It can be really frustrating when you have a great concept for adding illustration or art to a project, but don't have the budget to commission an illustrator. There are several ways to handle this: you could create the artwork yourself, try and negotiate more money for the project, or, you could use a stock art website.
Some people imagine that such websites will be full of bland and tired clichés, but this is no longer the case. Instead, online stock art websites now feature a huge and eclectic variety of illustrations in various styles and sizes, created by thousands of talented illustrators. Although of course, you're unlikely to like every single image on them.
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. Below is a list of some of the best sites for you to check out. We hope you find what you're looking for.
01. Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock is as slick as you'd expect it to be. It integrates with all your CC apps, making it easy to preview a stock illustration or vector 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.
02. Getty 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, and it's easy to filter your results by factors such as colour and style.
iStock is a smaller, micro-stock version of its bigger sister, Getty Images. This means iStock has some of the same features as Getty Images, so you can filter search results by dominant colour, for example. 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 than most on this list. But its range is extensive and relatively inexpensive.
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.
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 240,515 graphics from over 484 artists and designers, all with easy, affordable licenses. Custom license options are available too.
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 to deal with. It's a beautiful 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, vintage advertisements, botanical drawings, vintage comics and other interesting images.
This project seeks to bring together and organise the artworks and photograph collections that are made publicly available by a range of institutions, such as universities, museums and libraries.
The clue's in the name here. Stock Illustrations features contemporary stock illustrations 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 some are slightly reminiscent of traditional educational textbook illustrations.
12. 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.