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Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:20 pm
So there are a lot of artists out there that make amazing art, but with art theft being the problem that it is you may be a bit concerned about who to purchase from, and what to do if you come across a thief. This guide wasn't made to make you nervous about new artists or suspicious about the art you see. It was made to give you knowledge, help you protect yourself, and give you a discerning eye when it comes to suspicious art. For now we'll start with the basic process of how to deal with art theft/suspicious work.

So you've found a piece of suspicious artwork? What do you do?

First things first is don't panic. There are a lot of cases where people jump down an artists throat right off the bat and the artist turns out to be innocent. Not only does it make the both of you look bad, but it makes you look a little too gung ho over the whole situation. If you find a suspicious piece of art my best advice is to wait. Look at that artists work as they create and, if you can, look at past work to see if you can spot some kind of improvement that led to that level of work. Look for similarities in their old work compared to their new work to see if some of the style crossed over, or anything that might show that it was simply a great improvement. Don't jump right onto the issue without any type of proof.

The artist has no past work/doesn't show any growth towards this level. Now what?

Again, do not panic. There are plenty of reasons for a sudden jump in art skill. In fact a piece of work that uses a reference can look a lot different than one that doesn't. (Example of with reference and without. If you check the dates they were made within weeks of each other, but are entirely different results.) If you've already ordered from the artist you're suspicious about ask to see wip's of the work as you go, and if you haven't ordered don't order. Do not order from the artist and ask for wip's in an attempt to bust them out. Again, the artist could be legitimate, and you'll end up not only wasting that poor artists time with saving multiple wip's but have to pay for that picture. If you want to see wip's/live proof of that artists work contact a mod and they can handle that for you.

The artist refused to give wip's/ the wip's seem to not show much in the ways of progression. Soooo what now?

Wip's can in fact be faked which makes them hard to use as solid proof. If the wip's seem a little on the sketchy side you can politely (note I said politely) ask if they have a livestream or video progressions of their work. Contacting a mod is the best way for you to collect this proof and avoid conflict. Other than linking you to someone else's livestream (which I've seen happen) I don't think you can fake a live video. Though do note that refusal to record themselves/go live may not always be due to someone being a thief. Their computer could not be able to handle livestream or a recording program so they might not be available to you. If you still feel uncomfortable about the artists work then do not order. Follow your gut.

Okay I did all this stuff and I'm about 90% sure this artist is a thief. How do I prove it?

If you're pretty sure that the artwork is stolen then there's a few things you can do to check behind your idea one of these is a reverse image search and there are a good few sites that do this:

One is the website Tineye which is a reverse image search. Place the url of the image in the search engine and Tineye will search for similar images. If you find a similar image click on it and check (and I repeat check) the source of the image. If the source image is a piece of artwork not belonging to the original artist, or a photograph that they don't have permission to use you have your proof.

Another way to check (the way I usually use) is to google it. Copy the url of the image, place it in the google search bar and click the 'search by image' button. It will show you a grouping of pictures it finds visibly similar to the original, and once again you'll have your proof.

Next is Saucenao. To input the url of an image you have to click the grey 'advanced options' text and from there they will give you the option. I find Saucenao good for finding arts that may have been taken from Pivix and anime related things similar to iqdb.

If you do find proof like this do not call the artist out in their thread. Pm a mod/admin your proof, and a link to the thread then let them handle it from there.

I couldn't find anything on either of those sites but I know they're stealing!!! What do I do?!?!

Well if you couldn't find proof there's honestly not much you can do. I would honestly suggest just leaving it alone. Just don't buy from that artist. Don't go around spreading rumors about how you think they steal, don't be rude to them, and don't worry over it. Just don't buy their work. As with all thieves they get caught eventually, so it's nothing to stress yourself over. Just continue on your merry way. In time you may come to realize they were legit after all and all the fuss was for nothing.

Alrighty I hope this bit was helpful to you as far as how to deal with theft in general. The next post is going to be on developing your eye (i.e. spotting suspicious stuff)

Last edited by Creature on Tue Jul 19, 2016 11:58 am; edited 24 times in total
Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:21 pm
Alright so what's all this developing your eye nonsense about?

