Using Other People’s Patterns In Artwork

Using Other People’s Patterns In My Artwork – To Do or Not To Do

digital collage art cat whipple girl in hat 235x300 Using Other Peoples Patterns In ArtworkI am having a hard time finding repeat pattern designs that I can use in my artwork without fear of infringing upon other people’s copyrighted artwork. It’s such a bummer that copyright law is so complicated and confusing.

As an example, my digital collage artwork at the left is an example of what I am talking about. The designs in the hat and on the dress are from an old textile design that is in the public domain, and know I can safely use.

But the background leaves are from a Photoshop brush that was created by someone else, in which the terms of use say that it can be used for “commerical” purposes. So that seems safe, right?

(I want to add here that I don’t just use those designs “as is”. I layer them with other elements and textures, and change the color schemes to match my overall artwork.)

But then, what happens in the future if I get the opportunity to license this artwork for products? Is it really safe to use? And how does the product industry and art reps in general view this type of artwork. Do they think it’s OK and safe? Or do they prefer all artists create even the tiniest of design elements within all their digital artwork, or paper collage artwork for that matter (see my mixed media collage Blue Cat, where I used designer paper).

I have tried creating my own repeating patterns from using old dingbats and elements in the public domain, they all kind of turned out OK. I have also tried scanning my doodles in and creating patterns from those. Let me let you, that’s a lot of work. Work that I would rather spend creating artwork, not repeating patterns. (I guess I’m not destined to be a pattern surface designer.)

pattern backgrounds 300x199 Using Other Peoples Patterns In ArtworkThere does seem to be some alternatives out there, but I’m still confused about those as well. For example, I found an Etsy seller called Miashop Digital Art that sells some pretty gorgeous repeating background patterns (the image at left is a partial screen shot of her store), and in her terms of use she says they can be used in commercial products.

Does that mean if I use her design elements, say in a hat or on a tree within an overall larger piece of artwork, that I could license that product without infringing upon her artwork copyright? I am going to email her and ask her about that. I’ll update this post, if and when I get a response.


I received a very quick response from the owner of Miashop Digital Art. Here is her kind response:

“I like your post, it’s very interesting! Yes, that means that you can use them for any commercial use. At least the images from my shop. Like you, sometimes I use images from the internet with a lot of confusing and different copyright terms that I have to read each time. For that reason when I opened my shop I decided to be very clear with that and not confuse people with quantity limits, only small business and things like that. So they can be used without worrying about it. I love to see what people do with the designs, they have been created for that purpose and if the people can create others items to sell… Great!!!

About the info I say about the designs “as is” I mean to resell them as digital papers or printed digital papers, it could be bad for my little shop 😛 but it’s not obligatory to change the colors or design.”

That last sentence can be confusing if you have not read her TOU. She means they can’t be sold or used “as is” but must be incorporated into other work or reworked to create something new.

This is good news, that means I don’t have to create every single little design myself. Now I just wonder what art reps and the product industry think about all of this.


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