’t have people dictating that those without qualifications can’t practice or try their hand at a craft. Or even charge for it. That’s bigotry. That’s fear. Fear of being overshadowed by others who are more skilled than you (and perhaps, even cheaper than you). Fear of losing out to the many artists out there who you feel are competing for a slice of a shrinking pie.

Instead of working in fear, how about creating work from a place of strength? Say no to things that won’t allow you to shine. Recommend others who you know are more well suited to a job. Concentrate and seek out clients and briefs that gets you all giddy with excitement. Take on work that you’d be proud to show off in your portfolio. Don’t just do it for the money. If money is what you’re after, get a day job instead.

Accepting that the rules and landscape has changed for illustrators and designers everywhere is the first step to embracing it.

You say that you won’t get into it because it demeans your profession. Fair enough. But think of it this way: If your work doesn’t get seen because you’re holding out for more money, then you lose. Every time you don’t get to practice what you like doing, it’s already costing you opportunities. You’re losing. It’s a paradox.

The question then becomes: how much are you willing to lose before you’re open to the idea of trying something new? Something that might not pay off in the beginning, but pays dividends as you go along – you’ll learn to be quicker, more nimble. You’ll learn how weed out good clients from bad, and to know which projects are worth taking on and those that aren’t worth your time.

You can’t learn all those things twiddling your fingers and sitting on the side bench; watching and waiting as opportunities to sharpen your skills come and go. You’ll need to get in there and roll up your sleeves.

It’s dirty. It’s tough. But it’s necessary.

Just remember that above all else, you’re doing it for yourself first; and that five dollars is a (very) small bonus.

Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.

Posted by Amy Ng on 10/28/15 under artists
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