Checklist for Crediting Your Art

This article is for every artist who is concerned about getting credit for their art.

It's not unusual for artists to be concerned about protecting their copyright.

Back in the early days of the Internet, I recall many an artist fearful of putting their work online for fear it be “stolen.”

Then Pinterest came along and, boy, you would have thought it was the end of the world. Somebody somewhere read the small print in the user agreement and misinterpreted it as Pinterest being able to do whatever it wanted to with your art.

Same for every social media platform.

The Fear of Someone Stealing Your Art

The fear has always been just below the surface—ready to be provoked by anything new and untested. Or by anyONE new and untested.

What if someone steals my images?

You are absolutely right to do whatever you can, legally and within reason, to protect your intellectual property (your art).

But what I can't seem to reconcile is when artists aren't taking precautionary steps to claim ownership in the first place.

I'm not talking about officially registering for copyright. Whether or not you choose to do this is up to you.

I urge you to listen to my conversation with attorney Kathryn Goldman in episode 125 of The Art Biz about her framework for legally protecting your art work.

But let's get on with the topic at hand.

Michael Joyal painting
©Michael Joyal, Never Give Candy To Strangers. Watercolor and acrylic, 40 x 30 inches.

To get credit for your art

First claim it for yourself

Credit for Your Art Starts With Your Name

Again, whether or not you take the steps to register official copyright is up to you. It really is a decision that each artist has to decide for themselves.

I'm talking about giving yourself credit whenever and wherever you show your art. It starts by identifying yourself by name. 

You aren't properly crediting your art if your name isn't visible next to your art

If you want to be known in the history books, pick a single format for your name and use it consistently. For example:

First Name + Last Name
First Name + Middle Initial + Last Name
First Name + Maiden Name
First Name + Maiden Name + Last Name 

As I say in How to Name Your Art Business, the name you choose to use isn’t the same as how you sign your work. Those are two different things.

You get to decide what your professional name is.

I love how Suzanne McNenly reclaimed her formal name in this Instagram post.

Make Sure Your Name Is Visible

Now that you've decided on the name you want to be known by, made sure it shows up in all these places.

  • At the top of every page on your website or blog. This has become easier with the advent of template sites like WordPress, FASO, SquareSpace, and Wix, but you still have to remember to include it in the first place.
  • At the top of or below the signature in your email newsletter.
  • In the “from” line in your email. Please use email with your professional name in it.
  • In the signature that closes out a personal email to anyone but your nearest and dearest.
  • On any storefront you use online. Even if you use a business name, your name should have a prominent place.

This free report should be helpful.

Then there are the situations that require more than your name. 

Aleea Jaques painting
©Aleea Jaques, Isabelle. Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 x 1.5 inches.

Enter the Art Credit Line

Wouldn’t you be irate if someone showed your art and didn’t give you credit? Can you imagine going into your exhibition without any labels of attribution to you as the artist?

Here’s the thing: Before someone else can give you credit, you have to claim the credit for yourself, and many artists are not doing this.

A credit line is what you include alongside your art whenever and wherever it is shown: your website, social media, printed material, or a wall label.

The credit line includes your name, Title of the piece (in italics if possible), Medium and/or technique, Dimensions (if online or in print), and Photography credit (if online or in print).

[ Related: Pointers on Wall Labels for Your Exhibition ]

Adding Copyright Notification (and the © Symbol)

When the image is online or in print, add your copyright notification to claim legal credit for your art. (The © symbol isn’t used on gallery and museum labels.)

Twenty-five years ago, I never would have encouraged the use of the © symbol, but the Internet has changed the dynamics.

Hopefully would-be image bandits will think twice when they see that a piece is copyrighted (and it is copyrighted the moment you make it, regardless of whether or not you officially register it).

Here are easy instructions for adding the © symbol, rather than using the clunky (c) with your credit line.

Making a Copyright Symbol on a Mac

Hold down the OPTION key and type the letter g. 

Making a Copyright Symbol on a PC

Click Ctrl+Alt+c simultaneously.

Janet Jordan bronze sculpture
©Janet Jordan, Finding Her Backbone. Bronze, 12 x 14 x 10 inches.

Listing Dimensions of Your Art Properly

The proper way for listing dimensions when crediting your art is Height x Width for 2-dimensional art.

If you are a painter, don’t include with the depth of your canvas unless it’s unusually deep, like the painting structures of Tomashi Jackson, which protrude from the wall 9 inches or more.

It’s Height x Width x Depth for 3-dimensional art.

While there is no authoritative way to style credit lines, they're easier when you develop a standard format. You don’t have to think about it because you have a proper way (your way) to do it.

You’ll notice in the image credits on this page that we have a consistent format for all credit lines for the art we feature. This is the format we use:

©Artist’s Name, Title of Work in Italics. Medium/technique, dimensions (H x W x D).

If we include the year of creation, it appears immediately after the © notice:

©Year, Artist’s Name, Title of Work in Italics. Medium/technique, dimensions (H x W x D).

Feel free to steal it for yourself.

