How to use The Public Domain from Rawpixel for Society6 products

by Jan 25, 2019Blog Graphics, Business, digital nomads, public domain, small business

Do you sell Society6 products?

What images and artwork do you use for their creation?

Did you know you could use original works from the Public Domain with complete legal permission? It’s also copyright free, needs no attribution, and you make can make unlimited copies. Not to mention you don’t have to worry about copyright law, trademarks, or intellectual property rights.

With the public domain you don’t have to worry about the big legal words, you can just be free to create annd publish the coolest products.

Below I will show you how to use Rawpixel and the Public Domain for your Society6 products.

Here’s my story:

I have a story on Society6 called Orana Creative just like my blog. I used to spend hours designing original works and graphics to put on the products. I felt like I was wasting too much time so I decided to change things up a bit and use sourced images that wouldn’t give me any copyright issues. 

I started looking for images, illustrations, vectors, icons, and other visual content for my Society6 products. I already know about legally available images like the creative commons directory. But not all the images in that repository are that good even if they are copyright free. 

I had already been using Rawpixel as my go-to source for royalty free images and as I was about to ask for a renewal of my subscription I noticed their Public Domain section. I’m a big fan of vintage style illustration and Japanese woodblock prints, also of botanical and zoological drawings and paintings from before the era of digital cameras. This collection of

When I discovered Rawpixel I loved their style instantly and was drawn to the way they set up the images they offered. I noticed that their photos were unique and special. 

My favorite collection in the Rawpixel public domain is the Japanese woodblock prints by Hokusai. That’s the collection from where I copied the beautiful Geisha on the shower curtains below.

What is the Public Domain?

The public domain is a term used for any kind of creative work without copyright protection. There are few ways for intellectual work to become part of the public domain. No matter the ownership or subject matter, when a copyright expires on a book, painting, manuscript, or film, it can be used by anyone in any way. For example, all books in the United States lose their copyright registration 70 years after the death of the author. International copyright laws can be a little different but mainly if the art is really old, it’s probably in the public domain.

Public domain images are completely and legally free to use for any sort of project, even better, they are perfect for commercial use. No one owns these and so they can be used freely. A Public Domain image does not infringe any law because it’s not entitled to copyright. In the public domain, you can find photographic works as well as writings, literary works, and even audiovisual material.

Why use the Public Domain repository in Rawpixel?

As a Society6 creator, you need art which can be reprinted. That is why it’s easier to get art from a visual art directory like Rawpixel. 

A lot of the art found in the Public Domain libraries are simple scans or the original artwork, sometimes a bit dark, dirty or has color damages. What Rawpixel did was digitize and improve the public domain artwork into beautiful renditions of the original in super high quality. Even though this takes their designers and digital artist a lot of time, they still added the images in their index as copyright free public domain images, ready for commercial use by anyone. They can be used as is, or for any type of derivative works. 

Keep reading to find out how to use Rawpixel and the Public Domain to create your Society6 products.


Is it legal?

Yes, using the public domain to source images for your Society6 products is completely legal. The best way to do it is to download the image and then give it your own take, add some other graphics along with them to make it unique. Of course, you can also just use the image as is. With a public domain image, you have unlimited reproduction rights; meaning you can sell as many copies as you like.

When you pay for a commercial license on other original work, you sometimes have a limit on copying the art for lots of products. If you aren’t paying attention to the technological details, your license could expire before you realize. Then you’d have products on sale which infringe on copyright laws and could get into a troublesome lawsuit with the person who owns the art.

This is why I love using public domain to create my Society6 mugs, wall clocks, and carry-all pouches. My creative works have no restriction and are always under legal protection. Any simple way of legally selling a creative product commercially is great by me!

My geisha shower curtains have been a huge success for example.



How to use Rawpixel and the Public Domain

Plenty of other Society6 sellers use public domain images for their products. You can too. The first thing you need is a Society6 account to sell the products. You will also need a graphics editor which can handle large size designs so that you can apply the public domain art on your products. The best images need to be at least 6500 pixels wide at with 300 dpi. Not all products will take that size, so you need to be able to edit the art to fit the sizes better.

If you want to use the art on all the products, you will need to create a jpg image at 10000 pixels wide and 15ooo pixels high. That will work for most products. For products like mugs and notebooks, it’s better to have a landscape shaped image like 6500 pixels wide and 4000 pixels high with the art on one side. The same applies to the notebooks.

The steps:

1. Download the art from the Rawpixel Public Domain and open the Society6 shop on your browser.

2. Create a large canvas at least 6500 pixels wide with 300dpi on a graphics editor like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Pixelmator or any other computer programs.

3. Adjust the artwork into the empty canvas and fill in the empty spaces that you might have with color lines, graphics, text, anything you want.

4. Extend the color background to make the artwork longer or wider.

5. Upload the artwork into Society6 and check all the products to see if the artwork fits. Recreate the sizes for products that don’t fit.

6. Fill in the title of your new product and make a little description with short phrases. Consider including the authorship of the art so that it’s easier to index on Google searches.

7. Use the same image to reproduce most other products. In some circumstances, you will need to resize the art or edit the graphic. More on that below.

8. If you don’t’ have time to finish it all in one sitting, your unpublished products will stay as drafts in your account. 


For backpacks, t-shirts, leggings, and duffel bags

There are a few products that have weird sizes and shapes which normal rectangular art doesn’t fill. The good thing is that Society6 gives you the choice of downloading a template to use with your graphics editors. With the template, you can reuse the art by adjusting it so that it fits perfectly in each portion.

The geisha, as you can see, doesn’t have a leggings option. Adjusting the art is in my to-do list! Don’t be like me and don’t let technological issues keep you from creating tons of amazing pieces for your store. I can publicly admit that I have too much on my plate and can never get these things up quickly enough!



As you can see, it’s easy to source Public Domain art from Rawpixel to use for Society6 Art. You don’t even need a subscription! Of course, you can also use copyrighted material for your products, you just need to check for the copyright notice and check when it’s expired. Sometimes you can use art for one product reproduced 100 times and in other cases, you can only use it once.

The main reason I use Rawpixel Public Domain is that I’m not infringing on any copyright laws or trademark issues.  I feel safe that I am not using unauthorized art and I’m not getting in trouble with anyone. I don’t need to go through any steps for legal licensing and I will never get sued for piracy. But my favorite reason is that the original works have been digitized and made more beautiful. Every month, they have more and more beautiful artwork free to use in your Society 6 store.

If you have a brick and mortar shop in your area, you can even create copyright free products to sell there. You can then publish photos of the products on your social media linking it back to your website. If you are an advocate of free use, the public domain is perfect for what you need.

How are you using the public domain? If you want to find out tons more about the public domain, including public domain books and intellectual property rights, check out the Public Domain Review.