Finding and using
art on the web

So you want to add graphics to your site, but you don’t know where to get them? Well—first you have to learn that you can’t just take graphics off someone else’s site unless you want to go directly to Jail, do not pass go, and do not get $200 (though your Lawyer will get at least that per hour).

Art is “intellectual property” which means it’s owned by whoever created it (or whoever owns the copyright). So going to a page and saving a photo of Britney Spears and putting it on your web site is actually illegal—it’s called “copyright infringement” because you are infringing on, that’s right, someone else’s copyright.

There are sites that offer Copyright Free (either the person who created it gave up the copyright, or the copyright expired—which they can after 75 years (or more if it’s newer), and what’s called “Royalty Free” art.

When you go to a site that sells art, you’ll have two choices—Royalty Free (which means you pay a license once, and then use it as many times as you want), or Licensed / Rights Protected (which means that you pay for a specific use for a specific amount of time).

Three keys to using art well

  1. Use only useful art. Make sure it supports your message, and says something that words alone can’t. If it doesn’t do that, remove it because it’ll just be a distraction.
  2. Use appropriate styles. Make sure the style of the art is appropriate to your message. Don’t use a silly cartoon for a serious subject, or elegant art for something silly.
  3. Use a consistent style. When you use multiple pieces of art—make sure that they share a consistent style. Whenever possible, use art by the same artist (some sites and software make this easy) or in the same visual style, so that they all look like they were created at once, just for your project.

The best commercial art sites

  • Image Task Force – I consider this $39 CD the best value of high-quality art you can buy. The software that comes with it makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, by topic, or style.
  • Dover Books – long known for their books of copyright free art (easy to scan), they now also sell books with CDs that contain the art, already scanned, and fonts, too.
  • Dynamic Graphics – They practically invented clip art (which meant you clipped art from a book, first used for newspapers), and they’re still here, with a huge assortment of photos and illustrations
  • EyeWire – a huge assortment of clip art, illustrations and photography, all royalty free and reasonably priced.
  • GettyWorks offers pictures and page templates for people who use Office software.
  • GettyOne offers high-end licensed art and photography for creative professionals.
  • ArtVille – If you’re just looking for royalty free color illustrations, look here first.
  • ArtDisc – Fine royalty-free illustrations to download or buy on CD
  • BizPresenter – photos and graphics for presentations.

Stock photos:

    • CreativePro’s ImageGrabber – searches multiple stock photo sites at once.
    • Comstock – one of the oldest and most respected stock photo houses.
    • Hemera – If you’re looking for photos cut out of their backgrounds, then Hemera’s PhotoObjects collections offer the largest assortment of these kinds of photos—hundreds of thousands of images, as well as traditional photography. You can buy them online individually, buy them by the CD, or on a subscription basis. Click here to save $10.
    • BrandX – offers more unique photos, all royalty free. They have more unusual angles and colors than most other stock photos.
    • PhotoDisc – is part of the Getty family of sites and offers both royalty-free and licensed photos
    • StockByte – royalty-free stock photos.
    • Royalty Free Online – Royalty-free photos from independent photographers.

Learn how to use art to inspire your designs.

Copyright © 2005 Daniel Will-Harris,

Need help with a project? Ask me

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[Art on the web]
[Using Art for Inspiration]
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[Words on the Web]
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[Color on the Web]