New software, new gear, new accessories—the creative tools at your disposal are always expanding. Whether it’s the ability to add hyper-realistic effects to an illustration or a camera that can capture crystal-clear pictures of the cosmos, we like to test the boundaries of what’s possible with our content. We rounded up 10 stock images from our library that each offer a unique and innovative perspective, driven by creative tech like drones and advanced editing programs, so that you can explore the possibilities of this futurist realm.
If you like testing limits or want to promote a sense of exploration and adventure, this content category really captures that vibe. Technology may be a part of our everyday lives, but it can also be used for extra-sensory storytelling—or enhancing how your audience experiences the world. Not everyone has access or ability to create media that involves high-tech gear or software, but the images below make it possible for anyone to break boundaries with their personal and professional projects.
Get a taste of the future of creativity with our top 10 images:
A great design always tells a story. Sometimes, that story takes place in a fantasy world and speaks in metaphors. These stock images are the stuff of dreams and fables—they combine real world photos and magical effects to hint at supernatural possibilities. We gathered our 10 favorites from this surreal category so that you can put your imagination to the test, and see how a touch of magic might take your projects into a whole new creative level.
Magical realism has a way of captivating audiences, be it for art or marketing. Depending on the tone of your brand or personal style, these images could help convey an inspiring, eerie, or thought-provoking message. For writers, such designs make perfect accompaniments to fictional tall tales and even children’s books.
There are no limitations when you dip into surrealism—see how far you can take your imagination with the 10 stock images below.
As the wild year of 2016 wraps up—crazy, we know—it’s a good idea to start looking forward in the world of design to see what graphic design trends are coming our way. We’ve been dreaming and imagining how we can incorporate stock photos and vectors. into new and exciting design themes. While we’ve seen some great trends over the past year, 2017 is promising to take design to a fresher, bolder level.
Material design may just be the biggest and boldest of design trends to really try to grasp and understand. This style guide was created by Google to try and simplify the way designers design and users interact with the Internet. The core concepts of this trend are “material as a metaphor; bold, graphic, intentional; and motion provides meaning.”
What does all that mean? The visual aesthetic communicates clearly with your user. Draw inspiration from real-world materials—particularly paper and ink—to keep your designs grounded in reality, yet lightweight and minimalistic. Paper is tactile, casts shadows, but is also incredibly flexible. Design with those principles in mind and think about how you’re weaving together the fabric of the Internet.
Be bold with your colors, contrast, and typography. Don’t shy away from imposing a strong hierarchy. Your design should guide the user’s behavior. Utilize motion in your designs—literal and implied—to communicate with your users. Always be thinking: How can I influence my audience to act the way I desire? Google’s Material Design aesthetic is very similar to Flat Design 2.0, but it takes intentionality to another level.
This may be the year of brave designers. Bold photography in coordination with sleek text is gaining momentum as a trend. This combination is often found in advertisements for brands that embrace adventure. Some examples include activewear brands like Nike and also fashion brands like Everlane, amongst many others. (Have you seen our tutorial on how to create striking text portraits?)
This combination exudes class, yet also excitement. It communicates a clear message, but doesn’t bore the audience. “Bold and sleek” works well for an audience with a short attention span as it gets straight to the point. This combination works great for display ads, social media promotions, and graphics where a small amount of information needs to be conveyed instantly. Incorporate bold borders to better emphasize your information and draw greater attention.
In our recent post about the hottest trends of 2016, we coined the term “Retro Nouveau” in order to distinguish what was commonly known as retro (20s-70s) from what newer retro designs are emulating (80s-00s). However, modernized retro is a whole other ball game. Consider it as a way of simplifying and modernizing any particular graphical element that stood out from any time period of the past.
For example, you could focus on modernizing old product labels that utilized badges and flowy script. Or possibly choose to recreate incredibly detailed artwork and icons and choose to scrape them down to their bare essential geometry. Maybe a color palette of the past inspires you—creams, reds, and baby blues, anyone?—and revitalize those little details in your new design. Breathe fresh life into old graphic classics and make something into your own.
Pantone often leads the way with seasonal color trends. In 2017, expect vibrant and bold colors that are incredibly true to their dominant hue. This trend started to sneak its way into a variety of design elements earlier in 2016, but should really pick up speed with the new year. Look for colors found in nature and intensify them. With photography, be bold and up the saturation of your images.
