Tools of the Trade: Choosing Stock

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AbbeyMarie's avatar

What to Look For

When it comes to stock images there is no better time to be picky. With both free and purchased stock, be discerning. Once you start being picky about what stock you use, and even better when you start using premium stock, you will notice your quality of work will increase a significant amount. Better ingredients means better results. 


You want a crisp clear image with a very very low amount of noise, no motion blur caused by a shaky camera, and completely no artificial effects and edits. Noise is the most common issue, but also the easiest to deal with (to an extent) as long as the image is a good size. Which brings us to our next quality to look for.


The bigger the better. The bigger it is the easier it is to add details, fix defects, and overall just a million times easier to work with. In fact, unless you are a 100% web only hobbyist low resolution images are basically unusable. There is nothing worse than seeing an amazing stock image on DA just to find out it's only 1200px tall. 

Make sure to avoid artificially enlarged stock photos. When an image size is increased in an image editing program the pixels become distorted and destroyed.


Avoid the mega popular stock images as much as you can. Again think of stock as an ingredient. You want fresh and new ingredients. You don't want someone to look at your art and think "I have seen this 100 times before" or "This reminds me of that other image I saw that used this model". I personally even avoid using mega popular models.

Finding Balance

Now with paid stock all these things are guranteed to the fullest, but when it comes to free stock you are going to have to find a balance that works for you. I am most picky about any image that is going to be a core part of the overall piece I am making. Usually the model.  I am much much less picky about originality with small side objects, I don't have to worry about an image having a lot of noise if I know it's going to be blurred in the final image anyway, and size doesn't matter if in the image is going to be small.

I will sacrifice some quality, usually noise, if the  stock image is incredibly original and an extra large size. Or if the stock  really is the perfect image for what I want to do and is of incredible quality then I will sacrifice originality. It all just depends. 

Bobbi by eric-karr
"Bobbi" by eric-karr is the perfect combination of quality, size and originality. It's a gem!

The Right Usage Terms

You can't use every image anyway you want. There are terms set out by the photographer that you must follow. On Deviantart every stock photographer writes their own terms, such as requiring credit, or only allowing the image for personal non-commercial use. You can often find their terms in the description of the image or on the artist profile. 

Premium sites such as 123rf have two different licensings - "Standard" and "Extended". When creating a piece of work that will be resold, such as a book cover, then you will need to buy the "Extended" license. And while premium stock often times does not require credit, it is a kind gesture to name and credit the photographer of the stock photo. 

Where to Find Stock

There are the right places to find stock, and the wrong (and illegal) places to find stock. Respect the medium, other artist and yourself by going to the right places. With the amount of free to use images there is no excuse to not use legitimate resources.


Deviantart Resource Section  | Cgtextures  | Morguefile | Freeimages | Pixabay | Unsplash | imageafter
Personally, my two favorite free sites are good old DA and Cgtextures .

Freeimages was formerly known as Stock.Xchng. Due to a change in their terms of use the overall rule on DA is that if you use an image from the above site then you must have the photographer's written permission. Better safe than sorry? 


shutterstock  | fotolia | 123rf
There may be no better price than free, but with paid resources you are getting the best of the best guaranteed. The best quality, the best size, and the best models shot by the best photographers. You are getting the best so that you can then offer the best. 

The Not Okay Places 

Google images is not a valid resource. It never had been. Wallpaper sites are not a valid resource. Ever. 

DA Stock Image Feature 

Self Portrait by scottb1977
Cup of blood by Nerium-Oleanders   In the doorway by NyxNaiaStock
Mask 2 by MissSouls-stock Dark Legend-1 by cynthia8193
Alien Stock by Vinobia
Gothic Devil  stock by Nerium-Oleanders Mervilina by Mervilina
Silver And Gold 1 by MissSouls-stock
A5008S by arachnid5  Mervilina by Mervilina
tunnel by eyefeather-stock
New Orleans Garden 1 by magikstock
Window4 by NickiStock RockStocks 2596 by RockStocks 
Goat's Head + Skull 1 by kuschelirmel-stock
Roman boy by Lemondjinn Mask 3 by AsherStock
Carousel Horse by Just-A-Little-Knotty
Human Foetus by BlokkStox Steam stock 12 by Random-Acts-Stock

DA Stock Accounts

Colourize-StockCAStock | mjranum-stock | Burtn | kippa2001 magikstock | 
ArtReferenceSource EveLivesey nathies-stock 
night-fate-stock boldfrontiers FantasyStock LinzStock