Developing your eye is a fancy way of saying learning how to pick up on things that don't sit right in a picture. Usually with stolen pictures there are a few types I've come across. Those types are: copy cats, editors, smudgers, repainters, heavy-reffers (only in some cases), and Frankensteiners. Each of them have their own defining traits, techniques, and habits which I'll outline in the posts below.

Note: These images are doctored by me and not someone else's stolen work. I'm using these as pure example.

The Copy Cat


Identifying Traits:

• Pictures cropped less than 160x220
• Smudged/blacked out corners
• Inconsistent style
• Only makes premades
• Bad fonts

Now the copycat is the laziest of thieves, but that doesn't mean they don't get away with it. Copycat's usually lurk groups rather than the forums, but they're still something to be wary of. Copycats take the work of other artists and claim it as their own usually cropping out, scratching out, erasing, or painting over the original name/credit that was on the picture. It's a rarity (in my experience) for these artists to copycat one single person so you'll see a range of different styles within their work. The copycat is usually not as program savvy as other types of thieves so things like odd mismatching text, obvious scratch outs, and smudge streaks are abundant.

Now here's where your critical eye comes in. If you look at the top of that image you'll see what looks like a border, but this border is only on the top and completely missing everywhere else. That's a sign that this picture has been recropped after it's original 160x220 image and if you right click to check the size you'll see it's 153x200. So if we pop this baby into the google engine we can trace the picture back to here and going into the artists gallery we find the actual image here:


Simple right? :) Usually when confronting a copy cat they'll delete everything and run, so do not do this. Instead pm a mod and let them handle the situation.

The Smudger


Identifying Traits:

• Quick turn out of amazingly photorealistic pieces.
• Soft blurry style with mixes of heavily detailed area's such as eyes, mouth, clothing, hair strands
• Mega hyper realistic despite being really blurry

Now the smudger is the easiest to find out of the group due to the smudge tools oh so recognizable marks. The smudge tool pushes pixels around leaving drag marks, and blurry area's in it's wake while softening the area's it goes over. The smudger uses this to imitate a soft painty style and often adds things like extra highlights, make-up, and hair strands to make the picture look how they (or their customer) wants. When coming across pictures like these the first thing you should do is whip out your monocle and use your discerning eye. The thing with smuding is that once you smudge you can't really go back, so here's a few things to watch out for.


1. The hair ~ Humans have a lot of hairs no matter what length, and though smudging can catch most it usually won't catch all of the tiny hairs without leaving a streak. If you look there you'll notice the texture of the hair goes from smooth to strandy making it look a bit inconsistent. That's red flag number one.

2. The stretch ~ As I said smudging pushes things around leaving skids and stretches in it's wake. If you see a skid or stretch that might be a red flag. Ask any photorealistic artist and they will tell you the devil is in the details. Ask yourself if they put that much detail into the rest of the picture why would they skimp on a measly eyebrow?

3. The skin ~ Skin has a lot of colors and texture. In the rest of my picture it's pretty smooth sailing till you hit certail area's that have freckles and pores that are highly detailed. Again it's that eye for consistency.

4. The edges ~ This is the first place I look when I'm concerned about a piece of art since most smudging is lazy work. If certain edges are perfectly neat while other's are blurry and soft it should raise an eyebrow. most people's work is either consistently blurry or sharp. A mixture of the two is possible, but not as drastic.

5. Detail level ~ Look how detailed the reflections in the eyes are. You can almost see the light bouncing off of them and some object in the distance, but then you turn to the hair and it's a pillowy mass. Eyes are usually not as smudged as hair is in these type of works so that's a definite red flag.

If a picture you're looking at has all these traits your next step would be to reverse image search it. Usually with smudge work you'll find results right away, and once you do you can pm a mod and leave the rest to them. If you're not sure how to use the reverse image methods in the first post now would be a cool time to try them :D

The Editor

Identifying Traits:

• Operates mostly in small groups.
• Sells only premades
• Charges large amounts for work
• Inconsistency of style within the picture
• Abuse of after effects
• Tons of accessories
• Overly large hair

The editor is the middle child of the repainter, and the copycat. The editor takes the work of other artists and paints over it with their own accessories, after effects, or color changes. The editor's changes usually revolve around the hair, eyes, and accessories leaving the base image of the original artist intact. For this reason you may see some differences in style throughout the picture. Usually to cover this up the editor will put excess amounts of accessories and over paint the hair to cover up any defining marks from the original piece, but there's always a little something something left behind. Like the copycat, the editor tends to take from multiple artists so the style will be inconsistent between pictures. If you come across this type of thief there's a few things to look out for.


