Guide to roleplay reference pictures

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Guide made by Lacuna

Taking suggestions and links to add to the guide!

Art theft is a serious problem on Chicken Smoothie, and the roleplay boards are a large culprit. In this guide I aim to help you use and credit roleplay references so you will never have to fear that you are committing art theft! Please read through everything I've posted below and ask any questions you might have--I'm here to help you! Also, if you have any other resources please comment and I will add them to the guide.

Other Guides/Rules that May Help You:
Image Posting Guidelines for the RP boards
Art/Image Posting Rules

Basic Guidelines

  • The internet has millions of pictures, but the majority of them are under copyright. This means you cannot use them without express, written permission from the owner. Saying you do not own an image is not good enough; the image is still stolen.
  • Pulling pictures off a search engine, such as Yahoo! or Google, is not acceptable because you do not have a source for them, and have no idea who they belong to.
  • Taking images from wehearit, Photobucket, Tumblr, or other image sharing sites is not okay, because people often reupload or reblog without a source, so once again you don't know who to credit (or if you are allowed to use these images at all).
  • Images from doll creators or other games may be used if the owner allows and a link back to the game is provided.
  • If there is a copyright or watermark somewhere on the art or photo, chances are it is not free to use: choose another image.
  • Art and photos from deviantART, Flickr, or any other art/photo sharing community must have express written permission clearly visible to moderators and other players on the post. Many images from these sites cannot be used, but I will be showing you which ones can!
  • If you have special permission to use an image or an image was created specifically for you please link to it on the forum post so we can see it!

Where to Find Images

deviantART stock
There is a huge stock community on deviantART with stock ranging from animal, to model, to objects (I've seen a few RPs where people play as objects, so who knows what you will need)! On deviantART you do not need an account to use the stock images, as all SFW content is visible to non-members. Please note that you can usually edit and reupload these images if they're too big, but if the artist says they cannot be taken off deviantART you cannot reupload or use them. The link above will take you to the stock art section, and then you can get started!

  • I chose "model" from the categories on the left and chose "female" after that.
  • I entered "hipster" in the search box.
  • I came up with this great potential reference!
  • Once I clicked on the image, I could see the user's rules below the image. I'm good to go to use this as a character reference, as long as I don't try to sell anything (non-commercial use only), don't use it in an offensive way (which CS wouldn't allow anyway), and I link back to user PrettyUglyMe in my character form.

Flickr Creative Commons | with Editing Cababilities
Flickr is a photo sharing website, and most images on it will not be free to use. However, by using their advanced search you will be able to find images licensed under Creative Commons, which usually allows non-commercial use of the images including character reference! Please note that you will need an account with Flickr in order to get the codes to post the images. Don't worry; it's free! Click the link to go to the advanced search and we can get started. The second link is a different website that pulls images from Flickr that are licensed in the same way, and also has editing tools to help you better fit them to your character formats. There are tutorials on that website so take a look at them!
Example: (for the first link)

  • Start by entering your search term. I chose "teen boy."
  • Turn your safe search on (we don't need any images that aren't appropriate for CS)!
  • Choose the search type "Only Photos" because videos won't be very useful.
  • Finally, and most importantly, check the box that says "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content" and click Search!
  • I turned my filter (top left) to "interesting" and found this great potential reference!
  • Scroll down to the bottom and you will see some text that says "Attribution License." Clicking on this shows us what we can and cannot do with this photo. We're good to go for using this photo, as using it as a character reference counts as "sharing" which is allowed!
  • Clicking this icon: will bring up the share menu. This icon: will change the option to BBCode, so you can post it on CS forums. You can also use the drop down to change the image size (don't reupload images; that's what we're trying to avoid). Use the generated code to post the image as the link back is already included!

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons is where all the images on Wikipedia come from, and most of them are free to use! It also includes many images that are not actually on Wikipedia pages, so search around and see what you can find. This site is not as helpful for pictures of people, but for animal references and decorative images for your roleplay it can be a great source. Let's take a look at how it works!

  • This looks just like Wikipedia, which I'm sure most of you have used. Just type whatever you want in the search box and go! I searched for "snow leopard."
  • The page comes up with a lot of great information (may you could use it to develop your character?) and I have to scroll past that to find the images.
  • I clicked on this image.
  • Underneath the picture I can see that this photo (like many photos on this site) is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Just like on Flickr, I am able to use this photo as a character reference.
  • I can also see that this photo belongs to Bernard Landgraf. If I use this as a character reference that's the person I need to credit in my form.
  • Google Images

Just because I have a section about Google Images, where most of the art theft comes from, does not mean that you can use just any old image you search up. There is actually a way to use Google Images that doesn't break the rules though, because there is an option to search for images that are free to use. Note that most of the results will come from either Flickr or Wikimedia Commons, but this does put them both in the same place. Just follow these steps!

  • Enter your search term into the box and hit enter! I chose "Scottish fold cat."
  • Click on "Search Tools."
  • Click on "Usage rights" and choose "labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification" (this will give you the largest number of images to use that you can edit; the main restriction is that you can't use them to make money!)
  • Browse the images and choose one you like. I chose this one.
  • Click the white title link to the right of the image (once you click on it like above) and it will take you to the image's source, where you can see the exact license, which will probably look like one we've seen before!

Free Stock Photo Archives
At this point I'm sure you're getting to be an expert at looking for rules and copyright licenses are a breeze (if not please ask questions)! Here are some sites that offer free photos you can use as character references:

Celebrities and TV Shows
Images/gifs of celebrities and from movies and television shows are often distributed online for fan use, and we allow you to use these for character reference. It is not okay to use fan art that artists have drawn of a character, celebrity, etc. because it is copyrighted by that person rather than distributed for fan use. Please state who your celebrity face claim is in your form if you are using celebrity images. (If you have more info to add to this section please comment! I'm not super experienced with it.)

