Instant Graphics — Royalty Free Image Sources

Poor quality, cheap graphics reflect poorly on your business — and they’re completely unnecessary. There are a number of excellent sources for reasonably priced, high quality images for your site and collateral material.

You want “royalty free” artworks and photography. This means that you can use the images on your web site or in your print material without having to pay per each use. Pay once and use as needed with the following exception; you can’t resell the material or use it in a way that constitutes redistribution of the actual image for others to use.

The largest choice in royalty fee images are stock photography. The photographs may be used along or as part of custom art work. I’ve used stock photography both ways here at Elements. The premiere issue used collapsed while the last two issues have used stock photography as part of customized art work. Upcoming issues will be using stock illustration for graphics. Stock illustrations can give a customized, high impact look without the in-house graphics designer price. It’s also possible to take stock photographs and manipulate them in a graphics program, such as Photoshop, Painter, Corel Photo-Paint, Deneba Canvas or Deep Painter, to appear as if they were illustrations.

It pays to buy good quality images, but you don’t have to pay too much. Several of the larger, professional companies offer individual image prices. The average for a single, low resolution image is $32. If you have a need for a number of images either at one time or on a regular basis, it’s more cost effective to purchase a CD collection by the same source. Remember, you want a consistent look-and-feel to the images of your web site. Using a single illustrator or photographer can help create this consistency. These collections can run from US$10 – US$495 depending upon the source, the quantity and quality of images included, the number of formats or resolutions included and their popularity.

A brief word of caution about the inexpensive, large collections of images. Some of inexpensive collections can be used effectively and creatively, but you must choose only images and fonts that are good quality and are consistent in style and tone. For example, do not mix 3-D and flat images, or contemporary and retro images, or humorous and serious business. It can be made to work with a great deal of effort, but the effort isn’t worth the cost.

These images aren’t the worst on the web, but finding a consistent style will be difficult. And compared to the graphics on the right, these guys look very pedestrian. The images above convey dull, dated and tentative while the ones at the right are dynamic, compelling and confident. Which image would you rather have?

Royalty Free Graphics Resources


They recently went entirely illustration — all of it by top professional artists. Artville is also sold through various umbrella sources such as and (see below).If you are planning a site or re-designing a site, one approach is to select a collection of illustrations from here and then design the rest of the site graphics around that style. It may drive your web designer insane at first, but can save mistakes down road and reduce the number of necessary design meetings. Individual images are available for US$24.95 for low resolution , US$79.95 medium resolution and US$149.95 high resolution. Not all images are available in all formats. Collections are approximately US$299.


These are free (yes, you read right — free) high-quality photos and line illustrations. They also offer some collections for US$29.00. The site is a promotional center for assorted young illustrators and photographers. The illustrations tend towards the juvenile (I did say young and I should also mention male), but there are some good directional and digital object graphics. The photos are mostly of things (buildings, landscapes, household objects) because photos of people require legal releases, but if you need something contemporary and “hip”, you can probably find it here and at a price that’s hard to beat.

Corbis Images

You’ve probably seen a banner ad for Corbis images. There are some incredible images here available for both web and print use. Many are photos you’ve seen before in historical or photojournalist series. The individual images cost US$29 and up for low resolution. The collections run US$249 – 399.

The “Super Store” of professional graphics resources such as fonts, photos, illustrations, clip art, video footage, audio and more. The work with a number of sources, including Artville and PhotoDisc, and offer a free online publication of tips, techniques, amusements and artists profiles as well. You can purchase individual downloads for varying prices depending upon resolution and artist as well as an incredible number of fine collections.Individual downloads start at US$19.95 and head up to US$69. Collections start at around US$149 and continue into the thousands. Eyewire will now give you credit towards the purchase of a collection CD if you’ve purchased any single image from that CD.


Another umbrella source like eyewire. Lots of good art providers like Artville, Rubberball, Corbis, eletraVision, with comparable pricing to Eyewire. My only complaint is that you register to even see what’s available.


The Granddaddy of stock photography which didn’t offer royalty free images until last year. This site has some nice tools for searching and maintaining an account, some freebies from time to time and, if you register, you can order their free image comping CD and catalog to keep at hand while working. The best source if you need something very different or hard to find. Single images run US$29.95 for low resolution, $99.95 for medium resolution and $179.95 for high resolution. Single CDs run US$99 – $329 with 104 images per CD (good value for the money) and Bundles (collections of CDs) run US$387 – $1125.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive graphics and illustration program, a free 15-day trial of Deneba Canvas 7 can be found at