1. The edges ~ If you look at the edges of the hair in general you'll see some bits of what looks like blue and purple. With no blue or purple in the picture it seems a bit odd that you'd have blue and purple around the hair.

2. The inconsistency of detail ~ The eyes have shines and multiple colors, there's facial tattoo's, the lips are pouty, the lashes curl, and the piercing is just a grey blob. The bow is barely shaded and the hair might as well be pure black. It should seem a bit odd that so much detail is in one space while the rest is left to sit plainly. It almost brings down the picture.

Now you think you may have this one in the bag, and go to reverse image search it but.... whoa... wait a minute... it's not there! 160x220 images are a little harder to find on the reverse image search engine, so what do you do? Is it safe to buy from that artist? Not quite. If you suspect you've come across an editor do not order till you are sure they are legitimate. If you're not sure do not touch it. The editor relies on other's artwork so it's only a matter of time before they use something recognizable. If you've already ordered and are unsure ask to see past work of their's. If you still feel uncomfortable about it cancel immediately. Do not spend your money if you aren't entirely sure. If you're right you'll have saved your money from a thief, and if you're wrong you can always apologize later and explain the situation. Better safe than sorry.

This type of thief usually prowls larger forum spaces like GASR or DA to get their art, so if you're particularly plucky you can usually find the source. Let's say this picture just looks way too familiar to me and I want to find the original, so I start scouting out the gasr's deviantart group and find a similar looking piece of art on pg 10 that looks like this


The picture already has a name on it usually meaning it belongs to someone and the blue hair confirms the blue patches near the bangs. We've found our original artist. Now all that's left is to pm a mod/admin and you're good to go.

The Frankensteiner

Identifying Traits

• Awkward Eyes
• Difference in quality across images
• Uneven skin tones
• Harsh/Sharp/Blurry edges

The Frankensteiner get's their name from how they tend to take bits and pieces from other people's work/real life images and paste them onto their art in an attempt to enhance it. The Frankensteiner is not to be mistaken with people who use add on's. Add on's are made for the purpose of placing onto pictures as a way to enhance, and are okay with the permission of the creator of said add on. The Frankensteiner takes pieces of copyrighted/stolen work and puts it onto their own. Since the Franker (which I will refer to them as that from now on cause it's less typing) relies on other people's creations to make their art there are usually some give away's on the picture quality wise.

If you look around the area of the eyes you'll notice they look a bit awkward almost cross eyed. This is usually because the Franker took one eye, duplicated it, and flipped it. Also notice the detail difference between the eye and the collar bone. The collarbone is literally a blurry straight line with a tiny bow yet the eyes are so detailed. Also with such pretty eyes why are the lashes nothing but blurry sticks? It seems a bit unusual. Next is the feather in the corner which is again hyper realistic compared to the rest of the pic, and looks as if a bit of it has been erased. It makes no sense to erase a feather if you're halfway done drawing it, but it does make sense to erase it if you couldn't get all of the background out of it. Last but not least is the mouth area of the picture. The skin around the mouth is a different color entirely than the rest of her face, and near the mark on her cheek you can see some of the unblended area that show's that color maybe have just recently been painted over.

The Franker is a very lazy thief so easy to catch out if you have use of google. They tend to just take things off the first page, and be done with it so let's do the same. We'll start by searching "feathers" as it's the most unusual part of the pic, and when we scroll a bit down we see this. Now move onto eyes, and if you can't find them look at certain types like "sexy eyes" "sultry eyes" blue eyes" and eventually you'll come across this. Usually by then you'll have enough proof to make your case and you're good to go.

Areti wrote:
You could also add that a way to see if the pictures are pasted on, is by sharpening, you can always see the difference, even if at naked eye you can't.

