Stock art is a perfect solution for when you have a great concept for a project, but don't have the budget to commission an illustrator or photographer to fulfill the artwork requirements. Thankfully, there are plenty of great stock art websites that enable you to sidestep this issue by offering a range of imagery for you to use. Not only does that mean you get your hands on the artwork almost instantaneously, but it also comes at much more reasonable price (if not free).
Some people imagine that such websites will be full of bland and tired clichéd imagery, 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.
There are many stock art sites out there to choose from, and in this article we've gathered together our favourites. These are the places we head when we're in need of some great artwork in a hurry.
If you're still hoping to create your own artwork on a shoestring budget, then don't miss our lists of the best free graphic design software as well as our list of the best free fonts on the internet. You can also find out how to create your own map illustration with our guide.
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 nearly 300k stock art graphics, all with easy, affordable licenses. Custom license options are available too.
06. Old Book Illustrations
If you're looking for a vintage style of imagery, Old Book Illustrations 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.
07. The British Library
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.
08. Flickr Commons
The Flickr Commons 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.
09. Stock Illustrations
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.
Providing both stock art and stock animations, Laughing-Stock is an illustration services agency specialising in rights-managed stock imagery. This means that you tell artists when and how you plan to use the image and then pay a licensing fee just for that usage. Powered by over 150 illustrators, Laughing-Stock is bursting with distinctive work that will help your projects to stand out.