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"I retire to my heavily processed photograph of Andrew Carnegie's study, painstakingly retrieved from a google image search."

A common shortcut that Web Comic creators use is to collect pictures from Google Image Search and use them as the background of a frame (or a portion thereof). These images are usually run through a filter (almost always some type of blur) on Photoshop, either to lessen focus or to make the image more congruent with the comic's art style. This is often utilized for complex designs (book and video game covers are common examples), but can be seen as a sign of laziness if the artist comes to depend on it.

In some cases, the author is lazy enough that he picks the first fitting image from the first results page, thus allowing bored readers to guess his search terms and find the original images easily. Laziness and ignorance can also get authors in much more serious trouble-- for some reason, people tend to think that anything found via GIS is fair game, when of course it's still all covered by copyright law.

Not to be confused with a Photo Comic, which uses photographs as the art instead of an embellishment. See also Photographic Background.

Webcomic Examples:

  • 8-Bit Theater
  • Candi did this for a while before going back to drawn backgrounds.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del
  • How I Became Yours
  • Pirate Jesus
  • Mistakes of Youth
  • Irregular Webcomic, a LEGO comic, uses (copyright-free or self-taken) photo backgrounds when LEGO isn't enough.
  • Used by the comic Jayden and Crusader frequently, almost always to make up for lack of artistic ability
  • Spleen Tea, specifically the mugshots. Justified somewhat, as it is a review site using pictures of the product in question.
  • MS Paint Adventures uses black-and-white (usually pixellated) photos for most background objects. It's used for comic effect since the photo detail contrasts so highly with the stickfigure-esque characters.
    • Sometimes, mostly with landscape from Homestuck Act Four onward, pictures are recolored to match colors. In a few cases this ends up looking odd, to say the least. Also, there's a tendency for such images to be the underlay for additional background illustrations, for example the Land of Wind and Shade (which draws certain features like rivers and mushrooms on top of pictures of landscapes).
    • And of course, much as you'd expect, Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff occasionally does this for Stylistic Suck purposes, often picking the most severely watermarked image possible.
  • Everyday Heroes does this occasionally. The last panel of this comic is one example.
  • UG Madness ocasionaly did this in its early days, usually in the form of pictures on the wall.
  • Asperchu does this for most outdoor scenes. Which still puts it ahead of it's inspiration by actually having backgrounds.
  • The latest episode of The FAN started using photos for occasional outdoor backgrounds. The pictures are taken by the author himself, of more or less the actual locations where the scene is supposed to take place.
  • A Beginners Guide to The End of The Universe uses this for everything but interface elements and the stick figure humans.
  • Power Up Comics spoofed this in one strip, where the background had a giant iStockphoto watermark.
  • This trope is an oft occurring one within' the BZ Power Comics community, especially in Nuparurocks' Comics most often are these pictures blended in well due to the Sprite nature of said comics. But there are times when it's used less sucessfully.
  • Even in The Deepest Heart of Chaos A Glimmer of Order Can Be Found is composed of nothing but a selection of random Flickr photos.

Non-Webcomic Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Rurouni Kenshin (the anime, not the manga) often had video of real locations blended into the background. The animators were extremely good at it; it's not until the filler arc that got the show canceled that it became noticeable. In fact, if you see water in this series, it's almost sure to be the real thing, not animated. And you might never notice it.
  • The original Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Visual Novels do this, although they are taken by a staff member.
  • Many backgrounds in the manga Hot Gimmick were photographs, with the contrast heightened to make them fit in better with the line art.
  • Mahou Tsukai Ni Taisetsu Na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~ has backgrounds which suspiciously look like photos that have been traced and colored to let them blend in with the animation. Many locations from Biei, Tokyo and Kamakura are clearly recognizable.

Comic Books

  • The Free Comic Book Day issue of Scott Pilgrim contains a lampshaded example of this.

 "Okay, this background looks really hard to draw and I don't think I'm getting paid for this comic, so enjoy this stock photo."

  • Some earlier Nodwick strips did this.


  • In The Blind Side, when Leigh Anne doesn't have any baby pictures of Michael she just Googles a similar looking baby.


  • The cover of many Vanity Published books. The cover often has nothing whatsoever to do with the book contents!


Newspaper Comics

  • Political cartoonist Gordon Campbell uses this CONSTANTLY.
  • Working Daze has been starting to use photo backgrounds to depict areas outside the office along with other art experimentation. The writer and artist team encourage readers to guess where the photo came from.
  • The Montreal Gazette's cartoonist, Aislin, has done this.

Video Games

  • The "creators" of Limbo of the Lost have apparently used Google Image Search themselves to take various images for use as inventory items.
  • One video game had faux advertisements in it; unfortunately, the 'faux' adverts were really GIS results with some text changed or taken out. Fortunately for the game, this was noticed during testing and changed.
  • The original release of RE: Alistair had real photographs for backgrounds; subsequent releases had them replaced by drawn images.
    • Many low-budget or freeware Visual Novels use stock backgrounds, actually, probably because actually drawing one would take time and resources the artists don't have.
  • Yes Man's face is the first result of searching "Happy Face" in Google Images.
  • Crazy Bus features stock photos of buses for its backgrounds. They also look rather ugly, as they had to be compressed to be put on the Sega Genesis.
  • The iPad adventure game Lechuza was made almost entirely with art assets found on Google Image Search, as noted in this playthrough video from our friends Slowbeef and Diabetus. In the respective Something Awful thread, the goons managed to track down almost every single stolen art asset using Google Image Search.
  • In contrast to the usual Visual Novel use of GIS for backgrounds, Hatoful Boyfriend uses stock photos for all the bird characters, and for loading screens between chapters. Stock photo resources are cited and thanked in the credits.
  • Even BioWare succumbed into this, as in Mass Effect 3 there were two cases of snatching up and altering images from the net, the cases being the post-ending epilogue image, and the photograph of Tali's face.

Web Animation

  • Happens just as often as in case of webcomics, whether directly in Clip Art Animation or traced in Flash. Any time a pistol appears, it's this picture of a CZ-75. More egregious, if a shotgun is supposed to appear, it's usually this airsoft shotgun. A bomb? Likely this one. And so on.
  • Zero Punctuation consists of exactly four visual elements: A stubborn refusal to ever change the yellow background, white figures with Raymanian Limbs, imps, and pictures he took off Google images.

Western Animation