In terms of designing with color, choose loud and deep colors—not necessarily bright. Look for colors that are heavy on the hue rather than brighter in lightness. In your graphic designs, utilize contrasting colors similar to what is suggested in material design. Allow each color to fearlessly draw attention to specific areas of your design.
Above all of the previously mentioned trends, function is the key player for 2017. As new technologies emerge like augmented reality, it’s important for designs to be clear about the action that is desired from a user. In fact, utilizing all of the above trends can help achieve this goal.
Utilize the presence of shadows and motion to indicate clear “clickable” portions of your web designs. Bold photography combined with minimal text can help relay an important message that needs to be quickly discerned. Modernized retro can help encapsulate a distinct feeling or sense of nostalgia you wish to associate with your product. Saturated and contrasting colors will draw attention to the most prevalent portions of a design. Think function and clarity in addition to aesthetically pleasing design.
As technology adapts further and further, user experience is a necessity to keep in mind. As a result, many designs will have to be approached with practicality at the forefront of their concepts. Similar to how skeuomorphism helped ease the transition into smartphones and touch screens, designs for new technologies will need to be approached in a way that makes the most sense for new users—which is really all of us.
Think you’ve seen it all? Think again. 2017 is not the year to be afraid; it’s the year to push boundaries. If you’re looking for some photos that can really set your designs apart, look no further than these magical realism photos–sure to cause a double-take.
They make an excellent backdrop for graphic posters, social media, and event promotions–really any project that you’d like to feel magical and inspiring. Want to add another touch of mysticism to these works of art? Try adding a grunge texture overlay to roughen them up a bit.
Instagram and Snapchat took over in 2016 and new social media apps are keeping the momentum going into the new year. However, one thing is for sure: social media is more powerful than ever for business. And it’s really not as simple as it seems.
It can be hard to nail down what sort of content will perform successfully. Your social media posts are worthless without captivating graphics. Stock media can provide the perfect backdrop for any variety of social media content. One of our favorite combos? A stunning landscape with a motivational quote to accompany high-performing hashtags such as #motivationmonday, #thursdaythoughts, and #fridayfeeling. Need some help finding your perfect image? Explore our 50 favorite picks for social.
Are you ready for 2017? Try your hand at designing with these trends using stock vectors and photos. What better way to start the year than with a new creative project?
Imagery is your most powerful tool on social media. Whether you are new to social branding or a seasoned Instagrammer, stock photos can help establish your online identity. On Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or any other channel, engaging graphics appeal to your audience and increase engagement—which means more clicks, shares, favorites, and—ultimately—sales. In short, better social images mean better business.
But how do you create compelling images efficiently? To make sure you won’t get slapped with a copyright violation or end up with a low-quality graphic, the answer is simple: use stock graphics. It’s something professional graphic designers have been doing for ages.
To make it easy for you, we’ve curated 50 fan-favorite photos for social media designs. Take a look at our top 10 and then click the button at the bottom of the post to download the entire collection!
Sometimes you want an image to speak for itself—but other times you need an eye-catching background for your message. That’s where photos like this come into play.
Can you even look at this without feeling a sense of calm? From gorgeous seascapes to snowy mountaintops and everything in between, landscapes are perfect for any number of social media projects.
We all have to make a living somehow, so it makes sense that stock photos depicting common business themes are popular on social media. Besides, who wouldn’t want their desk space to look this zen?
Fitness is a multi-billion dollar industry—it’s no wonder that photos inspiring us to hit the weights make up a huge number of the images we see online every day (#fitspo). Stand out from the pack with visually interesting shots that look beyond the abs.
8. Holidays & Celebrations
Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, or any of the hundreds of other holidays people around the world celebrate each year, these popular photographs take full advantage of the season.
9. Cute & Cuddly
It’s just a fact—cat’s rule the Internet. But don’t forget about dogs, and owls, and alpacas. Yes, we said alpacas. They’re really cute, okay? Give your audiences something they’ll love with these heartwarming images.
There’s a reason that Instagram food blogging is a thing. We’re obsessed with food. It can be anything—even brussels sprouts. If it’s well plated and lit perfectly, we want to eat it, and show it to our friends so that they can fantasize about eating it too.
