Skip to Main Content

Images for Designers and Art Researchers


This guide is intended for students who are working on academic assignments such as research papers, mood boards, presentations, and e-portfolios. The guide is intended to be educational and non-commercial.

Please note the examples contained in this guide are based on the author's interpretation of proper citing procedures.  There are few standards for image citation for educational purposes in the Chicago Manual of Style.

It is not intended to be used for scholarship by faculty members; for publishing online to the general public; or for commercial purposes.  Students should speak to instructors for guidelines for specific assignments.  For example, citations might be unnecessary for certain studio projects.

Fair Use

The four factors used to determine whether fair use applies are:

  • the purpose and character of your use
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

Resources for Fair Use of Art Images

In 2015, the College Art Association (CAA) published The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use in the Visual Arts, which provides guidance on image use for those who write about, teach, display, archive, or make art. 

Resources for Faculty

Resources for Documentary Filmmakers

Commercial Sources

When using images in a manner that does not qualify as fair use, image copyright holders must be consulted.

For example, when an image is being used in a book that will be published by a for-profit publisher, the author or publisher is usually responsible for clearing copyright (obtaining permission and/or paying a licensing fee) for the images.  To clear copyright, contact whoever owns the image.  The copyright holder might be a museum, a library, a photographer, an artist, or an artist's estate.  Many artists are represented by Artists Rights Society.

All databases (library, commercial, and non-commercial) are governed by terms of use:


Some web resources provide tools for sharing or embedding images. It is preferable to use these tools whenever they are available (rather than downloading and re-uploading image files, or taking screenshots).

Copyright for Your Own Work

Did you know that anyone can copyright their creative work?  You can do it online at  You can register multiple works under the same copyright and revise the works after they are registered.  

Questions?  Ask Us, contact Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, or refer to the resources below: