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How-to: Photoshop Techniques for Mature Listings

Dec 21, 2007

by Chillionaire handmade and vintage goods

People on Etsy come from many different walks of life: we’re an international, multi-cultural marketplace. On a website of Etsy’s scale, certain words and images need to be concealed. These policies are about keeping this community healthy — and growing. Reaching a diverse audience is essential to the success of our marketplace.   You can view our policy regarding mature items in the Etsy DOs and DON’Ts.

After January 1, 2008, we will be working extra hard to enforce this policy and here are some tips for making your shop appropriate for all audiences!  We will still rely on our community to help bring listings to our attention, so we welcome you to flag listings you feel are too risque for Etsy and we will be sure to investigate. For Etsy admin, we want to inform sellers (and all members of the community) about our policy.

Spidercamp, one Etsy seller known for her rude little bunny plushies, described how she felt the door to communication with Customer Support admin was open. For her, "it’s the difference between Etsy telling me I’m not ever allowed to swear, and Etsy asking me nicely not to swear so much in strangers’ faces. It’s a fair request. I haven’t changed the things I make, and my sales of these items have not suffered in the least."

Here are some tips to help you adjust your images, the instructions are for Adobe Photoshop, but other image editing programs like GIMP ( and Picasa ( are free and have similar tools.  Remember to save your files as JPEGs in RGB mode or they won’t upload to your listings properly!

A simple option is to crop the image so only an "all ages" snippet of your photo is visible for the first thumbnail.  For example, if you use vintage ephemera with nudes to create a collage, crop the image so you have a "zoomed in" image of one of the faces or another lovely detail.  Then, in the following images in the listing, go ahead and show the whole she-bang.

To create the cropped image in Photoshop, you can use the marquee tool to select a portion of the photo…a portion with no naughty bits.  Hold down the shift key if you want to keep the selection a perfect square and press the spacebar to move the marquee around on the image.  Once you’ve chosen the area, copy the area inside the marquee (you can use the keyboard command Apple + C on a Mac, Ctrl + C on a PC) and open a new document to paste the selection into it.  Save this image and you can use it as the first image on your listing, then upload the complete photo for one of the other images in your listing.

Using Mosie as our nude model (mvegan5‘s XXX kitty), the first image show’s just the pretty kitty face, appropriate for the main photo of the listing:

Then the full image of your artful nude can be shown in one of the following images:

Overlaying and Blacking Out:
Another option is to use the standard black square.  In Photoshop, use the rectangle tool to make a shape (again shift will keep the shape a square), but you will have to wait until you create the shape to move it around.  To adjust the size of the box once you have made it, go to Free Transform under the Edit tab.  You can also make other shapes with the marquee tool and use the paintbucket option to dump a color into the shape. 

Place the shape over the mature regions and save it to upload as the first image in the listing.  Then use the original image as your second image in the listing.  If you’re feeling extra frisky, you can use a "PG" image to cover up the mature parts. 

In this one, I used a picture of my kitty Stella; you may want to use your avatar or something humorous instead of just a black box. This "shameless" kitty belongs to megrnc and we originally found the photo on the Etsy Pets flickr group.

For those of you with some knowledge of Photoshop and filters, you can try this method.  Select the "questionable" area of your image using the marquee tool and copy and paste the selection into a new layer.  Working on this layer, you can use a filter on just the selection to distort it.  I used the Mosaic filter (under the Pixilate filters) to add a blurred bar over this naked puppy’s private parts, but many other filters can be tested out to find one that looks good with your image.  This method is fun because it give that professional too-hot-for-tv look.  We found curlygirlglass‘ sassy puppy on the Etsy Pets flickr group, too.

You can also write the word MATURE or other text over the area you’d like to conceal. Smuttons, an Etsy seller who makes  buttons from saucy vintage imagery, remarked that using text as a graphic design element in this process actually helped her sales! "When I made these red banners over the naughty parts and wrote SMUT on them, it kinda stuck out. I got this convo from this buyer who wanted to get one of my buttons, but she even requested that [the SMUT be left] on it!"

Other Methods:
There are other lo-fi methods, too. For Spidercamp, whose plushies have bad words embroidered on their tummies, she  just blocks out the portion of her item with her hand. "My approach to ‘mature-izing’ my listings is pretty simple and crude…So far I’ve just been blocking part of the filthy language with my finger in that first photo."