The Heavy Reffer
Identifying Traits

• Demands high quality photographs as references
• Pictures have an odd familiar sense to them

The heavy reffer is one of the tricky types of thieves because of the fine line between referencing and directly copying. Depending on where you get the picture, how much of it is used, and the intended purpose of the completed art heavy referencing can be perfectly fine. The difference is in the details. I could go on and on about the 'right' usage of heavy referencing but I would encourage you to read up on it and educate yourself. We have a resource here in GASR to start off with created by our own Bedlam on the proper use of stock images and how to avoid trouble. Alrighty now that my little speech on referencing is out of the way let's get on to catching them. We're going to assume you've come across a rogue thief who knows what they're doing and is trying to get their hands on your credits.

Heavy reffer's are the most talented out of the bunch due to the skill required to recreate a photograph. This type of thief has digital painting skills, but for some reason has decided to use them inappropriately. While this thief has a lot of skill they lack creativity and rely on outside sources to make their art so some of their pieces may seem eerily familiar to you. The heavy reffers usually use pictures of popular celebrities, or art from other digital artists to base their own art from without regard for the original owner of said piece. We'll assume that this picture above was posted as a premade for like 10k and it rings a bit iffy to you. Let's see what reverse image searches give you.

We've got a big nope and nope on both ends so we're stuck back in that same rut, so my next idea was to search deviantart for the source looking up the image with different keywords and finally reached 'goggle stock'. After scrolling a bit down I came across this image here the lips and piercings are the same as the one above, but the pose is different. Next I go through that artists gallery and come across our original image. As noted by the title and search keywords this image is a stock image, but does that make it okay to use? Let's check the artist's rules.

The last rule on their stock says if selling the image to ask her permission. If the artist has permission (and proof to show it) they're good to go, but if not you've found your problem. Rules are always the big decider when it comes to stock images and if a particular image says 'no commercial use' or 'do not sell' they do not have permission to sell you that image. Contact a mod/admin as usual and you know the song and dance from there.

The Repainter

Identifying Traits:

• Decent anatomy but terrible shading
• Familiar looking work
• Oddly colored Skin tones
• Sketchy edges

The repainter is a thief who paints over other artists work, be it paintings or photography, to make their own. Repainting in and of itself isn't an act of thievery as long as you have permission to use said piece of art. Repainters usually stick to pictures of popular celebrities and models since they usually are well lit with little background. The repainter's skills are usually in the beginner to middle ranged stage giving them enough skill to replicate the anatomy through lines but not enough to transfer them into shading leaving the skin looking flat, the shadows being too dark, or the high lights seeming to be radioactive levels of brightness. These traits usually come from improper use of overlay, dodge, and burn filters when trying to recreate the shadows that have been painted over. So how do you catch this crook? Not easily.

For example:

These pictures are exact repaints of each other. They line up perfectly if you place one on top of the other, they're in the same pose, the anatomy matches, and you can see attempts at trying to recreate Beyonce's neck but because of it being painted over (very poorly I may add) the search came up with nothing linking these two photographs together. When dealing with a repainter the goal is to be patient. Their pictures will usually hold a familiar quality to them and what you may not notice someone else will. If you're the lucky goat that has noticed it be sure to notify a mod about the situation, but do check to make sure they're actually stealing. Repainting/tracing over stock images available for commercial use is not stealing, but repainting/tracing over copyrighted images is.

If the example above holds some familiar strings to you that's because it has been used in it's original form in this thread somewhere. See if you can locate it :D

Last edited by Crescent on Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:48 pm; edited 21 times in total
Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:21 pm
Coming soon:

The Repainter

Last edited by Crescent on Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:24 am; edited 4 times in total
Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:50 pm
Think I need ooooone more
Sat Jun 28, 2014 7:40 pm
Would you mind making this thread public so it can be linked offsite? It's extremely helpful and there's been so many times I've linked this to people, but they couldn't view it because they aren't members here. x.x
Sun Jun 29, 2014 12:20 am
I'd have to move it to the announcements or rules forum; we keep the tutorials forum private so people can't just steal tuts and resell them easily ~
Sun Jun 29, 2014 4:15 pm
Ohs, yeah I can understand that.
Sun Mar 29, 2015 12:04 am
jus gonna give this thread a nice bump because i think a lotta people will find it useful
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