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We are making a website for graphic designers to sell their work to fashion designers.

However the problem is that if we showcase their work, it can simply be copied and traced.

I want to ask your opinion to find a way so that the images can't be traced?

It could be either a format, or watermarked style etc., so that the images can't be traced through illustrator or other software, and at the same time we can showcase them clearly for designers to buy.

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    copy protection is currently not feasible technology, the mathematical proof that it can be done came within a month give the tech 10 years. In anycase you can not prevent stealing. and your giving autotrace way too much credit. – joojaa Oct 12 '14 at 11:07
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    Well, if images are small enough, autotrace fails spectacularily. But small images for a showcase are not optimal. – Kjeld Schmidt Oct 12 '14 at 11:14
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    Autotrace works best on a plain colored, unshaded simple-formed source. So just make plenty use of transparency, blends, shadows, and gradients, with lots of small details such as intricate fill patterns. – usr2564301 Oct 12 '14 at 13:24
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    Find and use the perfect balance of your watermark. Something that makes the design readable enough for a prospector to perceive it, but damaged enough so that copying it would be greatly time consuming. – AndroidHustle Oct 13 '14 at 12:04
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    @AndroidHustle most likely if it can be traced then the watermark is also easy be removed. – joojaa Oct 13 '14 at 15:29
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You can't protect the graphics 100% from copycats and thieves, but you can make it too much work for them and they'll change target.

Know that in the fashion industry, even before internet, lot of cheap manufacturers would travel to higher quality shops and simply take pictures of the prints with a mini-camera; then ask their designers to reproduce the print... So that's an issue that has always been there in the industry and doesn't really have any solution yet besides monitoring what's being sold online.

Some tricks:

  1. You can use a very annoying watermark that blends in the colors of the artwork; it's very hard to remove on color images and usually not worth trying to "patch it". Additionally, you can use a standard watermark and a grid watermark over the artworks.
  2. Don't provide images at very large size and super sharp quality. Low resolution JPG that are big enough to be viewed and have a watermark will make it hard to trace properly.
  3. You can use a previewing script with a zoom on your website. Sometimes, it's almost impossible to extract the large version and too annoying to take screenshots and re-assemble the images together. Lot of stock pictures sites use this.
  4. Black and white graphics are the easiest to trace even with a watermark, simply by adjusting the levels. One way to make it more difficult is to use watermarks that have grids and/or glowing effects to add blur. This will most likely require a bit more stamping tool work to remove.
  5. Show the designs on a textured background, for example, the fabric. This adds more data that will make it annoying to clean up before tracing the artwork or will end up in a poor result.
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    Or simply just realize that doing most of those harms your customers, and that ultimately its about focusing on those that are willing to buy and not focus on lost sales that would never have gone trough. If they want to copy your design they will... theres nothing you really can do about it. – joojaa Dec 21 '15 at 8:09
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    @joojaa Obviously stock pictures sites wouldn't spend so much effort in using similar tricks if what you're saying was entirely true. People are used to watermarks and scripts that zoom on the artwork, it doesn't affect the sales at all. If it does, you can show data on this in a separate answer. What affects the sales is when a bunch of thieves offers the same artwork on a t-shirt at $5 instead of $55, or offer the graphic online for free. The OP asked for solutions, I offered -- some -- options and even wrote an intro about the fact nothing can be fully protected. Can't be much clearer! – go-junta Dec 21 '15 at 8:16
  • It's true though that what looks good will be copied eventually. That's life! But it's not a bad idea to try to extend the "original concept" as long as possible by making it harder to copy the files. Being copied is less of an issue for people who are already well established and keep on creating new artwork and innovating! So these are "meta" solutions here to add to the practical ones in my answer! – go-junta Dec 21 '15 at 8:21
  • It's true that all of these will make things slightly more difficult for the thief, but also a lot more annoying for the potential customer. From a UX perspective, I'd think twice before implementing anything like these solutions. – DA01 Dec 22 '15 at 3:32
  • @DA01 You could answer the question by adding new suggestions and why from a UX perspective it's a bad idea and how you'd proceed. Your comment doesn't really explain why and I wouldn't see why it's an issue because I'm not a UX expert. Maybe examples of corporations who use different techniques that work and that are less annoying. That would bring another perspective. – go-junta Dec 22 '15 at 3:41

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