If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to post in the comments or send me a convo.  I’ll be glad to help with any Photoshop questions as best I can, and thanks to our beautiful models and their owners!


  • fenrislorsrai

    fenrislorsrai said 11 years ago

    One of the art conventions I attend uses a similar policy to Etsy for mature items. You must put all the 18+ material in a separate binder and aren't allowed to let minors look in the book. (the minors have a different colored ID badge, so can be spotted at several paces) To prevent someone getting an accidental eyefull walking past the table, the naughty bits must also be covered in the book. Some people use post-its, but since most dealers have prints in plastic sheet protectors, they cover the offending area in stickers. I swear there is a contest to come up with the best stickers. Scooby Doo where are you? Oh, apparently covering someone's naughty bits... Not too relevant to Etsy, but if anyone ever attends an art convention that sells mature material, its generally a good idea to have wrapping supplies at the table or at the very least folders to slip art into. Customers don't always have the materials on hand to cover the work, so giving them some protection keeps everybody at the con from getting flashed after they leave your table.

  • reqbat

    reqbat said 11 years ago

    the use of the cat photos is freaking hysterical, guys. love it ^_^

  • t8designs

    t8designs said 11 years ago

    oh no. i'm sure stella the cat is gonna get some unsolicited spam from "intrigued" suitors... v. funny. and informative. thanks!

  • nkushner

    nkushner said 11 years ago

    Thank you for instituting this policy! I appreciate the efforts to clean these pictures up a bit, it's not my favorite thing to see when I'm browsing Etsy.

  • ArretsPlace

    ArretsPlace said 11 years ago

    Since I find some of the items on Etsy to be tasteless, I am so greatful that Etsy has found a way to advise these sellers in a manner that will please even the prudish of pallets. The guidelines are to be applauded.

  • Vanessa Admin

    Vanessa said 11 years ago

    While everyone has a right to have their own taste, it's also important to respect other artists' differences in subject matter. It's freedom of artistic expression. And the fact that artists who do mature content are willing to go along with the Etsy policy is a really upstanding thing, because many of them don't think it should be necessary. It's a compromise, and one that is for the greater good of the marketplace.

  • bunny

    bunny said 11 years ago

    If anyone wants any help with photoshop, they can just convo me. (or admin, feel free to direct people to me too!) I'd be happy to guide them, or just do any quick cover-up work :) (for free!)

  • ColleenBaran

    ColleenBaran said 11 years ago

    Funny, funny people with the censored 'kitties'. And t8designs "oh no. i'm sure stella the cat is gonna get some unsolicited spam from "intrigued" suitors..." intrigued suitors... :)

  • emilybidwell Admin

    emilybidwell said 11 years ago

    Thanks, bunny! That is so generous of you. Kisses from Support.

  • bunny

    bunny said 11 years ago

    You're welcome :)

  • creationsbylonni

    creationsbylonni said 11 years ago

    Kitty exploitation!! Innocent felines forced into demeaning positions for a meal of kibbles. PETA WILL be contacted.

  • michelemcglone

    Michele McGlone from EmotionalOutletShop said 7 years ago

    hilarious.... great way to treat a sensitive topic.

  • FineTuned247

    Noelle C. from FineTunedThreads said 5 years ago

    I'm so over this site.

  • BSILVER925

    JEAB from BSILVER925 said 4 years ago

    Thank you :)

  • Mzcarley

    Carley Marston from CarleysCornerStudio said 4 years ago

    Thank you for answering my questions on Etsy guides to mature content. The use of cats is hilarious lol

  • Mzcarley

    Carley Marston from CarleysCornerStudio said 4 years ago

    Another idea if your an photographer or painter or something in that area is to maybe put your watermark over the mature area to cover it

  • Protoguy

    Guy Gondron from Protoguy said 4 years ago

    This is the saddest post I have ever read.

  • KimDow

    Kimberly Dow from KimDow said 4 years ago

    This does not answer all the questions. I've been reported for genitalia & sexual material. I did not think breasts were genitalia (seriously? in fine art?) And as to the sexual material - that is just nonsense since no one is doing anything remotely sexual in my paintings. Ridiculous.

  • MobileLingual

    MobileLingual Clothing from MobileLingualTshirts said 4 years ago

    I have no idea how can I cover the text on my t-shirt (including the fact that my this t-shirt is my best seller!!)

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