It’s just been a few days since you concluded work on your best design project yet. The client was awash with praise for you. You were grateful for the lavish review and the beautiful addition to your portfolio. But that joy is all gone now as you are inundated with knock off copies of your work popping up on other people’s blogs, social media, and even design portfolio.

Plagiarism isn’t something to smile about or to treat with any level of indifference. It takes away the joy of design and a lot of times gives the credit of your hardwork (or someone else’s) to another.

Thankfully, while the internet has made copying other people’s content a lot easier, it’s also provided useful tools that make it just as easy to get identify cases of plagiarism.

If you’ve experienced this form of theft in anyway, then you understand first hand it’s repercussions to your business and brand. Here are a few techniques for you to check if your work has been copied or to avoid from plagiarizing someone’s work.

1. Always use an original image file when available

Some clients will provide original photo files for you to work with in their designs. You should ensure to find out the copyright status of the images first.

More often than not, images – especially stock photos – include packets of information known as metadata that detail their name, original source, and copyright status.

If the photo has metadata, it will be easier for Google to search for it. Unfortunately metadata can be easily be gotten rid of by editing the picture or using a screenshot version of it. In this case, your best bet would be to use the original image file to do your image search.

2. Use high quality photo files and isolate the photos from your design.

To get the best search results, only use these kinds of photos. Images files of low quality won’t give you anything useful. Remember, Google only recognizes a small number odnimage formats including .jpg, .png, .tif, .gif, and .bmp so make sure you only work within these formats.

If the photo is a part of a banner ad or flier, the other design elements like text, colors, and other images can confuse the search engine and make it difficult for it to sort through the noise.

In such cases, it’s recommended you use a desktop computer so you can export the photo file from the design source file using design tools like Photoshop or Illustrator. You can also simply crop out everything but the picture where applicable or take a large screenshot of the image. Then drag and drop the photo into Google’s search box.

3. Search using black and white version of the image or design

The more times an image has been used the less likely it is to be exactly the same with the original. This is because people tend to alter the images as they go along.

So if you’re not getting any luck so far with your search results, try using a black and white/grayscale version of the image. This will help yield a better result even if the original hue of the image has been altered by other users. If you’re searching for the entire design, consider hoping the contrast so that all aspects of the design are clearly distinguishable from each other, with the images appearing as mostly black on a white background.

4. Flip, rotate, invert

Image alteration in your design doesn’t just have to do with changing the color combination. They may have also changed the orientation of the photo multiple times. All these compounds in making Google’s work a lot harder.

The culprit may have flipped the image to create a mirror version so if you’re not getting results you can flip the image horizontally or vertically.

Consider flipping the image to the right of it is an image of a person or an animal, as these tend to naturally face to the right. In your design you may have slightly skewed the image on its axis. It helps to rotate the picture to match the orientation of the original stock photo on the stock site before you search for it.

You can also use photo editing softwares to invert a vector graphic your searching for. Remember to also use the grayscale option here so that the image appears black on a white background as this yields the best search results.

5. Insert a search term

While Google’s algorithm is already built for focus, it can always use the extra help during an image search. This is especially true if the image you’re searching is a stock photo that is available for purchase.

Consider in outing search terms that are relevant to the image to give it that extra laser focus. Drag and drop the image into the search bar, then include relevant words like “stock”, “clip art”, ” vector” or even the name of the stock image site or any other words that make sense for your particular search.

6. Google isn’t your only friend here

Google is definitely the king on the streets of the internet. It also boasts the most robust algorithm and the largest image database. However, it isn’t the only search engine available to you.

Consider using other search engines like Yandex, Tineye, and Bing to conduct your search as a means of double checking if Google doesn’t turn up any results. These alternative search engines each use a different algorithm and can’t match Google’s image database in sheer size. However, this also implies that they can catch something Google missed so it’s always helpful to try.

7. Search your search results

This is especially helpful if all you have to work with is a muddied and smaller, low quality version of the image your searching for. These low-res versions will likely turn up nothing related to the original photo file but they will show larger versions of the image.

Use these to deepen your search by right clicking on the larger image in the results and selecting “Search Google for Image”. This will help turn up more search results that will probably yield more information about the image and its licensing information.

These are some techniques you can use to check plagiarism and to avoid falling into it yourself. Remember that some days Google may not yield any useful results but it’s okay – algorithms will do that to you. Google does tweak its algorithm from time to time  though, so it night just be a case of taking a break and trying again another day.

However, if you employ all these tips as effectively as necessary and still come up with nothing, you can be reasonably confident that your design hasn’t been plagiarized and that you haven’t scalped another designer’s work either.

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