for tattooed people, and those who want to be

a brief sidebar about Other People’s Art


Besides being careful about not copying images that represent other people’s religious or spiritual beliefs, I think it’s important not to “pirate” other people’s artwork as well.

Sure, there is a lot of flash out there on the internet and a lot of artwork posted by incredibly talented people. A lot of it would be fabulous as tattoos. But to just blithely assume that because something is posted on the internet it’s free for the taking is, quite simply, dead wrong.

The first and most honest approach is to email or write the artist and ask for permission to reproduce his or her work as your tattoo. Yes, you may have to pay a royalty for that privilege, especially if the artist is trying to make a living from the sale of his or her work. You won’t know till you ask, and if the artist does request a payment, my own feeling is that you shouldn’t haggle too much. Artists put a lot of time, effort and talent into what they create, and to suggest a lower price might well be insulting.

A second approach is to use someone else’s work as an inspiration for your own design rather than trying to copy it directly. This is what I did when I designed the dragon on my back–I found someone else’s work that I liked, and then used that as a starting point for my own adaptation. My dragon looks only vaguely like the one that inspired it, but if I had not seen the other artist’s work I wouldn’t have gotten the inspiration I needed to do my own work.

A third approach, if you see someone’s work you like, is to offer to commission the artist to create something unique for you. The fee for this may be surprisingly reasonable and you’ll be assured of high quality artwork that’s customized for you.

Sure, it might be true that nobody would know that you’d copied someone else’s design without their knowledge or permission… but is that what an ethical person would do? As Jiminy Cricket would say, let your conscience be your guide.

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Author: infmom

I got my first tattoo when I was 46. I hope the people who read this blog don't have to wait that long. I love talking about body art.


  1. i think that people shouldn’t get mad over this “stealing art work.” unless the person is going around and saying “yeah i made that” people shouldn’t be getting mad over it, if they just use it for a tattoo because they like it the people should be grateful that the image was so good to them that they had it tattooed onto there body

  2. THANK YOU! I recently asked somebody if they got the permission of a Japanese artist for her tattoo. I was basically told that you could steal whatever image you liked, so long as no big corporation owned a copyright. I was APALLED! Why would you think that an artist’s intellectual property was perfectly okay to take?

    If people don’t expect to get tattoos done for free, they CERTAINLY shouldn’t expect to get tattoo artwork for free!

    • Artists put a lot of time, talent and soul into their creations, and unless the artist chooses to offer the art for free nobody should expect to receive it as a gift.

      I’m sure the people stealing tattoo art would be outraged if something of theirs was stolen and the thief said it was out there for the taking.

  3. THANK YOU. I just asked somebody if they asked a Japanese artist for permission when she used her art for the tattoo and was told, basically, that you can steal whatever artwork you like! I was apalled, doesn’t intellectual property mean anything?

    If you don’t expect to get a free tattoo, don’t expect to get free tattoo art, or steal it!

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