I am applying for a job at my college's craft center, which, if I get an interview, requires a portfolio. I have several pieces that I want to use but I'm not sure if it's okay to use them because I'm not completely sure if they count as my own work.

In one of the pieces, I hand-copied a drawing I found online to make into a silk painting. In another piece, I hand-copied a font that I found online to spell out a few words. The font is listed as "free for personal use."

To be clear, I never directly copied/pasted anything; I hand-drew them for my own purposes and added my own small touches to them. If I were to submit these pieces in a portfolio, would it be plagiarizing?

  • No Problem ( for my standpoint Only :-) ) because you have re-created it and used for personal use. There are many million design now. How can the employer know if you make it from scratch or not and they don't even care. All they want to know if you can do the job or not based on your skills. Copying/tracing is a skill too. :-). But the problem is original is stays original. If the person you have traced from has copyright applied (its expensive) and filed it on their countries law; they can basically sue you. Note that this is only my opinion. – Dodie Eslava Jan 9 '18 at 10:33
  • 1
    @DodieEslava if it's published on the internet it has a copyright. What type of copyright depends on what they chose. Just because it doesn't have a copyright symbol doesn't mean it's it does not have copyright – LateralTerminal Jan 9 '18 at 16:36
  • @DodieEslava "A work is automatically protected by copyright when it is created, that is, “fixed” in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. Neither registration in the Copyright Office nor publication is required for copyright protection" – LateralTerminal Jan 9 '18 at 16:40
  • @DodieEslava copyright.gov/circs/circ40.pdf – LateralTerminal Jan 9 '18 at 16:40
  • Arseal255, You're going to be breaking the law. Whether or not that's ethical will be your own opinion. Maybe nobody will care. It's not like you're selling it. But you should be aware of the laws, don't just brush them off. "It's not a big deal because I didn't copy and paste" That's a really bad way to look at it. – LateralTerminal Jan 9 '18 at 16:43

Here's the primary issue...

People will assume that a portfolio only contains original work. And they will assume you are at least partially responsible for some of that original work if the work was a collaborative effort.

I've never met anyone who assumed portfolio work was a "recreation" of something unless the piece noted that it was a recreation on the art itself. Or was side by side with the original which was copied.

In most instances those looking at portfolios aren't really looking for how well you replicate something. They are looking for how you solve design issues. Copying the work of others doesn't show that in any way.

Even redrawing something rather than copy/pasting is still reliant on the original artist and how they solved design issue. You aren't showing any creativity or problem solving abilities even if you do "add small touches".

If you are forthright and clear about the copying then ethically you'd be fine. No one is going to fault you for replicating if you are clear that is what you have done. They will probably think you are not at all creative. However, If they find out about it later... well, you'll end up looking uncreative and unethical.

While you can show what you've replicated as long as you are clear and upfront that they are merely replications... it's not going to ever be beneficial to you. You are setting yourself up for failure from the start.

It's always best to show only original works in a portfolio for most design positions.

There are a few exceptions, such as a "web design" position looking to hire someone good at altering templates. Or a production position good at altering artwork for production needs. But typically those are specific positions looking for technical skills, not original artwork.

This is all admittedly broad generalization. But you should be aware non-original artwork in a design portfolio is really not ever favorable. Whether or not it would alter your chances of employment is highly dependent upon what the position requires and who is doing the hiring.


If you pass them off as your own original creations or let them assume that they are then yes, it is plagiarizing.

If you want to highlight your creativity, you should definitely use 100% original work.

Assuming that your goal is not to showcase your creativity but to show the process and the skills that you used, I would recommend showing the originals and tell them that it was your starting point. There is nothing wrong with that.

During the interview put the emphasis on the work you have done and not on defending that it's not copying. If you're able to give an enlightened explanation of your thoughts process, the semantics, what you did, how you did it and why then it really won't matter if you started off from an existing image.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.