10 most used stock illustrations

posted on 3rd of march, 2015

If you want to create a flyer or a children's book, or you just want an icon to illustrate a button on your website, stock illustrations offer you a wide range of possibilities and elements that you can mix together to create unique designs or use them as they are.

This wide range I'm referring to is a never ending cycle, beginning with simple patterns inspired from old, vintage materials, or architecture and continuing with modern age technology influences such as icons and infographics.



Patterns can be seen everywhere: in nature, web design, interiors and architecture. In design, patterns have a large applicability from textiles to paper wrapping, from wedding invitations to notebook covers. The role of a pattern is to decorate and make the object visually more pleasant.

Some patterns are quite intricate and complicated to make, that's why ready made stock illustrations will save your time. They can be used as they are, as a simple background or you can create a new one.

Icons, buttons and infographics


Web buttons are probably the most used web design elements, this is the reason there is a big request for them. They come in many sizes, types, colors and formats, usually in sets. It's indicated to use the vector format of an illustration, especially if you are going to modify the size or the color of it and you don't want the resolution to be damaged.


Lately, the usage of infographics has increased. Infographics sets include more than simple graphs and they are very easy to use by designers. They are used for visual representations of statistics, researches or presentations. The elements can be used separately. This applies for both web buttons and icons.

One of the advantages of a buttons set or icons set is that you can use a single image for a certain project, like a website, and another one for a different purpose, such as an app. Another advantage is the coherence style that gives some kind of unity in your design.

Water color painting

Stock illustrations are not just some simple colored vector shapes with minor changes, they can also be seen as beautiful artworks, used to decorate galleries and walls. Also, you can add a certain painting effect to a vector file.


The advantage of this is that you can use the vector format and increase the resolutions without having any distortions.

Cartoon illustrations

Cartoon illustrations involve many styles and different technique such as retro, sketches, manga, free hand and so on. They are perfect for children's story books, and even for vibrant and dynamic web designs. The usage of bright bold color palettes that attract attention is recommended.


Abstract and effects


Abstract backgrounds are either made with straight shapes or with swirls and curves, and they will always be used. The first kind of straight shapes has a tendency of growth lately. Also this technique of triangles and polygons of all sizes and colors are used to create a multifaceted design. It is often applied to shape objects.


Another effect that is often used nowadays is to over pixelate the image. A great example is the upcoming Norwegian banknotes in 2017.

Lifestyle illustrations


Lifestyle illustrations requires a lot of time and work. Usually they are used in magazines or articles for women. These kinds of illustrations were early adopters, starting from the fashion industry all the way to bakeries and sunglasses shops.

Letter and messages

If you are designing a newsletters for a holiday or a message for your client, stock photography will offer you a lot of predefined templates that you can adapt and use. Especially those with a seasonal touch.


If you want to go more personal, you can download sets of letters and compose your own text.


In conclusion, stock illustrations are not just simple lines and colored shapes made for easy money, they are more than that. First of all the simplicity of editing the content to fit designs and the time saving factor are more than enough reasons to use these kinds of resources. They can be easily used to highlight your designs and to transmit a message in the same time. Last but not least, don't forget that the vector illustrations are resolution free,which means that you can print them at any scale you want.

Comments (21)

Posted by Freehand2 on September 22, 2016
helpful, . . .. great
Posted by Maxurfriend on July 26, 2015
Thanks for sharing, useful blog.
Posted by Chuotnhatdesigner on July 14, 2015
Nice work.
Posted by Haotian on May 13, 2015
That illustration by Olgaver is awesome.
Posted by Ezzian on April 18, 2015
Very helpful to me as a new contributor! I appreciate your time~!
Posted by Serjedi on March 25, 2015
Incredible talent!, congrats
Posted by Valevvicki on March 23, 2015
Thank you for this very interesting article. It is certainly 'food for thought' with lots of ideas for the readers (including myself)!
Posted by Olamojor on March 20, 2015
Thanks for useful ideas :)
Posted by Data2203 on March 19, 2015
Very useful! Thank you for research
Posted by Djapart on March 18, 2015
Really nice post. Thank you for refreshing my spirit to make another illustration..
Posted by FabioConcetta on March 13, 2015
Useful blog, very interesting!
Posted by Mariayunira on March 12, 2015
Thanks for sharing this useful information..
Posted by Bhabotoshchakraborty on March 10, 2015
helpful blog for illustration making
Posted by Adeliepenguin on March 10, 2015
I very much enjoyed your blog. Even though I am not an illustrator, it gave me greater insight. Thank you for sharing!
Posted by Jaganeri on March 10, 2015
Interesting! So isolated characters not so popular as I thinked.
Posted by Onime on March 10, 2015
Great blog...
glad to hear illustration was one of most used stock illustrations.
i'm doing that .. ;)
Happy...happy.. happy :)
Posted by Cvoyant on March 09, 2015
I have contacted Dreamstime twice and received no response. I signed up for a free trial and realized the licensing terms don't fit my needs. I also contacted one artist to get the licensing rights I would need and no response! I then went into my account to cancel and you had charged me $51 before the trial even expired, which is not what the terms stated. I'm requesting a refund and cancel the subscription, I have no intention of downloading or using any files past the trial as they are useless; and the trial had not expired. I hope someone will provide some attention to this matter, thank you.
Posted by Williamsphere on March 08, 2015
Great information! I tend to think of only photographic images, but there is so much more to consider.
Posted by Bobbrooky on March 06, 2015
Thank you for the tips here, its always handy to keep an eye on what works and sells.
Posted by Rigsby8131 on March 03, 2015
Very useful blog!!! Thanks for sharing.
Posted by Sebastian423 on March 03, 2015
Very educating blog thank you very much!
I would love to have another post on how to make this beautiful illustrations, what software and useful tips in general of course i understand its a huge topic ;)

Comments (21)

This article has been read 8071 times. 14 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Aliasching, Dannyphoto80, Macrovector, Mpfphotography, Nenilkime, Olga Vernardou, Pridumala, Viktoriia Protsak, Zsemlee.

About me

Three years ago, I started editing photographs for others, until I bought myself a Nikon f801, I love making and editing photographs, and I spend quite some time using the Adobe suite to achieve some great final results. I finished some editing and graphic design courses, which helped me a lot to understand and apply retouching techniques. I'm one of the admins on Dreamstime since 2007

Bucharest, RO

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