Part 1: Top 12 Ways to DESIGN like a pro, even if you aren't!


Stock images / illustrations are made specifically for entrepreneurs and designers to use in their design work.  Graphic design truly is how things are put together with colors, fonts, and how they interact with each other.  The upside is that you won’t get sued using these helpful images, the downside is that other artists can use them too so they might be recognizable by clients, or employers.  You also can't trademark them or use any elements for logos, so keep that in mind too!

You should look for unique images that truly support your concept, not just the first things you find.  Remember to add “Vector” to the search term if you are looking for Illustrator files to manipulate. Vector means not made with pixels and they can be used at any size from an ant to the Eiffel tower and never lose resolution.

So for the search term of "flowers" you would want to enter the search term -- “vector flowers”  These stock images you can do anything to, change colors, easily re-size to anything, completely morph into something different, but you must have Adobe Illustrator or another vector program to manipulate them. 

When you use stock you do not have to give credit on the piece!  You are paying to use it as if it’s your own, and the only thing you can’t do is resell the image (like a stock site) or do print on demand – like cafepress.  Many times there are restrictions on how many prints it can have or how many hits you have on your site.


If you find something on Google images and you are tempted to use it, you might be putting yourself at risk.  You could take the chance and create a derivative work, example "tracing a photograph" or "painting something while looking at it as a reference" the only time you can create a ‘derivative work’ without permission from the original author, is if the final out put is 100% not recognizable to the original artist or photographer. This also goes from tracing things from images --- remember the Obama Poster example from my "Steal Like an Artist" blog post from a few days ago.  and the Shepard Fairey scandal.

He thought he would never get caught making the Hope Poster from that Associated Press photographer’s picture, but by super imposing the image he was found guilty because of the lines matching up exactly. He would have been better off contacting the Obama campaign to get a photo or buying a Getty Image and creating the work legally. Sometimes creating things with temporary images is okay to get your ideas out, but if you feel something is going to be public, or starts to make money you must do so legally.


FREE! resource of stock images to use for your blog, marketing materials, Also do searches for "free vectors" or "free stock" in Google to find other sites. .Remember: always read licensing agreements, to make sure you are using things appropriately.


$10 Images & Illustrations: and $5-$300 stock images, illustrations and videos  -- both give files of all categories for free every week, as seen in this post!  These are just a few of many stock image sites that are out there, that are reasonable and full of great images.  Before you buy any it is okay to use the temporary images before you make the plunge and fork over the dough!  What this means is go ahead and right click and save those preview images, design with them, then buy the perfect one when you want to go public with it.


Taking your own photography and doing your own illustrations is always best, however using things that already exist take the pressure off of creating everything from scratch, so that you can actually practice your design skills. Again, If you are designing a logo or anything to be trademarked you cannot use stock!

Stay tuned for part 2!

In the comments below share any awesome resources that you have for stock images or illustrations!