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Let’s Talk Shop: Art Sources for Wrap Design

Longtime WRAPS contributor Charity Jackson runs down a bunch of places to get images for your wrap jobs.

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I imagine if you’ve done some research into designing for vehicle wraps you’ve come across a debate or two as to whether photos should be included in your designs. Some will say your designs should be all vector based, and others will argue that wraps designed in Photoshop provide more punch! No matter which side of that argument you stand on, or maybe you have a foot firmly planted on both sides, there is a need for art sources to pull together the design.

A well-designed wrap is one of the most important parts to the whole wrap process. After posing a question on LinkedIn-asking our peers in the wraps industry about some of the sources they use for artwork-I was given some great leads. Here are a few sources for artwork and photos that you could work into your next wrap design, as well as some points to consider when choosing your artwork.

Artwork Sources

Following is a list of some of the suggested sources for both free and purchased artwork, as well as some additional sources I’ve found. Some of these sites deal only in vector-based images; many include both vector and raster-based artwork.

–          iStock – www.istockphoto.com – Offers photos and vector illustrations as individual purchase, through credits, or through subscription plans. All file sizes are the same price.

–          Shutterstock – www.shutterstock.com – Another great source for high resolution photos and vector artwork. Pay-as-you-go or subscription for the artwork on their site.

–          freepik – www.freepik.com – Free vector artwork, photos and Photoshop files; premium artwork files are linked to the iStock Photo website.

–          vector.me – www.vector.me – Free vector artwork with links for premium files through the Shutterstock website.

–          seeklogo – www.seeklogo.net – Free vector logo downloads.

–          Brands of the World – www.brandsoftheworld.com – Free vector logo downloads.

–          Mr Clipart – www.mr-clipart.com – Free vehicle templates as well as collections of vector and raster-based software for purchase.

–          Aurora Graphics – www.auroragraphics.net – Huge selection of vector and raster-based artwork, available as individual downloads or as artwork collections. Offers a design tool on their site for creating wrap layouts that can be presented to your customer.

–          PicJumbo – www.picjumbo.com – Searchable database, and attribution is not usually required on these high-resolution photos.

–          Pixabay – www.pixabay.com – Another searchable site of high-resolution photos with no attribution on almost all of their photos.

–          Morgue File – www.morguefile.com – High-resolution, free stock images requiring no attribution.

–          Free Images – www.freeimages.com – Open source, high-resolution photos in a searchable database.

–          Picography – www.picography.co – Offering free high-resolution photos. “Use them however you like.”

Important Caveat

Now with all of these sites you’ll notice “Terms of Use,” “Licensing,” or some other disclaimer that may limit the use of the photos or vector artwork being offered. Some sources also offer extended or full-access licenses that give the purchaser more rights regarding how the artwork can be used.

While other sites, like Pixabay, clearly spell out free-use of all files without restrictions. There are often different guidelines for personal vs. commercial use as well. Be sure you follow these guidelines as you don’t want to get in trouble for using artwork outside the scope of what was intended.

Also, be sure you also have some good virus-protection software installed, and up-to-date, on your computer. Any website that has user-submitted artwork-as is the case with some of the above sources-can also have a virus attached to the link. Better safe than sorry, so be sure your computer is protected.

Sizing

Vector artwork can be scaled to any size while still maintaining clean lines. This is one reason why many designers like to work with vector artwork. The files for vector artwork will be shown as just one file, without size options.

When purchasing photos from the high-resolution sites, be sure to download images that have adequate resolution for the job you’re doing. When the photo is blown up to size the image should still look crisp. iStock Photo has changed its pricing schedule, which means that you can download any size photo for the same price. But there are other photo sites that charge based on the size of the photo.

Each photo should list the pixels and resolution. If you’re not sure which size file will be big enough, you can plug the pixels and resolution into Photoshop and it will show you the size of the file.

Inspiration

With so much artwork available, both vector and photos, it’s tempting to go crazy on your wrap design. Keep in mind all of the sound principles of design that you’ve learned and incorporate the artwork accordingly. With wrap design the adage “Less is More” really does hold true.

