For example, let's say I wanted to "illustrate" a certain type of car in Illustrator. The easiest and fastest way would be to find a picture of that car on google, let's say, and trace it with the pen tool. But I know you can run into copyright issues, so would it be best to draw it myself from the picture and then bring it in Illustrator and trace my drawing?

Just free handing straight in Illustrator can be hard for me. But sometimes I find it easier to just trace a picture (I found on google for example) so that the outline is exactly how it is supposed to look.

So what would be the correct/better way to go about this?

1 Answer 1


This is a tricky question because there are two levels of copyright at play.

If you trace or copy a photograph then the photographer has copyright over the image because the angle, lighting, etc qualifies the photograph as an artistic creation. So depending on how much of that is recognisable in your drawing, you may well be infringing the copyright of the photographer.

On top of that, the appearance of the car is the intellectual property of the company that designed and made it so if it is recognisable as a particular model or brand of vehicle then that's another copyright to consider.

How much of an issue this is all is depends on the ultimate intended use of the illustration that you are creating and how closely it resembles whatever you are copying.

  • That makes sense and I see what you mean. But what I'm saying is what if I wanted to create the exact model of the car? That's why I would find a picture of that car in the first place. Like if I'm illustrating something specific and want a certain type of car it's hard to just free hand it in Illustrator or make up a car. Like would it be ok if I did that or would that not be "allowed?" Do you understand what I'm saying?
    – Bekah
    Dec 1, 2016 at 14:56
  • I do, but like I said, it depends on the use. If you're passing it off as your own artistic creation then probably NO. If you're intending to make money from it then probably NO. If it's strictly for personal use then almost certainly YES.
    – Westside
    Dec 1, 2016 at 15:14
  • But aren't there graphic designers that design many things that resemble other things and still make money off of it or is it strictly their own made up creation? So basically whatever you design to make money off of, can't have a single hint of resemblance to another design whatsoever correct?
    – Bekah
    Dec 1, 2016 at 15:24
  • You've pretty much summed it up there. If something you're selling is a recognisable copy of somebody else's IP then either you can't do it or you will need their permission and they will probably want a slice of the money.
    – Westside
    Dec 1, 2016 at 15:26
  • And one other thing, for example, there are Trump T-Shirts you can buy with Trump's face on them. Did those graphic designer get permission to use his face then?
    – Bekah
    Dec 1, 2016 at 15:28

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