Jane Pettis assemblage.
©Jane Pettit, Waiting Up. Assemblage of recycled dishes, glass, found objects with acrylic paint, window frame, 21 x 26 inches.

Where to Include Your Credit Line

Where above I mentioned places where you want to make sure (just) your name is visible, these are situations that require a complete credit line be visible next to the art. 

  • On your website or blog.

    A frequent oversight on artist websites is when clicking an image opens a larger version but hides the artist's name and credit line. Then you have people admiring your art without seeing your name attached to it. Not good! This is the most overlooked opportunity to claim credit.

    Look now: Is your credit line visible when the images are clicked on and enlarged?

  • In your social media posts that contain finished artwork. Yes! even there. Perhaps especially there.


    Work in progress is a different matter, but finished work should have the full credit line, with all of the information I listed above.

  • In printed promotional pieces: postcards, catalogs, flyers, brochures, calendars, note cards, and the like.
  • At your exhibition. You do not need dimensions on a label in a live show because people can see the size for themselves. It would, however, be included in a checklist of the exhibition. (See note about © info on labels above.)

I encourage you to take 5 or 10 minutes to review all of your sites and promotional pieces to see that you have included your name and credit line. But only if you want the credit.

This post was originally published March 9, 2017, updated on July 25, 2019, and again now with original comments intact.

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39 thoughts on “Checklist for Crediting Your Art”

  1. Good tips. Remember, too, to fill in the Alt Text box when uploading images to Pinterest, etc. This is the text that shows below your image when published. (Of course, pinners have the option of changing it.)

    Credit needs to be part of any uploaded artwork image. To make this easier, use Photogene or other apps to add text to your phone photos before uploading.

    1. Ellen: I agree with the alt text info. But I’m not sure I agree with the other. I think it’s fine. It’s just so onerous. My jury is still out on this.

  2. Good post, Alyson!

    Here’s another problem I’ve seen way too often. I have come across many websites where the artist’s name is never mentioned. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why an artist would do this. Usually the artist talks about “we” and “our” instead of using his/her name.

    If a person is interested in a piece of art on the website, they have no way of knowing who to address when inquiring. People want to connect with a real person, the artist; not some corporate sounding entity. This is a missed opportunity for the artist to connect personally with potential collectors.

    Another thing I’ve seen in ads in magazines is the artist’s name as a signature which is unreadable. This is another missed opportunity to get your name into a collector’s mind.

  3. Very, very helpful! I put my name and © at the bottom of each page on my website but it’s never occurred to me to add the info whenever I post my work. Thank you too, Ellen Linder, for the additional tips!

  4. I embed my name in my image in a watermark before posting online. That way if it is separated or event printed it has my name attached.

    Of course, I send images without the watermark when presenting show proposals.

  5. Alyson, the other place I have seen artists often not give them selves credit is at “shows”/ hanging their art in cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops (businesses too). I think if the business won’t let you put labels up then you shouldn’t show your work there since you don’t really get exposure and sales are usually nil without a label and price indicating the item is for sale.

  6. Kim Shuckhart Gunns

    Alyson, I’m probably on the Naughty list. I use my initials for signing my work and easy website name as my artist name is long. My main info is on a different about page, and I have 3 POD websites for prints and product which I would like convert to my own site having one main site and have the pod’s and videos from there instead. Love that other artists contribute great info too thanks Ellen Linder

  7. Hi = I was thinking about this as a person came to pick up a painting I was donating to a charity gala fundraiser for the Cancer Fund. When I first donated a painting years ago- to something different-I just donated it and knew that it would be in the brochure. The person who bought it, and who eventually became a collector, had to look me up. Now I do a better job of identifying myself. Not only do I glue a business card on the back, but I also attach a one-page biography that I also use for other hand-outs. So – even if nothing else results from the donation, at least the person getting it has some information about me . This, of course, includes my website. You never know, if a friend asks about the painting, the owner can be more knowledgeable. Building up a reputation takes a lot of time. I also have some paintings in our city hospital . They do a nice job with a permanent plaque on the wall with the title and the artist’s name. I have had people come up to me elsewhere and thank me for the paintings I have in the hospital!

    1. I,too, had affixed all my info to the back of a painting that was donated. Two years later, I was contacted by the owner and was commissioned to do a painting for her.

  8. Kia Ora Alyson,
    I print a “Certificate of Authenticity” and attach it to the back of each completed and framed painting.
    Certificate of Authenticity Number: 1/2017 (Sequentially number each painting for each year)
    This certifies that the painting “name of painting”
    Was painted by (Full legal name of artist)
    Signed as ” signature” (I use my nick name “Gazza”)
    Was (purchased/given as a gift/donate to etc)

    Signed by Artist (Legal Signature)
    I also add a “chop” as another means of identification. I have a Chinese Chop with my name Gary which has two symbols meaning “To add good things” and “profit” I use this to stamp an impression on the certificate and on the back of each painting.

  9. Though everyone’s original artwork is automatically protected by copyright once it’s completed (paint on to canvas, ink to paper, etc.), I routinely register my art with the United States Copyright Office (USCO) before displaying, selling, licensing, or sharing it with friends and my social media network.

