Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design
Design + Creation

Designing with Stock Illustrations

Stock illustrations, fonts and backgrounds have paved the way for creatives who want to create top-notch designs but may not necessarily have the time or talents to create everything from scratch. The new hurdle has become figuring out ways to use those resources in unique ways to set your designs apart from others. Personalizing your artwork doesn’t require heavy thinking, just a little experimentation!

Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design

USING STOCK ILLUSTRATIONS + FONTS TO MAKE YOUR DESIGNS BETTER

I came to recognize that my strongest skills are in layout and design, not in drawing and lettering. Once I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t finding enjoyment in spending hours trying to create my own illustrations or learning calligraphy, my designs actually became better, because I was dedicating more of my energy on what I was actually passionate about. I began to treat my design process like making a meal, where I source the best ingredients and then use my skills to create a stellar end product. Our site’s sponsor, DesignCuts has been my go-to source for fonts + graphics for two years now and I’d be lost without them!

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THE PROBLEM

The down side to using stock illustrations + fonts, means that all those pretty resources are available to the public, and you run the risk of creating something that looks just like everyone else’s. I’ll be the first to admit that my earlier designs look completely generic and void of uniqueness. After years of experimentation, I’ve developed some tricks to make those stock illustrations my own, instead of using them right out of the box.

DEFINING YOUR STYLE

Before I get into the steps you can take to make stock resources your own, it’s so important that you take the time to establish your personal style. This process involves some soul-searching, determining what colors, moods, and subjects mean the most to you, and finding ways to incorporate those elements into everything you create. Even if you can identify one small element that will be your constant in every piece you design, it will make a difference.

TIPS FOR MAKING STOCK RESOURCES YOUR OWN

Think of stock illustrations as a starting point and your goal to make them unrecognizable from their original form. Here are some steps you can take to alter and transform:

  1. Scale. Often stock illustrations come to you in the form of hundreds of small drawings on one page. Consider plucking just a single element from that sheet, and making it the focal point of your design.Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design
    In this example, single illustrations were taken from this massive sticker pack, and used to create multiple products. It doesn’t get easier than that!
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    Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design


  2. Color. My go-to hack! I recolor just about every single stock illustration I use. Color is the factor that’s the most noticeable for the viewer and this small change can make a big difference.
    Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design
    In this example, I used these adorable illustrated balloons, and brightened them up with my own color palette for this Baby Shower Invitation. Bonus: I also made use of the cloud background, and removed the texture for a cleaner look.
    click here to shop THE FREE SPIRIT VINTAGE SUMMER KIT }
    Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design


  3. Rotate + Flip. Change up the orientation of your elements. Reflect the artwork so it faces a different direction, or rotate it so it appears on an angle, or even upside down.
    Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design
    In this example, I took those pretty watercolor roses, and did some rotating, reflecting and flipping to create the art print below.
    click here to shop the WOODLANDS WATERCOLOR MEGAPACK }Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design


  4. Multiply. Copy and paste is your friend. Create multiple instances of a single element to create a new look. You can even copy and layer objects, like backgrounds and patterns.
    Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design
    In this example, I did a whole lot of multiplying! This floral vector pack gave me a ton of options. I chose my favorite 4-5 flowers and went copy-crazy.
    click here to shop a similar FLORAL PACK }
    Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design


  5. Mix. To me, the easiest way to differentiate your work is to pull elements from different sources and combine them to create something brand new. Even if your illustrations come from different artists, you can adapt them to fit the same style by altering the colors, stroke, and placement.
    Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.DesignDesigning with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.DesignDesigning with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design
    This art print was a culmination of three different resources, to create something totally new!
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    { click here to shop a similar WATERCOLOR PACK }
    Designing with Stock Illustrations, Graphics and Fonts. How to make the best use of these resources and create projects that stand out from everyone else. // From MichelleHickey.Design

While I wouldn’t suggest using stock art in it’s original form, don’t drive yourself too crazy trying to alter it to a point where you aren’t happy about how it looks. Think simply. It often only takes a few small tweaks to change the look.

WHICH FILE FORMATS ARE BEST FOR ALTERING

I tend to find vector files (.eps and .ai) easier to adapt, recolor and scale than rasterized files (such as a .png), but as always I encourage you to work in the way that is most comfortable to you. There’s not a black and white “right” way to do things. Luckily, most DesignCuts resources include multiple file types, so you will be covered either way.

The more you are comfortable with yourself and your personal style, the easier it becomes to make stock illustrations your own. Practice definitely makes perfect and I encourage you to make it a point to design something new every week, even if it’s just for fun! Be sure to stay connected on Facebook and participate in our weekly Thursday design shares so you can be inspired + encouraged by the other members in our community!

This article has 2 comments

  1. Jen Goode

    Such a fantastic article. Thank you for sharing!

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