Is it Cheating to Use Stock Illustrations?

Posted on April 24th, 2012 in Articles

So, is it cheating to use stock illustrations instead of creating the illustrations yourself? My answer to this question… “Maybe?”

As a graphic design professional, I have always struggled with illustrating my own concepts. I had always been under the impression that any art work for any design that I put my name on had to be completely illustrated by me and me alone. I also know that there are other designers with similar feelings.

However, when it comes to doing good work for clients that don’t have a huge budget at hand, it seemed that I would spend a lot more time on the illustrations than the budget would allow. Every time I chose to create my own illustrations, I was usually able to feel proud of my work. But, I would spend a lot of extra time on something that I wasn’t being paid for.

I had always been a big fan of well drawn vector art in the past and had seen some great work out there when collecting inspirational samples. It had also seemed that the quality of work had been improving over the years and I felt that I needed to compete with this.

I never considered myself to be a professional illustrator and those that were professionals were very expensive to hire. So, what was I to do?

Well… I had always used stock photography in my work over the years and didn’t feel like I was breaking any rules, so why not stock illustrations as well?

Once I got over my feelings and started to think more like a paid designer rather than a fine artist, I realized that it was the context and outcome of the project that was more important than the restrictive principles of ego I was adhering to.

If you have the budget to hire a commissioned illustrator, by all means, do so. But, if you are working on a band poster and are on a tight budget, you need to see the forest through the trees. You need to be realistic and do good work within the boundaries that are set for you. That is the challenge of being a designer.

Plus, The band will be ecstatic if you present them with a poster that looks like this with the budget they have!

Wow! That cowgirl sure is hot even though she is just a series of lines and fills!

— Coach Ockislong, Drummer for the 13th Grade

They will also be extremely happy that people hear about the gig and show up because they didn’t wad up that cool poster and throw it away. You might also get a referral to do some more work for others that have a bigger budget.

Mike Sinkula has a B.A. in Communication Design from California State University, Chico, an M.S. in Human Centered Design & Engineering from the University of Washington and teaches web design at Seattle Central Community College and the University of Washington.

1 Comment:

  1. Seriously, what’s that cowgirl’s number?!

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