With winter nature vectors, you can decorate almost any object and create your own digital projects. These snowy and festive images can help bring together your designs with winter-inspired scenery and graphics. So whether you’re hoping to create a winter snowscape scene to frame on your wall or design your very own holiday sweater, you can easily find winter nature vectors to personalize.
To help you along, we’ve curated our top 20 landscape and animal-themed winter vectors—use them to customize your winter gifts, create holiday cards, add a dramatic winter landscape to your computer desktop, develop your own social media banner, or print your own wrapping paper.
Landscape Nature Vectors
A landscape vector sets a scene and creates a mood for your design. Use one as a backdrop for other vector graphics or select a landscape to stand on its own. You can scale the vector to any dimension without distorting the imagery, so these vectors work well for projects as large as a billboard or as small as a mouse pad.
Beginning artists often use assets by other artists to inspire them or to add dimension to their work. Instead of creating an entire winter landscape scene from scratch, choose a pre-made landscape and add other elements as you see fit. For example, you might add galloping reindeer to a snowy hillside or add text to a simpler landscape.
You can also use landscape nature vectors as artwork for your walls. Adjust the vector as you see fit, then export the vector from Adobe Illustrator as a JPG. From there, you can scale the image to suit the dimensions you want for your artwork.
Use these landscape nature vectors to spark your imagination.
Cute animals never fail to draw smiles when they’re used in artwork and other projects. Animals that often make appearances in winter nature vectors include squirrels, deer, birds, and polar bears, but you can find almost any animal in a winter-related scene.
Some animal nature vectors feature a single animal with a transparent background—you can insert these animals into any design to add visual interest. Other animal vectors feature multiple animals, often in detailed scenes—use these vectors by themselves or add other elements to make the image your own.
Animal nature vectors also work great for holiday cards, storybooks, party fliers, and other projects that you might undertake during the winter. Kids often respond well to animals, so products or gifts for children tend to feature them.
Explore some of our most popular animal nature vectors with winter themes.
When you’ve chosen your winter nature vectors, download them and open them in Adobe Illustrator or other vector editing program. You can change the vectors or combine them for whatever project you’ve chosen. Use the software’s tools to change colors, move objects to different positions, and make other adjustments. Once you’re happy with your design, save the changes so that you can always access your vector file later. You can also save the original to ensure nondestructive editing.
At this point, you can open the image in Adobe Photoshop or other image editing program to make any final edits. Some designers prefer to work exclusively in Illustrator, while others shift back and forth between Illustrator and Photoshop to take full advantage of each program’s tools.
Winter nature vectors can add more variety to your digital assets and allow you to speed up the design process. Can’t decide which of these 20 winter vectors you like the most? Download them all from our royalty-free stock image library—all with unlimited downloads when you have a GraphicStock membership.
Creating a logo is a major undertaking—if you ask the brand agencies that charge thousands and thousands of dollars to make them. We all know how essential logos are to build a strong brand identity, but it doesn’t have to be rocket science—stock vectors can be easily adapted to create a unique and powerful logo for your company or organization. The beauty of using GraphicStock is that our license allows you to adapt existing graphic elements into logos without any copyright worries.
Take a look at these formulas, which show the simplicity behind the logos of major, international corporations. Hopefully, these will get your design neurons firing.
A common combination is an icon plus your company’s name:
Although this is an older version of Starbucks’ logo, the badge is a well-known composition in logo design, especially for traditional or nostalgic industries:
And yet another classic example of icon plus business is from our very own sister site, AudioBlocks:
The key to successfully incorporating stock vectors into your logo design is to look for parts of each vector you want to download and blend it into your overall aesthetic. That means avoiding a copy and paste technique, and instead picking and choosing which elements inspire you the most and can help streamline your process. Here are our 30 favorite vectors for logo design.
For centuries, abstract art has puzzled and fascinated audiences. In web and graphic design, using abstract vectors is one of the most practical ways to add flourish to any project. Stand out from the crowd with these top 25 vectors—we curated each of these designs from the most downloaded and popular stock vectors in our library.
The power of abstract visual elements lies in their ability to evoke emotion and imagination without getting bogged down in figurative representations. Abstract designs grab viewers’ attention immediately with their bold and striking compositions—which can be a major plus when designing marketing materials or branded creative.
The GraphicStock community has used them for all kinds of projects: website templates, album covers, phone backgrounds, and so much more. From bold watercolor designs to geometric patterns, our library has abstract designs to fit any creative project.
