How ethical is "recreating" someones image?

Today I was trying to work on a commission for a well respected roblox group. I was on trial to making icons for this game. I was told draw a small shopping basket and was provided a picture as a reference. I created three versions because the employer was not satisfied after every single one (each taking me about a hour to complete). As a artist on this platform, I like to be as creative and original as possible. With the employer continuing to ask me to change my drawing too look more like the reference photo I came to a realization. Although I was drawing the basket from scratch, the employer wanted it to look like “the same style” as the reference basket. The more I modified my original design the more uncomfortable I felt. I had copied the shape, texture, handle, shading. Everything was the same except for the font and line thickness. To what extent is it ok to “recreate” someones art style? Usually if I were doing something like this where the owner wanted me to copy someone else’s design while only slightly modifying color, I would credit the original artist, but in this case, its just a zoomed in cropped image and I cannot back search it on google. The owner is very kind and in no way is this their fault or anything like that. On top of that, this would be a very well paying job but I’m not sure how this fits with my morals and what I stand for. I want to be as honest as possible on this platform and I’m worried about being called a “tracer” and ruining my reputation, what should I do?


The copyright only protects finished work, not the art style itself. Therefore you can recreate it, as long it does not seem to be too much of “edited” version of an original content, or whatever the copyright laws says. Tracing art is often frowned upon and don’t receive as much respect from others. :confused:

Changed to #help-and-feedback:art-design-support as it seems to be more about the art design itself on the technicality of copyright.


I like your point of view! They told me they wanted it in a certain style but kept pushing to have it look just like a color changed version from the original, I feel a bit more confident now though.

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Legally, it is totally ethical and fine.

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What do you think about morally?

I think it’s fine tbh since you are not stealing somebody’s work.

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this topic is mildly confusing and is completely dependent on the person or art style

The other two people who commented seem to answer this pretty well but I just wanted to answer the title question,

In a short answer; Yes. It is totally ethical and within reason to recreate someone else’s artwork and you won’t be ruined because of it. Although, reality is that if you draw over any image someone will eventually call you a tracer. But that’s besides the point, the point being that you won’t get a ruined reputation for recreating and putting some spin on the original artwork.

Now, if you want to get confused and read my attempt to explain why; read further.

However, I also believe there is a thin line between blatantly stealing, inspiration, and recreating. Most times when you recreate someone else’s art you want to try to credit them. You will see this alot when artists remake another artists but put some kind of edit or spin on it. But when someone steals art they will try to pass it off as their own as hard as they can and very minimal things will be changed about it, such as color. In my own personal definition

  • Stealing someone else artwork is pretty much stealing the original image and changing the color or the change isn’t noticeable at all.

    • Something not noticeable doesn’t mean that the stroke size is different as I would most likely be able to tell right off the bat. Something not noticeable is like a single pixels color code being offset by 3.
  • Recreating / Inspiration on the other hand would either blatantly recreating someone else’s artwork with credit or taking elements from someone else’s artwork to use as your own. An example of recreating would be when I recreated Asathenes’ “Alone”.


My Recreation

You can see in the example’s above I made a pretty much ripoff of his work. Then although it is a blatant ripoff, I wasn’t hated on or ruined because of it. This is probably because I credited him and said it was a recreation with some small personalized touches of my own.

Now, I’m sure if I didn’t credit him I would have gotten a tiny bit of backlash. But, it would then still be tiny because 1. Mine is still completely original and 2. There is enough different about mine where it’s not technically stealing.

I want to mention that this entire thing can be twisted depending on art style. I’m going to assume the work you created is a 2d Basket of some kind and similar looking things can be found on flaticon.

Relating back to your case, We have to understand that these flaticon images can be found everywhere and so many different ones exist that will probably look exactly like it. Therefore I’m sure anyone can find something that is super similar to the one you created just without text.

So then when creating these flat images from scratch the line between stealing and recreating becomes very blurry. That means it would be hard to pinpoint whether someone actually stole the art or made it themselves. Now, if someone actually did want to pinpoint if it is stolen they would look for the small details in these small icons like font size or stroke lines (which are noticeable), and that is how you can prove yours is original.

Then again, if someone actually goes through those lengths to see if you copied or not they are probably obsessed with you.

To close this off I will restate the obvious;

It is completely fine to recreate someone else artwork as long as there is something about the main image that is noticeable other than color that is different.

Now, of course there is much more to this entire debate which includes tracing over an actual image, cropping, assets, and a lot more; but that obvious sentence pretty much sums up the gist of the whole thing.

Sorry for making this posts layout and text very confusing I hope I explained it easily enough.