People sketching artwork at the de Young museum as part of Sketching in the Galleries

Sketching in the galleries. Image courtesy of Agency Moanalani Jeffrey

Painting, copying, or sketching permit guidelines

A permit is required to sketch (with a sketch pad or material greater than 9 in. x 12 in.), paint, copy, or to use charcoal / pastels at the de Young or Legion of Honor.

Please carefully read the guidelines listed below before you submit your permit application. It is important to note that permits may be revoked at any time if guidelines are not followed, or the museum’s Security team has concerns about the placement of your setup.

Please note:

  • Your application must be submitted at least two weeks prior to your intended visit. Once submitted, you will be contacted to receive confirmation of permission or denial. Permits are granted through our Education, and Visitor Experience departments.
  • You must have the approved permit on your person the day of your visit.
  • Check in with museum security upon arrival.
  • You must purchase a ticket in order to enter the galleries the day of your visit. If you are a member, you must obtain a ticket from the member desk for the day of your visit.



  • Only artwork owned by the Museums may be sketched or copied.
  • Non-museum objects have a “T” or “L” before their accession number on the text panel.
  • Any copy done in the same materials as an artwork must vary by at least 10% in total area from the original.


  • Artists must maintain a minimum working distance of 3 feet from any artwork.
  • A drop cloth that extends under the working area and artist is required for charcoal, pastels, and all water-based paints.
  • No touching of any artwork, including pedestals and bases, is allowed.
  • No blocking of exit paths or main access routes for visitors.
  • Any water container must be shaped to reduce the chance of tipping or spillage. The container must be closed whenever it is moved through the galleries.
  • The use of personal easels is permitted. Any easel must be stable and positioned at a distance from the artwork greater than the easel’s height.
  • No equipment or materials may be left unattended at any time. All supplies / materials must be removed from the buildings at the end of the day. The museums cannot provide materials.
  • A copy of this permit shall be presented upon request to security or staff. At the request of security or staff, easels and other materials must be moved or removed if the safety of artwork or people is in doubt.


  • Drawing / painting materials are limited to: pencil, colored pencil, charcoal, pastel, ink, and water-based paint (watercolor, gouache, acrylic, water-miscible oil paint).
  • No aerosols or spray bottles of any type are permitted.
  • No volatile solvents may be used due to possible sensitivities of visitors and employees.


  • Sketching for individuals in pencil on a small (9 in. x 12 in. or smaller) handheld pad is allowed during public hours in the permanent collection, no permit required.


  • Permission needs to be obtained to sketch using easels and larger pads and / or for groups and is allowed on weekdays during public hours only.
  • Groups must obtain permission in advance. Permission will only be granted for sketching with a 9 in. x 12 in. or smaller handheld pad and pencil during weekdays, as indicated on the gallery tour list.
  • Individuals that are part of a preapproved and scheduled class are required to pay admission or show their membership / pass if they come on a different day than when their class is scheduled.


  • Please contact the Communications department at for commercial photography and filming requests. TV crews from regular stations or national outlets must be scheduled and accompanied by a staff member.
  • Photography is allowed in the permanent collection galleries during public hours with handheld devices without flash or artificial light only. No tripods or other stabilization devices are allowed.
  • Photography of the exterior of the museums during public hours is allowed with handheld devices without flash or artificial light only, including wedding portraits at the Museums’ discretion. 

Access to the Museums should not be blocked. Wedding ceremonies are not allowed in the Court of Honor at the Legion of Honor. Wedding ceremonies outside the buildings must have a permit from the Recreation and Parks Department with approval of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.