Here are the top 25 abstract vector graphics in our library:
Some trends last for ages while others are cyclical, but whether classic or fleeting, design trends are both inspiring and incredibly useful when it comes to your graphics work. So what’s been hot in 2016? The five styles that have dominated the year so far are outlined here to help you develop eye-catching and relevant concepts, while still staying true your unique creative vision.
We rounded up visual examples of each design trend using royalty-free stock graphics, which you can easily incorporate into your own projects. Here’s the breakdown:
1. Flat 2.0
Flat lay took the design world by storm back in 2013 with the release of Apple’s iOS 7. It was introduced as a way to draw focus to content, functionality, and clarity, and came about as a minimalist reaction to the previous trend of “skeuomorphism”—a more complicated and ornamental design concept of making items represented resemble their real-world counterparts such as wooden textures on a bookshelf and heavy use of gradients for an exaggerated 3D realistic look.
Early flat design consisted of bright and bold colors, intentional negative space, and simple typography combined with a complete lack of depth—hence the term, flat. Despite the intentions of its creators, one of the biggest complaints and drawbacks of Flat Design was the lack of clarity. Flat 2.0 is an updated, even clearer version. Though still simple in nature and bright and bold, the 2.0 design style hints at depth with subtle gradients and flat drop shadows to make interfaces more user friendly.
To utilize this trend in your designs, choose bright colors, minimal typefaces, simple shapes, and heavy uses of negative space—but don’t shy away from using subtle gradients to portray depth and light within your design. Incorporating motion into your designs can also help provide meaning and clarity for users.
2. Geometric Shapes
There is something about geometry that’s appealing to the human eye. Perhaps it’s because strong geometric lines indicate that the design is manmade. Or it could be because geometry occurs in nature everywhere. All we know is that strong geometric shapes and patterns are having a moment and it’s likely to last. Geometric patterns create bold and often dynamic designs that draw a user in. They portray heft and weight, yet still somehow indicate motion.
We’ve seen geometry in package design, branding, backgrounds, graphic elements, and more recently in web and user experience design. Geometric patterns are some of our most popular pieces in our stock graphics library and we’re expecting these to dominate the world of digital design shortly. To utilize this trend in your designs you can incorporate low-poly patterns, like this retro mosaic vector, as the background or hero image of a web page. Or consider balancing their heft with generous use of white space.
Geometric shapes also do well in logos, social media graphics, or brand collateral. Depending on the color palette you choose, you can convey playfulness or even a more serious tone with muted colors and strong use of black. Don’t be afraid of being bold—but balance is key!
3. Retro Nouveau
While a new or modern take on retro may seem like a paradox, just imagine art deco designs from the 20s or Bauhaus-inspired posters from the 60s. Nowadays, retro looks are drawing their inspiration from the late 70s through the 90s, which is why it’s important to note that this is a new kind of retro. Think nerdy nostalgia, pixelation, and colors on colors on colors.
This trend is playful, open-ended, and evokes fond memories. To imitate this trend, dig deep into your memory bank. Take something from your childhood and imagine how you can bring new life to it. Were video games your thing? Try your hand at a pixelated graphics. Was Fresh Prince of Bel-Air one of your all-time favorite shows? Incorporate funky and bold patterns into your branding. You can even do your best to encapsulate a specific feeling you associate with from one of those eras. Freedom. Rebellion. Free-spiritedness. You can revitalize your memories in modern ways to make old art feel fresh again.
Much like clothing from the 80s, many popular patterns with this Retro Nouveau twist are heavily saturated, shamelessly geometric, and warm. After all, trends tend to recycle, so it was only a matter of time before the 70s, 80s, and 90s made a comeback.
Motion in graphic design can be very useful for communicating a desired action from a user, but motion also has other uses and isn’t always indicated by dashed lines or swooshes—it can also be straightforward with actual movement. With recent boosts in technology, we experience greater capability in websites that support larger file sizes required by the movement
Digital designs can now host any number of different motion elements, including animated vectors (HTML5 is super powerful), visually striking cinemagraphs, and GIFs. With just a flicker of motion, users become more engaged without losing focus on content.
If you want to draw attention to a specific portion of your website, try adding animated vectors or SVG’s. Cinemagraphs as a hero image on your site can be a great way to capture the attention of visitors and influence them to continue scrolling or even draw greater attention an important piece of content. Small and subtle animations peak a user’s interest, without overwhelming the content.
