Looking for high-quality illustrations for your design project? Here are 10 online services that make it easy to find them.
Words: David Montrose
As a designer, you’ll often have a great concept for a project, but the cost of commissioning the illustrator will be beyond your or your client's budget. The idea of using stock art might seem off-putting, because there’s always a sense of diluting your creativity by using work not created specifically for the brief. But the good news is, these days online stock art sites are no longer limited to a handful of tired clichés, but a huge and eclectic variety of illustrations in various styles and sizes, by thousands of talented illustrators.
There are many stock art sites out there, from larger companies where illustrations is only part of their offering, to smaller sites focusing purely on illustrators - anything from a tiny handful to a more extensive roster. Below is a list of some of the best and most popular sites for you to check out. We hope you find what you're looking for!
A nice feature of iStockphoto’s site is that it allows you to filter by dominant colour. You can also find the empty space you're seeking in the design for text, and display your results accordingly. This is hugely refreshing given the amount of time it can sometimes take to find the right illo. iStockphoto’s illustrations are a little more vector-based and slightly more stock-like than most on this list. But its range is extensive and relatively inexpensive.
Illustrationweb is more like an artist's showcase site than a stock art site, and it also encourages commissions. The illustrations on offer here are beautiful and can be filtered by style or illustrator. Styles range from photo-realistic rendering to intricate papercraft, to watercolours. There’s no function to search for a particular image, though, so unfortunately you’ll have to search by artist.
Ikon’s website seems quite mysterious - there’s a bit too much style over usability, so browsing takes some time. But it does house a good range of stock art, viewable by style, including photo illustration, vector, digital and line art, and subjects ranging from 'Beauty' and 'Fashion', to 'Transport' and 'Characters'.
Veer is much like iStockphoto in that it has a huge library - but that also means there are more cheaper stock art images to wade through. However, like iStock, if you have the time to browse, you’re likely to find some higher-quality illos. They probably won’t be the kind of quality you’ll find on such sites as Illustrationweb, but if you want some stock art to fit for your work at a reasonable price, this is worth considering.
05. Image Zoo
Image Zoo has a large collection of traditional illustrations, searchable by keyword, artist name or subject (which effectively means the individual image name). Their images here are in general less contemporary than some of the other stock art sites listed here, and are slightly reminiscent of traditional educational textbook illustrations.
Filtering the work on FolioPlanet sorts the illustrators themselves rather than their work, so it’ll take some time if you simply want to browse by subject. There is a word-specific search function if you have something particular in mind, although it displays results as portfolio matches, you’ll still have to click through to view the results.
Getty Images is huge. It mainly deals in photography, but its library also includes more than 360,000 illustrations, all searchable via a comprehensive and easy-to-use search panel and covering every subject you could think of. The stock art on offer here tends to lean more towards a clean and contemporary style.
Illustration Source offers both stock and commissioned work, with a great range of illustrations and artists. The website is clean and easy to navigate, although that it can only be searched via a single search form. For stock art this site is on the expensive side, but work on offer is of very high quality.
09. Laughing Stock
Laughing Stock is probably the least effectively designed website on this list but try not to be put off - if you’re looking for traditional-style stock art, then you'll find them by the bucketload here. Note that the illustration style is consistent through the site, so take a look at a few and if you decide it won't suit your project, it's best to move on.
10. The i spot
The i spot website has a huge number of traditional illustrations on offer - you’re unlikely to find renderings here. Many different styles are covered, from a range of talented artists. You can search for stock art using keywords for category, subject, style, and medium, as well as the artist’s name and the date it was uploaded.
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Did we miss your favourite source of stock art? Let us know about it in the comments below!