Find Affordable Stock Art Options

Don't break the bank with these free/more affordable graphic art, image, and font resources.

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Need some fresh artwork to catch your customers’ eyes? Looking to start out in dye-sublimation but aren’t sure where you can find artwork to use for samples or for resale on products? Is stock photography out of your small budget league? I’ve got some resources, terms, and tips for finding affordable stock images, graphics, and fonts to use in your custom projects for dye-sublimation. You might be wondering, what exactly is stock photography, media, or graphics? These are images or graphic artwork that you can download and purchase for use on personal or commercial projects; it’s also defined as artwork created to be licensed and sold multiple times for nonspecific needs. Stock art is typically produced by professional artists who then sell the rights to use their artwork for your projects or company.


Let’s start with some terminology:

Royalty-Free, or RF, (as defined on Wikipedia) refers to the right to use copyright material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold, or some time period of use or sales.

Creative Commons License: one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. Make sure you attribute properly or that it’s old enough that the photos have returned to the public domain. These can usually be used in commercial projects.

For Personal Use Only: You do not have permission to use this item within a commercial project.

For Commercial Projects: Artwork can be used for any project where you/a company will receive monetary funds in exchange for use.

For Commercial Use: Can use the files for commercial projects but typically cannot resell digitally; you may be able to use these in showroom or display samples but cannot always use the artwork on a produced piece for resale. Some sites require an extended license when reselling a design or image on a keychain, for example.

Photoshop Templates for Photographers: These are typically PSD layered template files that can be then edited or applied to your main design or used to easily create (for example) a collage that uses multiple photos.

Sites for Photographs

Pexels.com and freephotos.cc are both creative commons sites that offer a search engine type of site that looks across many CC approved images/sites to create a onestop collection view. Images are of highquality resolution and free to use due to the CC licensing. It makes it easier to preview and download photos from a single location with special search features and featured photos each day. This can help to save time searching various sites.

Additionally, photos typically include a credit if you want to give props to the photographer, which, while not necessary, is a creative commons courtesy (and appreciated). Deposit photos states it offers “over 60 million high-quality, royalty-free stock images and high-definition footage at the best prices to fill all your creative needs.” They offer three plan types that are ondemand based on a year of your image/ artwork needs. Subscriptions can range from just a few images to hundreds per month with costs ranging from $29 to $99 a month.

For the standard license, the information at the time of this writing allowed for display samples to be made including the artwork, while an extended license would be needed for selling the artwork sublimated onto a coaster, for example (www.depositphotos.com). Graphic stock: A one-year subscription to download from an available library of over 350,000 vector files, photos, and illustrations that will cost you a flat rate of only $99. This is a great deal if the licensing fits your business needs (www.graphicstock.com).

There are other resources out there, but the focus of this article is on affordable (sometimes free) stock options that can fit your small business budget a bit easier. Websites such as Shutterstock, iStock, Getty, Adobe, and Stocksy are not part of my review due to the higher costs associated with using their imagery.

Fonts, Patterns, Word Art, etc.

Looking for something beyond photography, such as fonts, vector patterns or elements, collage layouts or word art? Then try these online resources:

Creative Market is a great resource with member free Monday downloads from WordPress website templates to fonts, patterns, textures, background photos, and more. You load credits into your account to use when you need to purchase an item.

Squijoo is affordable with great collage layouts and word art that is set up in a layered PSD for you to use with your own design files in Adobe Photoshop. Freebies and more are also available on their website. Squijoo is a member subscription site for only $10 a month (at the time of this article).

Unisub.com has its own graphics library with additional resources in the Markets area for fonts and more, all free to use with ChromaLuxe and Unisub hard surface dyesublimation products. Find more information at www.unisubgraphics.com.

Creative Studio from Sawgrass Ink Systems is a desktop artwork system and library that works with its Virtuoso printers. No additional graphic software is needed. This is included free with full library access with your system purchase. You can find more information here.

Designs from Condé Systems Inc. at www.condedesign.com; The basic common format is 12-by-12-inch vector patterns for $2.99 each to be used within a producttemplate then personalized with a name, photo, or whatnot from your customer. Dig around the site and you’ll find graphics for seasons, occasions, sports, and more.

A Little Extra

These websites are promoted as for graphic designer or photographers, but I’ll let you in on the fun:

Pixelo: I stumbled across this site on Facebook. This graphic design group is based in India, with a focus on creating files that can be used in the commercial space (this means you and your company). You can find fonts, vector artwork, brushes for Photoshop or Illustrator, and a lot more. Use Facebook to follow various sites for help in finding great promotions or sales offered. The official website is www.pixelo.net.

Bird Design Shop: While this site is aimed at professional photographers, it has a lot of great resources you can use for your own business such as online collage banners, type layouts, mug layouts-there are even freebies for Facebook cover photos, as well as nicely designed forms. Remember, your business look should be consistent on all items, even order forms. Visit www.birdesignshop.com for more information.

For commercial-use fonts try these free sites:

Here are some search tricks to keep in mind for finding that perfect image file:

Use multiple keywords in your search. Instead of a single-word search term such as “flower,” try summer flower, or family portrait instead of “family.” You’ll find more options specific to your needs with less searching.

Look for images that you can use multiple times and in different ways. If there are two versions of a photo, go for the full-frame version so you can crop it yourself based upon your image needs, which allows you to get more use out of that single image.

Use a search engine for photos across multiple sites instead of looking within one specific website.

I hope that these suggested sites can help inspire your products to grow your dye-sublimation business and increase your customers’ happiness with greatlooking products. While I am employed by Unisub (owned by Universal Woods), I am not associated with any of the other site resources listed. Please carefully read the license agreements when downloading and using images, fonts, or graphic artwork of any kind to ensure proper ethical use.  

Jennifer Foy

Jennifer Foy


Jennifer Foy has over 20 years of experience using Adobe software and working in the advertising, marketing, and design fields. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, and a Master of Arts in Advertising from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. Her years of teaching experience include numerous software and design classes for colleges in Atlanta, Georgia, and Louisville, Kentucky. Jennifer is currently working as the Creative Director at Universal Woods with the Unisub and ChromaLuxe brands. Jennifer can be reached by email at [email protected]

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