How to Use a Model for Fine Art: Release Forms

By Alina Bradford
nude artist modelWhen using real people as models for your artwork, it is important to have them sign a model release form to protect you legally.

The Importance of Release Forms

Model releases are a must for artists who want to make money from their artwork. These forms, when signed, allow you to own all rights to the finished work, even though it contains the image of a real person. You are free to publish, sell, and make copies of the artwork without the need of getting permission from the model again and again.

Why should you even ask for rights?

For one, the model can claim that you are using their image in a way that is exploitative. Exploiting someone’s image is defined as using a model’s image for commercial use, distorting their image, or invading their privacy. They can sue you, and will probably win, because there was no legal document stating otherwise.

In some cases you won’t need a release form. For example, if you change the model enough in the artwork that his or her mother wouldn’t recognize them, then you will probably be alright without a release form. Also, if the model is from a published reference source for artists, you probably don’t need to worry.

A Basic Release Form

Basic release forms say that the artist owns all rights to the artwork and images within it. It also gives your heirs rights to the work after you die. The form, below, is a simple version of a model release form for adults. Children release forms are

signed by the child’s parents and the language within the contact makes it explicit that the adult is consenting to the use of the child’s image in the painting.

All forms should, ideally, be looked over by a lawyer before use to make sure that all of the artist’s legal bases are covered.

Sample Adult Model Release Form

I, (the model’s name goes here), hereby give (the artist’s name goes here) and those acting on his/her behalf (legal representation, heirs, etc.) permission to sell, distribute, copyright, publish, republish, use, and re-use, the artwork created from the modeling sessions on the dates of (dates go here).

I understand that my image will be used in good taste and will not be used for pornographic or illegal purposes.

The work(s) created from this modeling session may be used with a fictitious name, with my name, or without my name. The work(s) may be distorted, used in promotional material, advertisements, or in any other way the artist chooses to use the finished work, in print, on the web, or in any other public or private medium.

I will receive no compensation from money that is made from the work(s).

I have read and understood the terms set out in this document.

I am of legal adult age.

By signing this agreement, I realize that I am relinquishing all rights to the work(s) created from this modeling session. By signing this document, I also agree to the terms above.