Graphic Design Trends

The Top 20 Nature Vectors for Winter-Inspired Designs

by Caroline Mercurio on December 2, 2016 No comments

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.

Nature Vector

Download this seamless winter vector

Nature Vector

Download this abstract winter birch trees vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this bright night with moon vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this festive pine tree landscape vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this wintry Rocky Mountain landscape vector.

Nature Vector

Download this winter landscape vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this snowman in the sun vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this multicolored winter background vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this snowy landscape vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this winter landscape vector.


Animals in Nature Vectors

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.

Nature Vector

Download this winter frame with birds vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this wildlife winter vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this winter branch with red bird vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this snow geese in winter landscape vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this winter background with swan vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this wintry lovebirds vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this reindeer with winter background vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this cat with snowy home vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this fox with snow mountains vector image.

Nature Vector

Download this snowy owl vector image.


How to Work With Winter Nature Vector Art

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.


Discover a Winter Wonderland


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Caroline MercurioThe Top 20 Nature Vectors for Winter-Inspired Designs

25 Abstract Vectors that Stand Out—The Most Popular Picks from Our Library

by Caroline Mercurio on October 27, 2016 No comments

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:

Abstract Vectors

Download this water color composition vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this abstract blue business background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this seamless mosaic pattern vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this textured retro geometric background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this white crumpled abstract background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this colorful mosaic banner geometric background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this 3D monochrome background with cube vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this abstract blue background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this retro pattern of geometric shapes vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this abstract hand drawn watercolor vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this seamless pattern with circles in retro colors vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this colorful pattern with splashes vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this abstract summer background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this old grunge paper background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this abstract background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this texture of rusty metal background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this diagonal watercolor stripes backdrop vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this abstract flower seamless background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this interweaving of lines textured vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this abstract hand drawn watercolor background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this seamless glossy rainbow scale background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this retro illustration with creative grungy background vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this blurry lights vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this hand painted corners vector.

Abstract Vectors

Download this abstract geometric background vector.

The sky’s the limit for your next design project. Download all of these vectors and more from our library of royalty-free stock vectors to find some abstract inspiration. What will you make next?


Get Creative!


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Caroline Mercurio25 Abstract Vectors that Stand Out—The Most Popular Picks from Our Library

5 Hottest Graphic Design Trends of 2016

by Caroline Mercurio on September 23, 2016 1 comment

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.


4. Motion



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.


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Caroline Mercurio5 Hottest Graphic Design Trends of 2016

Channel Your Inner Olympian: How to Find Photos that Motivate

by Caroline Mercurio on July 14, 2016 No comments

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.

Download these royalty-free Closeup Image of Woman on Rowing Machine and Muscular Man with Barbell stock photos.

If a Zen vibe is more your speed, bright washes of natural sunlight and soft pools of shadow and color will set the stage for you to get your “Om” on.

Download these royalty-free Meditating Woman Sitting In Pose Of Lotus Against Clear Sky and Legs of Gymnast Sitting and Stretching stock photos.


Look Closer

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.

Download these royalty-free Fit Man and Woman Work Out with Kettlebell and Sportswoman Training with Barbell in Gym stock photos.


Go Outside

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.

Download these royalty-free Mountain Biker and Young Couple Running on the Coastline in the Morning stock photos.


Reach Your #Goals

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!

Download these royalty-free Woman Practicing Antigravity Yoga and Man Mountain Climbing Outdoors stock photos.

What inspires your inner Olympian? Tell us in the comments section below!

Find your #Fitspo



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Caroline MercurioChannel Your Inner Olympian: How to Find Photos that Motivate

This Game Will Help You Conquer Your Fear of the Adobe Pen Tool

by Allie Greenberg on June 28, 2016 5 comments

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.

This Game Will Help You Conquer Your Fear of the Adobe Pen Tool

This Game Will Help You Conquer Your Fear of the Adobe Pen Tool

Once you have perfected straight lines, the game advances in skill, moving onto curves.

This Game Will Help You Conquer Your Fear of the Adobe Pen Tool

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.

This Game Will Help You Conquer Your Fear of the Adobe Pen Tool

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.

This Game Will Help You Conquer Your Fear of the Adobe Pen Tool

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.


