You Stole That

“You Stole That!”

I usually try to stay away from ‘haters’ and people who publicly talk down to my work, but occasionally I get an email that really fuels me up, like the one I received this morning from an unnamed person who accused me of ‘stealing’ simply because I taught sometime that someone else taught in the past.


(I have no reason to believe that the emailer was the author of that tutorial)


Let’s make something very clear. It’s 2013. There’s more content on the Internet than ever before, and more and more users are using the Internet to pass along their knowledge to others, whether it’s science, math, or Photoshop. The same subject is bound to come up at some point.

Today’s email focused on one of my tutorials that involved me teaching my viewers how to create a “Wax Seal” in Photoshop, which if you’ve spent 10 minutes in the ‘real world’, you’d know is a fairly common item.

This unnamed user linked me to a wax seal tutorial which was created in 2008, 4 years before mine. Fair enough, his was created before mine. Is that reason to accuse me of stealing?

If a science teacher teaches his students how to create a vinegar volcano, is that stealing? Surely, it’s been taught before…

No, of course it isn’t, and neither is my tutorial. Believe me or not, but I didn’t see this specific tutorial before I created mine. The idea, if you really want to know, in addition to requests I received, came about when I saw a similar tutorial from Abduzeedo. Are you going to accuse him of stealing, as well?


Other than the fact that we both created a ‘wax seal’, which again isn’t a very uncommon thing, let’s start by looking at the end results.

Wax seals

To any uneducated person, these probably look identical. “STEALING!!“. But if you’ve EVER seen a wax seal before, they ALL look like this, the same way all forks look the same. They may have a few unique properties, but at the end of the day, they’re still forks.

Moving on from the fact that they’re both wax seals, let’s analyze the actual creation process.

Shape Creation: His was created using the Pen Tool in order to define the ‘ripples’. Mine was creating using an Elipse, and then distorted using a Filter.
Emboss: Yes, we both used the Bevel and Emboss Layer Style for this creation, but anyone who knows anything about Photoshop would have used the same Layer Style. Plus, if you compare the settingsthey’re completely different! The lighting is different, the values are different, and my creation takes advantage of Contours, while his does not.
Texture: I went a step further and added a texture to my seal, which he did not.

I can go on, but I think it’s fair to say that there are many differences between the two designs, even though they are both ‘wax seals’.

My Process

Let’s analyze my work process for a few moments. I think we can all agree that ALL educators are ‘thieves’, according to this emailer. To say that any educator is 100% original is almost impossible.

I get requests via email/social media on an hourly basis. “Create this, teach that”. All of these requests are logged, and prioritized according to demand. Once I finally decide to tackle a specific request, I’ll usually do a quick Google search to get some visual ideas, if I’m not familiar with the subject in question.

From that point, experimentation kicks in. I’m very proud that I can say that the majority of my designs have been created from scratch, without copying someone else’s settings or whole process. I enjoy the challenge of creating something in a different, unique way, and making it simple enough that my viewers can follow. This was certainly the case for this tutorial.

The wax seal that I ended up creating was the result of many hours of experimentation. Combining filters to get the right ‘wave’, combining Layer Styles to get the right emboss, and tweaking colors to get the right visual appeal. Never did I look at someone else’s tutorial throughout my process.

Welcome to Education

For a moment, think back to everything that you were taught in school. Now, how much of that was 100% original. Probably very little. The truth about education, is that most of it is recycled. Educators often enjoy the challenge of taking something that already exists, making it different, and tweaking the learning process so that their viewers will understand it.

By this emailer’s logic, we should all start accusing math teachings for teaching subtraction. They certainly didn’t create that on their own! 🙂