I want to take a photo someone else captured of a celebrity, then use illustrator to manually illustrate a vector of that celebrity, adding my own artistic touch.

The main goal is to be artistic, not technically accurate.

Is it legally safe to use that illustration commercially?

Does it help if I distort the image so it doesn't look like the original photo, (while still keeping the celebrity's face identifiable)?

I've seen many businesses do this - some even take photos outright without altering them at all. I just find it hard to believe they all got permission, or that they are all just cheating.

Thank you.

  • Absolutely not legal. Its another thing how litigious the photograph and celebrity is and how its handled under your local laws
    – joojaa
    Jan 5, 2019 at 22:10

1 Answer 1



Just ask Shepard Fairey

Photos are copyrighted. Using a photo as a basis for new work is derivative work and an infringement on existing copyrights. There's no such thing as "edit an image by x amount and it's okay". If any part is recognizably the same compared to the original, in may be considered infringement.

Be aware, just because others may infringe upon copyrights, that does not provide permission for you to do the same. Your liability would not be diminished merely because others may also be liable.

  • 1
    Thank you very much for your cautionary advice! Jan 5, 2019 at 22:58

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