    Here’s how I marked my posted art:

    Registered Copyright © [year of first publication] + my name + web URL or social media handle + specifications of the artwork with title, medium, dimensions, etc. + my issued copyright Certificate of Registration number + other information (if any) + [Licensed artwork].

    Julie Drew wrote, “I embed my name in my image in a watermark before posting online.” This is a great idea! You could even create a stylized watermark to match the artwork.

    If a party has my authorization to display my art, I require them to label it as “Licensed artwork,” rather than “Used with permission.” Using legal terms like “licensing,” presents artwork in a more professional manner.

    How do you prove that you created your art piece? You simply register it with the USCO! If you register your artwork’s copyright before publication or within five-years of first-publication, you’re granted “presumptive proof” that your copyright and the facts stated in the copyright registration application are all valid. See page 7 of http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf (17 U.S. Code § 410(c)). Using the Poor Man’s Copyright (mailing a print copy of your art in a SASE) is not a substitute for registration and has no legal effect in US copyright law. See https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#poorman

  10. Thank you for all the good ideas!

    Here’s another tip for online—when you save your images to post, you can put your name in the image title plus a description. For example “Studio Name or FirstLastName_Painting_NWLandscape” (You will get more out of Google searches too.)

  11. Susan LC wrote, “…you can put your name in the image title plus a description. For example ‘Studio Name or FirstLastName_Painting_NWLandscape’ (You will get more out of Google searches too.).”

    This is a great point!

    You can also create and include a personal code number, say t3yy9b3ek5, in ALL your image titles: FirstLastName_Painting_ t3yy9b3ek5_NWLandscape. You could enter this code number in a Google search where your works are being used.

    The US copyright statute identifies image titles along with affixed watermarks, credit lines, and embedded metadata as “Copyright Management Information” (CMI).

    Per 17 USC § 1202, if a party removes OR changes any CMI to hide an infringement, artists are eligible to pursue DMCA/CMI enhanced statutory money damages of $2,500 to $25,000 against US-based infringers (this legal option does NOT require the work to be registered with the US Copyright Office!). Attorney fees are also available against the infringer. I’m seeing more and more copyright attorneys using this strategy to pursue art thieves:

    1) Options for Recovering Infringement Damages: http://www.photoattorney.com/?s=cmi

    2) Did Someone Remove the Copyright Notice from your Photograph? http://www.photolaw.net/did-someone-remove-the-copyright-notice-from-your-photograph.html

    If artists choose not to register their copyrights (bad business mistake!), they should, at the very least, affix CMI to their posted & shared works to obtain some legal redress in case of infringements.

  12. I picked up some wonderful points from the post as well as the comments for double checking my credit bylines. I have a question. In case of paintings on my own website, do I need to put the copyright credit underneath each of the paintings? My website name is the same as my own name and I have a bold notice at the bottom of each website page about my copyright. Thanks.

  13. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stumbled on an Instagram account that I love, but the artist has hardly any information! Or they use something cryptic as their bio, like “&thensome” (actual example). Are they too cool for a bio? Are they so popular I should just know who they are?

  14. I’ve often wondered about watermarks, which is what I currently do but sometimes hesitate on becauseof how it is a little intrusive into the art. Is it better to just use the credit under the image? I also have a business name and I wonder sometimes about using that as opposed to my real name as the artist. I’d like to be known by both and one associated with the other. Perhaps both in the credit line? Thanks so much for all of your useful information! I’m really enjoying your site.

  15. A very interesting and helpful article – thank you!

    My understanding, however, is that a copyright notice should be the copyright symbol, the word “Copyright”or the abbreviation “Copr.”, the year of first use, then the copyright owner’s name.

    There is more information in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_notice

    The notice is apparently not required to actually have copyright, but it certainly helps deter theft and defend against it.

    I hope this helps.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Mary: I do believe that’s how I wrote it in the two examples (in magenta) above. The problem is that many artists do not want to note the dates of their artworks online.

  16. May I add another suggestion? When posting about an exhibit you are in, put the name of the gallery, the address, town/city, state along with the date and time of the opening. Artists post about getting ready for an exhibit, but don’t share the important information of who/what/where/when–the basics of any announcement or PR that folks who might attend your exhibit would like to know.

  17. In your example in magenta

    ©Year, Artist’s Name, Title of Work in Italics. Medium/technique, dimensions (H x W x D).

    Is the year the year when the work was created or 2021?

    Website should be up next week.

    Thanks for all the tips

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Hi, Betty. The year in which it was created. That’s always the © date. Many artists don’t use that in their credit lines, but this is where you would put it if you’re publishing online.

  18. What should I do if a journalist wants to include a picture of my art by itself in an online newspaper publication as part of her story about Jason Kelce fan art? Where do I put my name?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Marie: Just follow the credit line I have outlined here. You give them the print and the credit line together. Bare minimum would be ©Your Name, Artwork Title. They may have a different format, but that info needs to be there.

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