DA Stock Compilation Journals

Free Stock and Resources outside dAPlease fave if you find this journal useful
I updated and added new stuff on: March 9th 2014
Hy folks,
before I started doing my own art, I was an avid incredimail email- stationary creator.
(All legal always with freeware, according to terms, with written permission etc)
For that reason I have collected a massive bunch of pages with stockphotos (free for profit reasons)
free & shareware fonts, plugin pages and so on.
I thought that it might be as useful for creating art for some of you.
The quality and resolution of the images varies so check yourself :)
I met several people who don't know much free stock outside dA..
although dA holds fantastic stock photographers and artists too! one can never have enough choice ;)
Where possible I added a link to their TOU (Terms of use) beside the link to the mainpage
As a disclaimer:
I am not affiliated with one of the pages linked to, nor am I to hold liable for any content there. You visit those sides at your own ris
   My favorites and stocks that I recommend ( part 1)These are galleries that I have in my favorites because I do not usually look at stocks that are on the popular Deviantart because I always see pictures stolen and porn (see tips here ) then for me not to see these things, I use only the stocks that I have in my watchers :) (Smile)
In this journal I'll add providers that have more stocks Premades, PNGs, and photographs stocks nature and architecture ....
My favorites are YBsilon-Stock and EveLivesey  I really love their resources, they are the best (in my opinion hehe)

If you have your own stock compilation journal I'd be happy to add it!


My overall advice is be picky, be respectful, and make sure to create your own work. Something new! Don't let the stock do all the work. Especially when it comes to premium stock that are already pieces of art in their own right!

:bulletpink: How picky are you when it comes to choosing stock? What do you look for when choosing stock? 
:bulletpink: Where do you get your stock most often? Ever buy premium stock? 
:bulletpink: Are you "greedy" when it comes to sharing your resource pools? Do you keep the best for yourself?

Skin by SimplySilent
© 2014 - 2022 AbbeyMarie
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Just-A-Little-Knotty's avatar
Lovely and informative !
Thanx so much for including me :hug:
Aurelia-Isabella's avatar
Soooo sorry for my late reply! :-/ But still many many thanks for including one of my works in your awesome feature! :heart:
boldfrontiers's avatar
Thank you very much for including me in this list =D
AbbeyMarie's avatar
UnderlandDigital's avatar
thank you so much for the tips honey!! :love: sometimes we all need a little reminder on how to be picky! =D
AbbeyMarie's avatar
SnowInHades's avatar
Thanks for this. I really appreciate your amazing kindness in sharing such needed information. :hug:
AbbeyMarie's avatar
It's my pleasure! :heart:
Andaelentari's avatar
:clap: great points you brought up.
I was always told that morguefile couldn't be trusted for stock, though, because they take stuff from google?  I've never been there, people have just said to avoid it haha.
I also like your point about the size of the stock images and the fact that they're best unedited.  Both of those are big things that need to be accounted for by the stock provider, I'd think.
AbbeyMarie's avatar
Glad you like it!:D
A lot of people have the same thought about DA, you just have to double check everything when it comes to any non premium stock sites since it's all user submitted. 
Andaelentari's avatar
That's true, that dA is like that.  Good point.
From now on, I'll be safe and check it all, especially since I learned reverse Google.
DeadSuperHero's avatar
This was very insightful! Thanks for all the tips!
AbbeyMarie's avatar
CrystalClear-Art's avatar
Great information. 
AbbeyMarie's avatar
Glad you like it! 
LadyEvilArts's avatar
1) I'm very picky about model pose, and totally hate pre-edited and badly cut out stock (such waste of resources :cry:), very small size won't do too, everything else is fine =)
2) DA, personal, cgtextures, I buy premium stocks only from da artists, I've seen so many issues with purchased stock like photographers don't approve their stock to be used for manips, even trying to take legal actions against artists, (when the hell people start to read rules of the site they are uploading stuff to :pissedoff:). I'd rather pay fellow photographers for images if I'll need smth extra original, than purchase from stock site. No trust :no:
3) I'm not greedy at all, I keep a stock account, all decent images taken by me are uploaded there =)

P.S. Sorry for not showing much activity in the group, too much work :p
AbbeyMarie's avatar
It's fine! I have decided to make the group more lenient with activity. Whenever you have the time is good enough! :D
eric-karr's avatar
AbbeyMarie's avatar
Elsapret's avatar
Thanks for the tips!!Heart  
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