Website Graphics | Blog | Web Designer Carmel IN

My Guide to Choosing and Using Stock Images, Illustrations, and Graphics on Your Website

The visual component of your website is the most crucial aspect that a visitor notices. It’s not just enough to slap a photo that matches the theme of a page at the top and hope for the best. Think of them as they function in books or presentations: a way to break up long instances of text, a vehicle to add personality or draw up interest, or at the very least to make the information memorable. There’s probably countless reasons why it’s worth investing in some type of visual assets for your website, and it’ll likely come with a cost — depending on what route you choose. Stock images you’ll pay a premium for up front just for a license, illustrations will be bought straight from an illustrator, and anyone that makes custom graphics may charge you by the hour or by the graphic. Before you hit “submit” on your stock photo order or call a graphic artist, here are a few of my tips in an unofficial guide on how to choose stock images, illustrations and graphics that best fit your website.


This might be an obvious first step, but take a moment to reflect on the type of website you have and what matches your brand. There is nothing worse that you could do than run a fitness blog that only features pictures of dogs (well, maybe that’s not that bad). But the point is — start your search by matching the topic that you’re writing about or discussing on a page. Once you match the subject matter, think about what matches your theme or tone: are you casual? Are you professional? Are you funny?

Or to make it trickier, all of the above.


Despite the large photo to the left of this paragraph, stock images’ use in websites has fallen out of fashion in the last five years, especially with graphics and illustrations demonstrating that a website is more modern and up-to-date. However, there are still several great reasons to implement stock images in your website to help yield the best user experience. If you are short on time needing your website to launch ASAP, stock images are the quickest way to get high quality images. As well, they are usually the most cost effective option where you pay a small fee for a license for your website’s use. Stock images are useful when you need to use a specific image that you can’t find anywhere else. If you have a specific image in mind, it’s often easier to find it in a stock image database than to try to find someone to create it for you. Finally, if your website truly is intended for a wide and general audience where your brand isn’t super specific, stock images can aid your website in appealing to a large range of people.


Every time that I go to study web design trends for the upcoming year, it seems that without fail including custom graphics in your website is the #1 way to display that your website is as they say: up with the times. I would define a graphic as: a visual element such as an icon or chart that can help organize and communicate information on your website. Perhaps their popularity is because it shows that lots of thought has gone into the design of your website and that user experience is your first priority, or it may just be that from a visual perspective users tend to be less overwhelmed by flat or geometric images as opposed to a more complex photo. Custom graphics create a unique visual identity for your brand that will help you to stand out from the competition — you won’t ever see another website use them. For this reason, on occasion it may help your website rank higher in search engines on the basis of being unique information. If used correctly, they actually improve the user’s ability to glean information from your web page. More than anything, custom graphics are a chance to showcase creativity which is a high priority to most customers when choosing a product or service, and you want them to choose yours!


Illustrations are slightly different from custom graphics insofar as they usually depict imagery or scenes seen in a photo, but in an artistic way with less of a focus on portraying hard facts or data. They contribute significantly to the overall tone or feel of the website because they are ultimately a form of art. Illustrations are helpful when you really want to hammer down your brand — when your website’s sole goal is to distinguish and introduce your brand as different from others and less so about just displaying the options your product or service offers. Illustrations in web design are best saved for telling a story all the way down a page, as you’ll likely have some type of recurring character, object or color palette that is meant to characterize your brand. This is likely the most pricey option of all three, but in some cases has the best payout because it very much so displays that your website has more thought put into it than most that people come across. Because of the complexity of integrating them into the feel of the website and user experience, too, I recommend that you look for a web designer with experience in illustrations that way the two can be seamlessly integrated.