As a designer, you’ll often have a great concept for a project, but the cost of commissioning an illustrator will be beyond the project's budget. You could always put your creative skills to the test with some Illustrator tutorials and vector art. Or you could save yourself a lot of time and effort, and opt to use stock art.
The idea of using stock art might seem off-putting – there's often a sense of diluting your creativity by using work not created specifically for the brief. But the good news is that these days online stock art sites are no longer limited to a handful of tired cliches. Instead they feature 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 illustration is only part of their offering, to smaller sites focusing purely on illustrators – and with 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.
01. Adobe Stock
It was only a matter of time before Adobe set out its own stock art stall, and Adobe Stock is as slick as you'd expect it to be. It integrates with all your CC apps, making it easy to preview stock within your designs and then licence it if it fits your needs. Packed with high quality photography, vectors and illustration, it's also a great platform for selling your own artwork. If you want to give it a test drive, Adobe offers a free 30-day trial with 10 images thrown in.
YouWorkForThem has been curating unique niche and designer-oriented stock graphics for decades (not to mention fonts and photos too). The service currently provides over 76,000 graphics from over 400 different artists and designers, all with easy, affordable licenses – with custom license options available too.
03. Solid Stock Art
If you're confused by licenses, then Solid Stock Art should be right up your street. Built by artists and founded, it says, on common sense, Solid Stock Art's only licence works on the basis that you buy something from its large, well-organised range and it's yours to do with as you wish – unlimited prints, views and re-use. The only thing you're not allowed to do is resell or share artists' images.
Getty Images is huge. It mainly deals in photography, but its library also includes hundreds of thousands of 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.
A nice feature of iStock'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. iStock'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.
If you're looking for a vintage style of imagery this site is great, and also free. All the images are scanned from old books and in the public domain, so there are no rights hassles to deal with. It's a really good collection: categories include plants, animals, buildings and monuments, ornaments and patterns.
The British Library has shared over one million images in this public domain collection on Flickr. Much of it is old-style illustration and artwork; there are also thousands of photographs, maps and other interesting images.
This project seeks to bring together and organise the photograph collections that are made publicly available by a range of institutions, such as universities, museums and libraries.
Stockillustrations features contemporary stock illustrations – er, the clue's in the name – suitable for the world of advertising, graphic design and publishing. Whether you're looking for a particular style, subject or work by a specific artist, there's a great search facility to help you find the right images for your project quickly.
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.
11. 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). The images are, in general, less contemporary than some of the other stock art sites listed here, and 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, so you'll still have to click through to view the results.
13. 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 it 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.
14. The iSpot
The iSpot 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.
Alongside its collection of over 17 million photographs, Fotosearch also features nearly three million pieces of high-quality royalty-free stock illustration and artwork, as well as more clip art than you could ever possibly use. And if you're on a budget, alongside its premium images Fotosearch also offers a sizeable collection of value images at wallet-friendlier prices.
Although you might think of it as a photography library, Shutterstock features a vast amount of stock art among its ever-expanding collection of imagery. Whether you're after sleek vectors, eye-catching illustrations or simple clip art, you should easily be able to find what you're looking for on the easy-to-navigate site with its useful keyword search tool. To download content, a subscription or image-on-demand package is required.