When to use original artwork / when to use stock

I’ve been working on my own as a graphic designer, illustrator and animator for over a decade. When I first started, I created most of my artwork from scratch. I have fond memories of those years, but overtime there has been a greater need for efficiency as the business continues to grow.

Today, I use a lot more stock images which help speed up my process, however I’m feeling less like an artist and more of a hack.

My question is, am I being short-sighted by using stock images?

If I place my original designs front and center and accompany it with stock image “filler”, can I still call it my own?

I imagine if I was still creating from scratch that I’d have a good collection of original art that I could sell as stock images — money being made when I’m not working. Thoughts on this?


I find myself in a similar situation, but don’t think there’s a problem with that. Most stock items I use are:

  • Photos of things or places that would be impossible for me to photograph directly or in a time-effective way. Like, I’ve never been to Chicago, but did use a ton of stock Chicago pictures in high resolution. Basically, if the client doesn’t have their own photos or they have poor quality photos, I immediately go and get stock replacements, which clients generally understand and agree with. They will generally care more about deadlines, than having a custom made 300$ photo vs. a 5$ stock photo which looks the same or better.
  • Icons: design today has shifted to this weird idea that everything must be associated with an icon. Every benefit, feature or highlight needs to have an icon in front. You see icons everywhere and some websites or apps will look more like a collection of icons instead of having actual, relevant text content. Even here you see alot of people posting questions about impossible icon jobs, where clients are pushing abstract ideas to be made into icons (which is not always easy). So yes, there is a growing demand for icons and many times I find myself pairing and adjusting icons from different sources to look like they’re coming from the same set.

.. however I’m feeling less like an artist and more of a hack ..

The hard reality is many times clients don’t have the time to wait for artists. You have to improvise with whatever is within reach (either your own stock or other people’s stock). Design has become a very ‘competitive’ field versus what it was a decade ago.

Like, when I started freelancing, there were about 5, maybe 10, other good freelancers that I knew were capable of sustaining a long-term self-employed freelance situation. Most good designers a decade ago were under employment, at least where I live.

Now, everybody wants to be a freelancer and there’s so much in the media about freelancing. The result being there are alot more non-artists, but full-time freelancers out there using stock and delivering work.

Plus a zillion of people trying freelancing on and off, and all this is creating a rush where clients prioritize on delivery time.

Source : Link , Question Author : Chris Schroeder , Answer Author : Lucian

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