5. Abstract Swiss
Many of the trends we’ve covered can be blended together—geometric shapes play well with retro nouveau, while Flat 2.0 and motion often go hand-in-hand in user interface design—but Abstract Swiss stands apart from these trends. Especially popular in web design and product collateral, Abstract Swiss involves the heavy use of white space, deconstructed layouts that break the rules, and a minimal color palette. It looks less structured and more abstract.
When designing in this style, harness your inner-rebel. Avoid aligning all of your design elements in a typical grid-fashion. Create intentional breaks and embrace an almost uncomfortable amount of white space. Refine your color palette to a minimal, monochromatic look and add moments of bold and black graphical elements.
Feeling inspired? Stealing like an artist is part of the process and copying design trends can help build your artistic muscles. Not entirely comfortable working with vectors? Check out our guide, try making these into your own, and exercise your creative voice.
If you’re looking for more trend-inspired creative assets, explore the royalty-free vectors and design elements in our stock graphics library.
In our plugged-in world, we see hundreds of ads, pins, and posts that encourage us to try new recipes, travel to new places, or take on a new home project. With the Olympics coming up, it’s no surprise that fitness inspiration (or #Fitspo) is a growing trend in stock photography as well. Seeing a picture of a strong, athletic figure perfecting the Lotus position—probably on a beach in Hawaii at sunset—has the potential to wake up the yogi in all of us.
So what makes a photo inspirational? We’ve identified a few trends and techniques that make a fitness image meme-worthy.
Whether your jam is CrossFit or Barre, you’ll find endless fodder for your #Fitspo board below.
We created a project folder on GraphicStock to gather together some of our favorite inspiring, exercise-inducing, (and totally pinnable) photos, which is an easy way to compile all your favorite images.
Find the Light
Lighting is arguably the most essential element in athletic photography. Light and shadows are critical for highlighting musculature and body composition. Lighting also sets the mood for the image.
For example, do you want a gritty, hard-core feel? Then you will probably gravitate toward strong shadows, dark backgrounds, and a single directional light source.
Close ups are a powerful tool in motivational photos for a couple reasons. First, visualization helps us reach our goals, and removing part or all of the fitness model from the shot allows the viewer to picture themselves within the image. Secondly, close-ups allow the viewer to zone in on a single objective, such as greater flexibility, a heavier barbell, or that first pull-up.
Many people struggle with exercise because they hate the idea of the gym. Though it’s a mecca for many fitness enthusiasts; novices and experts alike often find the idea of repetitively picking up heavy objects or running endlessly toward nothing in a fluorescently-lit room that smells like sweat more than a little off-putting. That’s probably why many of the best fitness photos take exercise back into the great outdoors.
It’s no coincidence that some of the most inspirational fitness photos capture the very things we think we could never achieve: mastery of an intense acrobatic posture, washboard abs, the summit of a major mountain… Seeing someone else live out our dreams helps us to realize that we can to. It might be harder, it might take longer, but if they can do it, so can I!
If you’re finding it hard to create the perfect curve for the design you’ve been working on for days—or maybe you’re just lost on how to draw a simple heart—there’s no need to smash your laptop to bits in frustration. We’ve all been there, but thanks to interaction designer Mark MacKay, we have The Bezier Game to help us master the pen tool in a fun and intuitive way.
While the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop allows you to draw precise graphics and shapes, using it is often a little more difficult than just clicking and dragging. That’s why MacKay created The Bezier Game, which trains newbie designers to use this often-overlooked essential tool.
The game starts with a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the pen tool. It allows you to watch the demonstrations over again until you feel ready to begin drawing. You first practice drawing basic lines and then applying that skill to specific shapes.
Once you have perfected straight lines, the game advances in skill, moving onto curves.
After you have completed your circle, combining curves and straight lines, the next challenge is drawing a heart–even if you’re feeling more frustrated than loving towards the pen tool at the moment.
Finally, using all the skills you just learned, the game ends with having you draw a car. Don’t worry though, you can repeat any shape over again until you feel ready to take on this feat.
The only caveat is that the game gives you a limited number of of nodes to draw your shape. So use your lines wisely!
Want to explore more illustrations? Here are a few already-made favorites from our library. If you’re short on time, these royalty-free stock graphics will save you from having to start drawing from scratch.