5 illustrations you'd never believe are stock

Illustrations can make or break a design brief, as these stand out examples of illustrated ad campaigns (opens in new tab) demonstrate. Beyond their striking visual appeal, there are plenty of reasons for using illustrations over photography (opens in new tab). But picking the right style for your brand, campaign, or marketing materials can be challenging.

Should it be trendy (opens in new tab), timeless (opens in new tab), or something completely original and unique? It all depends on your needs. Another consideration is whether you can create your illustration in-house or if you need it commissioned. Whatever you decide, it will cost you either a lot of time or a lot money.

The best solution is selecting a budget-friendly, time-saving alternative through platforms like iStock by Getty Images (opens in new tab). While it's possible to create striking brand imagery using stock photography, iStock is also full of ready-to-use, easily editable stock illustrations. And, it’s never been easier to find and integrate illustrations into your work, thanks to thousands of readily available stock illustrations, featuring categories ranging from business to backgrounds, and everything in between.  

Read on to see five examples of versatile, high-quality stock illustrations that look premium – without the steep price tag...

01. Geometric vector patterns

Seamless pink geometric pattern

Bold, vibrant geometric patterns, such as the one above (opens in new tab), can bring a design to life by making it pop in ways that grab your customers’ attention, and keep them engaged with your brand.

When searching for patterns, try to find ones available in varied selection packs. They provide the opportunity to try out different options quickly and easily – without wasting time and money.

Once you've chosen the right pattern, you can ensure it feels unique and fresh by editing the scale, trying different colourways, or manipulating the design.

02. Useful graphic icons

Party celebration flat icon set

Smart and stylish icons do double-duty on apps and websites. They bring in much-needed character and ease of usability, which creates an inviting and uncomplicated digital environment for your audience.

Many are simple, neutral vector line drawings, often in themed packs catered to your needs. Others have more depth and personality, like the example above (opens in new tab). Remember, you can always explore different colourways to match the scheme of your project once they’ve been chosen.

Developing a whole suite of illustrations in the same style can be hugely time-consuming and expensive if you approach it from scratch. Fortunately, there are literally thousands of premium-quality icons (opens in new tab) to be found on stock libraries such as iStock by Getty Images.

03. Hand-drawn textures and backgrounds

Seamless colourful hand-drawn pattern

Don’t worry if clean graphic shapes don't suit the style of your project. There are also an increasing number of high-quality, hand-drawn stock illustrations (opens in new tab) available. But for relatively generic backgrounds, textures, and patterns that still feel customised, stock illustrations will do the trick.

The exotic example above (opens in new tab) is just one of a series of different colour combinations in the same style and tiles. Together they seamlessly make a distinctive background pattern. Despite having a hand-drawn look and feel, it comes in vector format for infinite scalability and repurposing in a variety of different projects and sizes.

04. Matching sets of playful characters

Set of retro robots

Character design is a niche, personality-driven art form that stock illustrations often struggle to replicate. This is particularly challenging if you're looking to depict something specific in terms of style, tone, or content or if unique characters take centre stage. Fortunately, iStock by Getty Images has thousands of exclusive stock character illustrations that are ready to be featured in your campaign.

Playful stock character illustrations (opens in new tab) can prove invaluable when integrated as part of a bigger scheme or playing a secondary role as in the example above (opens in new tab). They add much-needed charm and personality to your marketing materials, whether interacting with other elements in an app or introducing a section on a website.

05. Stylised design elements

Retro 80s background

Premium stock illustrations (opens in new tab) can also be used for highly stylised and thematic applications, like an '80s themed flyer – for which the example above (opens in new tab) would be ideal. With such high-quality stock, the creative possibilities are endless.

Just because you don’t have the budget or resources to create your own illustrations, doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of this unique, eye-catching visual medium. With high-quality stock, you’ll still achieve that premium look and feel with relatively minimal effort and expense. What’s not to like about that?

On the hunt for top-quality illustrations for your next design project? iStock by Getty Images (opens in new tab) is the perfect solution. The original resource for premium, royalty-free stock imagery, iStock offers million of assets including its own exclusive imagery. iStock is currently offering new customers 12% off everything: use code 12CBLOQNEW at checkout.

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Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards (opens in new tab) in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.