Doll Creators/Dress Up Games/Generators
There are some websites such as Doll Divine and some users on deviantART and other websites that create doll makers or dress up games that may help you create character references. Make sure you take a look at the individual rules for these and provide a link to the game or generator where you created your image. (If you are familiar with any of these let me know and I will link them here!)

Finding an Image Source

There are several ways to find sources for images, which helps you understand if you are allowed to use them or not. Please note that many of the results from the searches you can do will not be the image source, but another person using it in the same way you are. Of course, there are ways to make finding the source easier, and unfortunately it is hard to find the source for some images. If you cannot find a source, the best option is to use another image or write a character description instead. To use the methods below you will need the direct link to the image you are trying to source. If you do not know how to get the direct link please read this.

Using the URL to your advantage
Some sites make it very easy to find the source for an image. For example, a link from deviantART has a ton of information in it that will lead you to the source. Example:
If we look at this link it's easy to see that the image is from "hotnstock" on deviantART and is called "white wolf stock 12." A simple search for these terms will easily turn up the page, and you will see that the image is free to use as a reference as long as you credit HOTNStock. However, if someone has reuploaded the image or the url doesn't help you one of the below methods may yield some results.

Google Search by Image
Once you click the link you will need to click the small camera icon in the search bar. This allows you to paste in your direct image link and search. (There is also the option to upload an image from your computer and search for it, so if you find something you saved ages ago and do not remember if it is free to use, try this option!) You may get results that are not relevant to what you are doing, as many people use popular images as avatars or in other ways and the search will find those as well. Try changing the automatic search term at the top of the page to "deviantART" or another art website if you think the image may have originated there. As it's one of the largest art communities, deviantART is a safe bet to find many images. When you find a likely source click on it and see what the image poster has said about the image or if you can find a Creative Commons license on the page. If you cannot find the source, do not use the image.

Tineye Reverse Image Search
This search is similar to Google's but it has a few more options that may help you find the source you are looking for. On the downside, it often returns fewer results than the Google search, so try both! This search has the same options for either using a direct image link or uploading an image from your computer that Google has, and they work in similar ways. The most useful other options that tineye has are the "Image Collection Results" and the option to search by largest or oldest images. The collection result looks for primary source images on many websites and in many collections, and these results are often your best bet for finding the image's true source. If these results don't help you or your image does not have any, instead try searching by largest image (often reposts of images are cropped or resized smaller, so the largest image is often the source) or oldest image (to find the first instance of the image on the web that tineye has seen). Neither of these are infallible, but they are certainly helpful. However, once again if you cannot find the source, do not use the image.

How to Write a Good Character Description

If all else fails and you cannot find the perfect image or the image you would like to use is copyright protected, you always have the option of describing your character in words. This is also helpful because we only allow one reference image per character, and you may want to describe outfits, accessories, tattoos, or pets, among other things. In this example I will be creating a human character, as that is what I am most comfortable with. However, this can easily be applied to animal/fantasy characters as well. You might want to try this as a challenge, even if you have an image!

  • Before you begin writing your character description, imagine your character. Jot down a list of their features: How tall are they? What color are their eyes? What do they like to wear? What is their complexion? Do they have any body modifications? This is the core information you will need.
  • A good description will also give hints to the character's personality, perhaps explaining why they dress a certain way or what expression they generally wear. You want to paint the same mental picture for the person reading the description that you have in your head, and that includes the character's mannerisms.
  • I usually start general and get specific. Paint your canvas with the character's general appearance before you get down to the interesting birthmark on their big toe, as it gives your reader a frame of reference for what's to come. It can be helpful to take the notes you wrote in the first step and organize them into what order you would like them to have in your final description, and then slowly bulk it up with description until you are satisfied with the result.
  • Incude as much detail as possible, not only because it creates a good description but because it also benefits you as a writer. When you're making a post you'll have a quick reference for your character's appearance, and it will help you write more detailed and literate roleplay posts (if that's what you're after, of course).
  • Make sure you show what makes your character unique. Always writing about the similar blonde, blue-eyed, 18-year-old girls can get boring. You want to stand out from the crowd and invite interesting roleplay interactions!
  • Finally, attempt to vary your sentence structure and word choice. Don't start every sentence with the character's name or pronoun, and make it interesting! This description is as important to your character as their personality, and makes a first impression with other roleplayers.

Zavin is five feet nine inches tall and his frame is lithe and delicately muscled. His skin is golden brown--often tanning to a coffee bean-like color in the summer months--and crisscrossed with pink and white scar tissue that gives away his occupation as a trained fighter. At nineteen he has grown out of his boyish awkwardness and is a well proportioned man who moves with a sense of grace owed to his profession. A shaggy messy of straight black hair crowns his head, roughly chopped into style by what appears to have been a knife. No two locks are the same length, not that Zavin seems to mind. Underneath his thick eyebrows two dark brown eyes meet an onlooker's, full of cheer and mischief. A smile often adorns his thin, oval face and full lips, straight white teeth showing with a flash of good humor. He has a sharp, beaked nose with the smallest of bumps from a previous break and sculpted cheekbones that would look much better on a woman. Zavin doesn't care much for fashion and usually dresses in loose fitting tunics and breeches, often in neutral colors. Many of his outfits would not be complete without a torn hem or an old stain, but he does have a few outfits that he would rather not destroy. Often he does not wear shoes, preferring to feel the ground under his work roughened feet. Daggers are sheathed all over his person, instantly ready for any confrontation.

(If you have a good example for another type of character let me know and I may add it here!)