Wrap design is a tricky part of the process. Sometimes it just clicks based on artwork the customer already has, but sometimes you need to find a particular photo or a piece of artwork that ties the whole design together. These artwork sites can be a great source of inspiration as you put together your design. Consider picking and choosing pieces and modifying the artwork to create your own design. Just be sure that this meets any restrictions there may be in place on the artwork you’re using.

Aurora Graphics

Many of the sources I listed are general sites that offer photos and vector artwork for download, but I wanted to highlight Aurora Graphics as they really gear their website and products to the sign industry and wrap designers in particular. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dave Dorsey, president of Aurora Graphics, about some of the products and services they offer on their website.

Looking through Aurora Graphics website you can see the wide variety of graphics packages and individual artwork that is available for purchase. I asked Dorsey how he would sum up what Aurora Graphics offers.

“Aurora Graphics is the art studio that has the famed website offering high-resolution, expertly designed digital art for the vinyl industry,” says Dorsey. “The artwork is created and sold at scale and comes in various file formats including eps, ai, tiff, jpg, pdf, transparent tiff and png. All are designed for output onto vinyl. Those that are designed for print/cut will also contain the correct cut contours for easy production.”

Customize

When you check out the images on the Aurora Graphics site you see a lot of really cool artwork that makes me think of street graphics. This opens up a whole market of graphics for personal wraps, which may be a full wrap or a partial wrap.

I asked Dorsey how he would suggest a sign company incorporate his artwork into a partial wrap. He responded by saying that “partial wraps are easier to design, easier to install and quicker to produce than full wraps. Any of our backgrounds, design elements or graphics can be edited, chopped up, or changed in nearly any way you can imagine. It’s only limited by the users’ ability to design and layout effectively, and by their mastery of editing various images. We do all the heavy lifting when creating the artwork to begin with. The easy and fun part is putting it together to make a killer-looking partial or full wrap.”

When I asked Dorsey specifically about the “Hood and Half Wrap” artwork that they offer he further explained that their artwork can be a simple download, scale and then output or you could take it a step further. He explains that “more advanced users are able to distort, fade, isolate and blend different image files into a final design that has the look, feel and flavor they are looking for.”

Having great sources for artwork sets the base for creating eye-catching wraps. As Dorsey says, “The key is having really solid, attractive looking artwork to begin with.”

Look for creative ways to manipulate the available designs to best fit your partial to full wrap. If it’s for a business, be sure the artwork compliments the customer’s logo and other information and doesn’t detract from the effectiveness of the overall advertising.

Wrap Design Studio

While checking out Aurora Graphics’ website I noticed something called the Wrap Design Studio. In a nutshell, it’s a tool you can use to add to your own website. It allows you to download from more than 750 vehicle templates and one terabyte of artwork from Aurora Graphics’ database and then play around with design ideas for your customer’s vehicle wrap. As Dorsey says, “The Wrap Design Studio was born to fulfill the need to do mockups for customer approval.”

Dorsey shared his thoughts on this approach to wrap design. “It’s a futuristic approach to the vinyl industry, where we are headed as an industry in general. Many people seem to not understand how important artwork really is with any job. The artwork is really what the customer is buying. Printing on vinyl and mounting it on a vehicle or sign is simply a means of transferring artwork to the vehicle surface. It’s the artwork the customer wants, so it stands to logic that the artwork is arguably the most important factor in a wrap.”

As Dorsey also explained, “the Wrap Design Studio is a website and tool set only. It’s designed to sell jobs. Any digital files needed for full-scale output will have to be purchased from Aurora Graphics, then downloaded instantly.”

The Wrap Design Studio is used as a sales tool and once you’ve received a go-ahead from your customer you would need to download the necessary artwork and re-create the artwork at full scale in your sign design software.

Charity Jackson

Charity Jackson is owner of Visual Horizons Custom signs, a full-service commercial sign company based in Modesto, Calif.  She has been in business since 1995 and specializes in vehicle wraps, design and project management and workflow. You can visit her website at www.vhsigns.com.

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