Q. I received this revision request on iStock, but I’m not sure what it means?:

This illustration appears derived from another image, such as a photograph, sketch or grunge texture. If you are the sole copyright owner of your reference image please submit it using the ‘Property Release’ field for inspection. Please note you may not trace or copy any image you do not own the sole copyright of.

A. This is what we refer to as our ‘Derivative Artwork’ revision reason.

Basically, the inspector felt that part or all of your illustration couldn’t have been created solely from imagination. We would like to see any imagery (such as a photograph, sketch,render, grunge texture, etc) you used to create your illustration. For more information on reference imagery and derivative artwork please see iStock’s Illustrator’s Reference Guidebook.

Q. What kinds of illustrations do inspectors request reference for?

A. We will request reference for anything that was not created from imagination.

For example, if your illustration contains any the following subjects, we will need to see your reference:

  • Real-life objects or locations
  • Autotraced grunge textures (which can’t be created by hand)
  • Highly complicated perspectives
  • Extremely detailed photo-realistic renderings
  • Realistic people
  • Real life animals and plants
  • Autotraces of artwork, such as watercolor textures, pencil drawings, etc

Q. Do grunge textures require reference?

A. Yes, all autotraced textures require reference.

This is because auto tracing can only be done with a source image of some kind. We automatically know that an image was imported into your file to be autotraced when we see a grunge texture in your illustration.

Q. What file format should my reference be saved as?

A. Your reference image should be saved as either a JPEG, PDF, or PNG file.

The maximum file size is 10MBs per image and it should be in the RGB color space.

Q. How do I upload my reference image?

A. You can upload your reference image as a ‘Release’.

Click on the ‘+ Upload new release’ link under the ‘Releases’ panel in ESP. Browse for your reference, and choose ‘Property’ as your release type. Once you’ve saved your reference, go back to your Submission, select the files you’re adding your reference to, then click on the checkbox under ‘Releases’ to attach the reference to your file. Don’t forget to click ‘Save’ once you’re done, or your reference may not attach to your file.

Q. I’m not a photographer… How high quality does my reference image need to be?

A. Not high quality at all!

That’s the beauty of photographing your own reference: It really doesn’t need to be a perfectly lit, tack sharp image at all. Even a quick phone snapshot can give you everything you need to create a great derivative artwork. Your reference image doesn’t need to be super high resolution either: It should just be big enough for the inspector to confirm you took the photo yourself. Clients do not have access to your reference, only the inspectors see it when inspecting your files.

Q. I used multiple reference images. How do I attach them all?

A. You can either stitch them together in Photoshop, or upload multiple reference images in ESP and attach them all to your file.

There’s no limit to how many reference images you can upload and attach to your files in ESP.

Q. I got a revision request for a grunge texture, but I created it myself using Photoshop filters. What can I do?

A. If you create your own textures, simply take some screen shots showing your workflow.

All we need to confirm is that you’re making your own textures and not auto tracing someone else’s imagery as reference. Taking a few screen shots showing the steps you took to make your texture is totally fine.

Q. I found this cool photo on Google that I’d like to turn into an illustration. Can I do this

A. No. As per our Artist’s Supply Agreement, you must be the sole copyright owner of everything in your illustrations, and this includes any reference images you used.

You cannot trace someone else’s work then try to sell it as RF stock. Doing so will result in the closure of your account.

Q. Can I trace or copy Public Domain/Creative Commons images and submit them?

A. Although iStock accepts raster (JPEG) scans or photos of public domain artworks created prior to 1900, we cannot accept illustrations (vector or raster) traced or copied from the same content.

This is mainly due to legal issues relating to the illustration upload process vs. the photo upload process. When you upload an illustration, you are warranting to iStock that you own copyright to the illustration, as well as any reference sources. If your illustration is a trace of public domain works, then you cannot make this warranty and iStock cannot accept the file. For photos, you can take a photo of something, and you are not saying you are the owner or creator of that thing; you are representing that you took the photo of it. With illustrations, the legal warranty is different because each line in an illustration is made with intent, which is different from taking a photo. You can use these works as reference for subject matter or style, but tracing them or copying them is not permitted.

Q. I want to draw some realistic animals. Why can’t I just go on Google and grab some photos to trace?

A. Because you didn’t create those photos, and the copyright owner likely won’t be happy you’re selling traces of their work.

If you do want to draw animals we suggest you head outside with a camera, visit a zoo or wildlife preserve, and take your own reference photos.

Q. I like to draw from real life. How do I prove I’m not tracing a photo?

A. We recommend taking a quick photo of the real life object or location you are drawing.

This way, you can prove that you were drawing from life. You may also want to take some screen shots as you work to show you’re not tracing a photo: It’s a good habit to get into, in case there is ever a dispute about the origins of your artwork.

Q. I am using photos of my friends to trace. Do I need a model release?

A. Any illustrations of recognizable people require model releases.

Depending on how unique and recognizable a person is, this can even apply to silhouette traces, particularly when the model’s face is in profile and you can clearly see their facial features. You will even need a release if you are tracing images of yourself. For more information on model releases please see our Model and Property Release guide and our Model Release FAQs. When submitting your illustrations, you will need to include both your model release and the reference image you’ve traced.

Here are some examples of illustrations (on the left) next to the reference used to create them (on the right):

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