Unearthly Trance – “Stalking the Ghost”


This is an example where the designer did actually change a lot of the details (various folds, some of the hands, etc), but I still take issue with it because it pulls from a painted work. I don’t care if something is traditionally painted or digitally painted, it’s just not cool for designers to think they can just take everything whole-hog from other artists unless permission is granted or citations have been made. Pushing around a few pixels and running it through some filters in Photoshop is not acceptable and not enough has changed in this case. It still uses the 3 figures in the same poses (just flipped), and what’s even more egregious is that if you look closely enough, you can even see the back of the woman’s head just above the “beasts” head in the plagiarized image.

Deadsquad – “Dosa Menjalar”


This artist has completely stolen artwork from another living, working artist. There is plenty of evidence that all of this artist’s work is essentially a soup of other artist’s work as well.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but it is not acceptable to pilfer other artists’ works for your own gain. It’s not “design”, despite what some amateurs may have you believe. If two designers accidentally grab the same stock photography through legal means, that is a minor “oops!”. It’s a little bit of dirt on the chin for your portfolio, but nothing will be harmed other than the egos of the two artists picking the same stock photo for their work.

This, however, is just theft.

Deadsquad – “Demi Logam Mulia”


This artist, Gilang P. Vergiawan (aka Praver Art Studio) is a real piece of work. For starters, let’s just get this completely out of the way – this artist is what we just call a complete hack. I have a feeling that I will be posting about him a lot on this blog, because I am just shocked at the level of theft that this artist is actually doing on literally everything he’s done. I don’t even need to write much about this one as you can see he stole concept art from James Cameron’s “Avatar” and added it to his piece without any adjustments.

Even his bio on his facebook page (as of this writing) is copied from a bio on another blog about surreal artist, Tomasz Alen Kopera.

“Gilang Praver was born in Bandung, Indonesia in 1993. He attended the Indoesian High School of Arts in Bandung, where he deepen his knowledge of art. Tomasz he drew on paper, mix media art, photography, graphic design, custom lettering, and now he is struggling with his digital paintings. Realm, Fantasy, Dark, Mystism, Sci-Fi, Identity of Living Things, Universe are his inspiration. Each painting motivates thought, challenging our initial response. Sometimes darkness will prevail, at other times, light. He is celebrated in visionary art circles for his acute attention to detail, mastery of color and bold use of subject matter.”

Presented unedited, you can see that he even forgot to remove “Tomasz” from the text. The last sentence can then be googled to come up with this link, where you can clearly see the same text being used.


Deadsquad – “Pragmatis Sintetis”



This one is actually pretty dangerous territory here. Not only is it unethical and illegal, it’s also stolen from an iconic album cover. The artist didn’t even bother changing the blood on the arm from the source material, making it very easy to prove where he got his image from. Stealing from copyrighted photography is one thing, but taking from another album cover is, frankly, on another level of stupid.

Glitter Magic – “Bad for Health”


This example is most likely completely legal, I will be the first to say. Ethically, however, I feel that it is one of the worst offenders because of the context.

When someone takes photographs, chops them up and “Frankensteins” the chunks together, that is basic photo manipulation and is a completely acceptable method of design unless you are using copyrighted photos. I’ve touched on this elsewhere on the blog, but the basic rule of thumb is to always change it far beyond what the source is if the works are copyrighted.

In my personal opinion, though, I feel that any time you cut and paste from an ARTIST, you have moved into the realm of unethical no matter how much you try to hide it.

The reason for this is because the source artist spends their entire life learning how to draw/paint/etc in order to create an original piece of artwork. When another artist takes that artist’s brush strokes and cuts and pastes them into their own digital file in order to pass it off as their own work, I feel that is the definition of lying. There is a level of deception with all plagiarism, of course, but this is even worse because you are collecting a check from someone who is paying you to create something original. If all it takes to be a professional artist is to go around cutting and pasting from masters, then why is anyone even trying to create original art? It isn’t hard to see how this hurts the industry at large.

The image above is changed a lot, but it is clear as day that the Joker image on the left was split down the middle, flipped in order to be symmetrical, and then painted over to take out details. While it won’t even stand up to the “red outline test”, you can see that the teeth have the same glimmers (again, keep in mind it was split and flipped) so this is not a case of simply being “referenced” or “copied”.

What makes this even worse is that Alex Ross is a living artist who survives on his art.

Dimmu Borgir – “The Voice from the Dark Side”


This is an example of a digital collage artist most likely plagiarizing copyrighted photography.

There is a myth in design than you can just grab whatever you want off of Google and use it for your own needs. When an artist steals artwork, it is very easy to say that something has been plagiarized because it almost goes without saying that the original artist did not give permission to use their artwork for re-use.

With photography, there certainly is a possibility that this artist paid for the rights for the photos used. But to give an example, the wolf image highlighted in red would cost between 145.00 and 500.00 (according to National Geographic’s policy on licensing their images). It is doubtful that an album cover designer for a heavy metal band is going to pay that much to license an image of a wolf  to casually hide it into the background. If you are going to license something from National Geographic, you are likely going to have it front and center and composed much differently. That part combined with the fact that the other wolves in the picture were found on random wallpaper sites suggests that this artist just did a search for “wolves” in Google, took them, and re-used them for his own use without regard to copyright.

To be absolutely clear, there is nothing wrong with using photos in digital art provided that you either own the photos used or  you properly secured the rights to use the image (either by asking permission of the photography or paying for the license in some way).

If this artist paid for all of these photos and sends this blog proof that he did so, I will absolutely take it down. Until then, I will stick with my suspicions that they were simply Googled without regard for ownership.

Brian Posehn – “Fart and Wiener Jokes”


This example is what is typically called a “paintover”. It is a common (yet still unethical) method of trying to change the source enough to call it original. The artist will take a photograph or piece of artwork and bring it into their art software (i.e. Photoshop) and digitally paint on top of the source material. It is not the same as “copying” or “referencing” where the artist would have the source material off to the side of their new work and copy the source by sight alone.

In the case above, the entire pose and anatomy have been taken from Renato Casaro’s classic Conan poster for use in this album cover. It makes the new artwork easily comparable and is infringing on the copyrights held by the original work.

Brutal Truth – “End Time”


This artist took painted artwork from the movie, “Nightmare City” and used it as the focal point for his album cover design. While it is common for many designers to use photographs and artwork from different sources, they still need to secure rights to use the images or must change it enough so that it is not recognizable. In this case, it is still far too similar to the source image.

Mumakil – “Behold The Failure”


This Frank Frazetta painting was used for more than simple inspiration. As you can see in the graphic above, the artist cut and pasted Frazetta’s work into his own digital file, and ran it through some filters in hopes of changing it far enough beyond the original.

The rule of thumb is to be safe and not use copyrighted work in your own art unless you have permission to use or a citation of the source. But if you are going to use copyrighted work in your design, it needs to be changed so far that no one could possibly see the origin of it.  The designer did attempt to change a lot, but in this example above it is still far too easily recognizable.