Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Image Mash-up

Digital Image Editing, Collage Art, and Fair Use

Shayna Pond, Charlie Kim, Lindsay Hawkins, James Doyle | Published: February 22nd, 2023 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, Secondary
  • Subject Subject Visual Arts
  • Course Course Visual Arts
  • Duration More 2 periods


In this visual arts lesson, students will look at examples of photo touch-ups, restoration, and mash-ups. They will practice by attempting to make a mash-up with provided practice images. As a class, students will discuss what they tried to do with the software to make it work, share any tricks learned, and then do a demonstration of some more advanced techniques. Then, students will find their own images to make a mash-up. Students will review their final products using a fair use checklist to determine if they properly using potentially copyrighted material.

Essential Question(s)

Is using someone else’s art to make your own considered stealing?



Students view examples from media and historical photo preservation where photo editing software is used as well as a work of collage art. Students discuss if these examples of collage art are considered stealing.


Students review fair use guidelines and experiment with photo editing software to practice collage art that follows these guidelines.


Students share progress on collage art with one another and techniques used as well as demonstrate more advanced techniques.


Students read about the Graphic Artists Guild as well as collage art and fair use and then evaluate collage artworks accordingly. Students then make revisions.


Students reflect on what they thought about using others’ art to make new art before this lesson and what they know about this practice now.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Fair Use Quick Reference handout (attached)

  • Graphic Artists Guild Reading handout (attached)

  • I Used to Think… But Now I Know handout (attached)

  • Practice image files


40 Minute(s)

Guide the lesson using the attached Lesson Slides. Show slide 3 for the Essential Question and slide 4 to review the Lesson Objectives. Move to slide 5 and introduce the I Notice/I Wonder strategy and have students view and consider the images on the slide. Have students discuss their thoughts in groups and share out to the class. Repeat the process on slide 6, which includes historical photo restoration before-and-after images.

Move to slide 7 and show the photo restoration video demonstrating how to do some of the simpler photo repairs. This will help students picture how some of the changes are made to images using editing software. Optionally, play the video at 2x speed to save time.

Move through slides 8–9 and show the two examples of different artists who have combined historical paintings with modern images. This kind of art where image editing tools are used to combine two or more images into one composition is related to the genre of art called collage.

Explain some of the professional photo editing techniques that have been used to make these combined images work as a composition. Notice how in the left image the lines of Lady Gaga’s face in the photo line up with the chin and forehead of the woman in the painting. Notice how in the right image, there are color adjustments made to make it so that the stuffed unicorn from Despicable Me looks like it belongs in the painting.

Mini Explore

Move to slide 10 and revisit the essential question: “Is using someone else’s art to make your own considered stealing?”

Return to the same images we viewed on slides 8 and 9 by showing slide 11 and discussing them in relation to the essential question. Ask students if they think these would be considered stealing and to explain why or why not.

Have students get up and moving by using a modified Four Corners strategy. Have students who strongly agree that it is stealing stand in one corner and students who strongly believe that it isn’t stand in the opposite corner. Then, have those groups discuss their opinions and share out to the whole class.

Mini Explain

Move to slide 12 and watch the “Copyright, Exceptions, and Fair Use: Crash Course Intellectual Property #3 video together. The video discusses what considerations go into determining legality. Have student take notes using the S-I-T (Surprising, Interesting, Troubling) strategy. Afterward, briefly discuss the video by having students share what they wrote. You may reference some of the Four Corners discussion points that students brought up as well to help them see how they have revised their understanding. They likely had some instincts that align to these professional guidelines and some that were misconceptions. This is a good time to handout the attached Fair Use Checklist handout so students can continue to reference this information as the lesson continues. 

Divide the class in half. On slide 13 have the first half of the class go to the QR code on the left to show the Frida Kahlo collage. Have the other half of the class visit the QR code on the right to show the Vladimir Putin collage. Using the Think-Pair-Share strategy, have students decide if they believe the image is fair use and record their reason(s) why on a sheet of scrap paper. Then have the students pair up, share their reasons with each other, and negotiate the best response.

Now display slide 14 and have the students who worked on this slide share their reasoning behind their answers. Repeat the process with slide 15, having the student pairs who viewed that image share. Introduce the concepts of copyright and public domain on slides 16 and 17. Explain that these examples weigh very strongly in favor of fair use, however both walk along a lot of the same territory as the Shepard Fairey case, which did not produce a clear ruling in favor of fair use. It’s important to note that cases that have very similar factors in favor of fair use can swing wildly in different directions depending on the amount of money/profit and/or influence that is at stake with use of the art. Even with a license purchase, a use can gain enough profit and influence that the source material artist will sue for more profit margin, as with the Warhol v. Goldsmith case.

Revisit the historical painting collage examples from earlier in the lesson on slide 18 and discuss how public domain and copyright play a role in these two works.


40 Minute(s)

Display slide 19 and introduce the practice activity to students. Students will access the images provided for them in a shared folder and create an original piece of collage artwork using any combination of these images. They should use a minimum of two images, but can use all of them to make their artwork.

Consider having students use the provided practice images to make their own first mash-up and to get familiar with the software.

Have students save a copy of their original file into the shared folder so everyone can explore one another’s processes in the next part of the lesson.


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 20 and explain the Gallery Walk strategy to students. Have each student display their work for a few minutes and talk about what they intended to accomplish, what they discovered, and any challenges they encountered. It’s okay if it’s not what they want it to be at this point. As the students present, there should be a good amount of shared learning about how they accomplished similar tasks in different ways as well as a variety of different tasks. Prompt students to explain how they found the tools they needed to accomplish something and to help one another find these tools later as they continue to work on these projects.

When everyone has shared, discuss and provide insights on techniques that can make their works even more successful. Consider explaining techniques such as: color matching images, cutting out backgrounds, identifying light sources, making shadows, blending edges, etc.

Optionally, consider demonstrating these techniques with your own copy of the practice files and/or encouraging students to find videos that show techniques. There is a demonstration video provided with this lesson for some of the basics in Krita on slide 21.


40 Minute(s)

Display slide 22 and pass out a copy of the attached Fair Use Reading handout to each student. This reading explains the four criteria to use when considering whether their collages fall under fair use, as well as the background of the Graphic Artists Guild.

When students are finished reading, move to slide 23 and have them use the Fair Use Checklist to evaluate if the way they used their images qualifies as a fair use. Depending on their evaluation, students can choose to continue working on their practice image to improve it and better apply fair use guidelines or make a new collage with their own photographs and/or found images that better meets fair use guidelines.


10 Minute(s)

Display slide 24 and have students do a short reflective writing using the I Used to Think… But Now I Know strategy and revisit the essential question: “Is using someone else’s art to make your own considered stealing?”

Ask students to write about what they believed about using other’s artwork to make their own before this lesson and what they think about it now.