Using Stock Art, and Why it's Awesome

A few months ago, I went on a little Instagram rant about using stock art in your invitation designs. Turns out, a lot of you had questions or thoughts on the topic, so I wanted to delve into this a little further. There’s a whole section on this in our Invitation Design Guide, of course, but here are the basics of why I absolutely LOVE stock art, and am not ashamed to admit it!

Why Stock Art is Amazing

First of all, what is Stock Art?

Stock Art refers to all kinds of art pieces that are created by an artist, and then licensed out to other artists for a fee for use in their designs. You’ve probably seen the whole “stock photo” meme, but stock art encompasses more than just photos - there are drawings, paintings, and graphics of all sort for sale at many stock art websites around the internet. Here’s our favorite one for reference.

Okay, so what’s the Issue with Stock Art?


Great question! Before there were internet memes, stock photos have been used in marketing materials, presentations, and brochures for years, and other types of stock art have been included in various graphic design projects for as long as graphic design has been around. However, in the invitation world in particular, people eschew the use of stock art in favor of what we’ll call “original art” - art that you created yourself. Many invitation designers do create some original art, whether it’s watercolor paintings, venue sketches, or calligraphy, and digitize those pieces for use in their invitation designs. So, as that faction of designers has grown, there’s this weird feeling in the industry of shame surrounding designs that include stock art, or designers that don’t create everything from scratch. I’ve been stock-art-shamed, my friends have been stock-art-shamed, and frankly, it needs to stop!

Tropical Vector Stock Art

Why are People Stock-Art-Shaming?

Heck, I don’t know. If I had to guess, it would be to make them feel better about themselves. That’s what shaming other people always stems from, doesn’t it? I can think of no other reason to shame someone for using stock art, because there’s nothing shameful about it…….and of course, I’ll tell you why!

Wildflower Wreath Wedding Invitations

Why isn’t Using Stock Art Shameful?

  1. No one is good at everything. And we shouldn’t be trying to be. There will always be styles or visions that I don’t necessarily excel at. Does that mean I can’t be a graphic designer? Hell no.

  2. It makes good business sense. I may be able to learn almost any type of art (I’ll admit that I can’t, but let’s dream in an ideal world for a second where I can). Sure, you want 4 different options of fish watercolored for your meal choices? I can totally figure that out for you, but you’ll need to pay $600 for me to create 4 custom paintings…and that’s just the RSVP card. That’s the only way I can afford to take that time away from my other clients. Or, you know, maybe I can just purchase this set for $6 instead.

  3. It’s been around for generations, in fact since the 1920s when stock photography first came on the scene. Digitizing artwork was not always as easy as it is today, so people had specialties, and didn’t feel like they had to do it all - that is a recent ideal.

  4. It’s NOT easy. I promise. Sometimes I spend hours manipulating stock art to incorporate it into a design in a cohesive manner. Sure, some designers make a career out of placing stock art onto an artboard and calling it a day, but most designers devote the same amount of time and energy into using stock elements that we do with our own art. Not to mention, finding the right stock art in the first place is a huge challenge in and of itself! We spill our favorite stock art sources in the Invitation Design Guide!

  5. Graphic. Design. Is. Art. I wish I could put clapping emojis in between each word here! This entire premise really comes down to the fact that graphic design and art created on paper are both equal art forms - unfortunately, a lot of people pretend not to see it that way. Graphic design hasn’t been around as long, and often isn’t valued as much as something like painting or drawing. But, like we said in point 4, creating an element isn’t the only hard part. There are plenty of geniuses out there who aren’t calligraphers, watercolor painters, or illustrators - ones that I look up to every single day. And part of their genius is curating art from other specialties that all fits together in a cohesive way - think of it as an interior designer who doesn’t actually make furniture, but still has to bring it all together for a gorgeous, functional room.

Watercolor Roses Invitations
Stock Art Wedding Programs

Basically, what it comes down to is that I love stock art! I couldn’t do my job as successfully without it, and this post is filled with some of my favorite suites that feature at least some level of art I did not create - not to mention that every suite at the very least contains one font that I did not create myself. So if you want to be a physical artist, then we wish you all the best, and can’t wait to see what you create! And if you wish to only be a graphic designer, or somewhere in between (like I am!) then we wish you all the best as well, and still can’t wait to see what you create!

As a reminder, if you market yourself as a custom painter, then it’s expected that all of your paintings are custom - we’re all about feeling confident and unashamed, but we’re not about tricking people with sketchy wording! Being open and up front about your use of stock art shows nothing but your confidence in graphic design as an art itself, and in your own graphic design capabilities. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty, or like less of an artist, because you’re taking advantage of tools and resources that are available to you in the world for this exact purpose.