Discover Illustrations
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Allie GreenbergThis Game Will Help You Conquer Your Fear of the Adobe Pen Tool

A Visual Guide to Pantone’s Summer Palette: 4 Organic Color Trends

by Caroline Mercurio on June 8, 2016 No comments

“We are moving beyond 
the visual, to see it as part
of a total experience. We don’t just look at color now, we experience and feel color.” – Pantone Spring/Summer 2016 Color Guide
The ever-chic style and design trendsetters at Pantone have spoken, and this summer’s colors are vibrant, earthy, and full of organic texture and light. Rather than picking just one or two shades to focus on, they’re celebrating a whole spectrum of bright hues inspired by the natural world. To help you create your own Pantone-worthy design projects, we’ve outlined the four most important themes from this season’s color guide.


1. Natural Colors

Pantone emphasizes colors that are both sensory and tactile, rather than flat tones on a screen. They reflect this aesthetic in the theme of the Pantone summer guide—“Eat.” With names like “ocean depths,” “melon,” “orchid haze,” and “apricot buff,” the palettes are as felt and tasted as they are seen.

To capture the look, avoid designs that are neon or artificial, focusing instead on the the wide array of color seen in food, plant life, and the natural world.

Download these ornamental decorative cabbage and assortment of cream soups stock images.


2. Strong Textures

Branching out beyond two-dimensional palettes, Pantone also points out important visual aesthetics—like these strong textures—as part of their color design. From rough fabrics to gritty stonework, textures make colors pop, prompting viewers to not just see but to feel them, which is why they are fundamental to this season’s trends.

Download these jeans fabric and old brick wall stock images.


3. Rough Design

Over-polished and over-produced aesthetics have been and continue to be less fashionable than the minimalist, no-frills appeal of handmade designs. There is something honest and imaginative to creative projects that are asymmetrical and a bit rough around the edges—it speaks to the human element in both the artists and their audiences. Pantone highlights the importance of messy, analog designs, which closely echo the natural themes underlying its color guide.

Download these colorful pastel art and orange grunge watercolor stock images.


4. Dynamic Light

The interplay between light and color is also a key theme for Pantone. “Metallic surfaces, pearlescent finishes, and sheen all affect how we interpret color and respond,” notes the guide. This applies as much to photographs that use light to illuminate textures and palettes as it does to design elements that create a more sensory experience through tone, shading, and sheens. Ultimately, the interplay between light and shadow makes colors more vibrant and real, bringing them to life.

Download these royal golden background and Keila waterfall stock images.

Search for Graphics by Pantone Color

Feeling inspired by Pantone’s summer trends? You can use the advanced search function on GraphicStock to find images that perfectly match Pantone’s palettes. Watch the video below to get the search tips, or start browsing our library of delicious photos, vectors, and illustrations.


Bite into Pantone’s Summer Colors



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Caroline MercurioA Visual Guide to Pantone’s Summer Palette: 4 Organic Color Trends

4 Tips for Getting Started as a Freelance Designer

by Caroline Mercurio on April 29, 2016 No comments

You did it! You suffered through your grueling Fine Arts diploma and/or a couple thousand hours of online tutorials. You have constructed a “Noah’s ark” themed installation using nothing but recycled aluminum foil. You have learned how to realistically translate three dimensions in a variety of mediums. You are a wizard at all things Adobe. You may have even survived a whole semester of color theory, cutting up little pieces of paper and trying to make a green scrap look blue. You’re not a student anymore. Now you are an artist, a freelance designer. But what does that actually mean in the real world? Where do you start?
You have learned your craft, but nobody ever taught you how to market and sell your work. You have a lot to figure out (unless of course you actually want to go the starving-artist route and live out a Toulouse-Lautrec fantasy). Here are four steps which can serve as a starting point to help you get there.

Step One: Figure out exactly who you are as a designer

The most successful designers and artists establish a distinct style. Think about it: Lichtenstein, the Russian Constructivists, Warhol, even Lisa Frank. They found an instantly recognizable style and utilized it. That being said, if you are looking to make a living in graphic design, your best bet is learning to apply your style to a wide range of media. Wedding stationery, event posters, publications, and marketing materials are your bread and butter. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but it’s important that you be flexible enough to suit this range of media, yet recognizable enough to establish a brand identity and cohesive portfolio.
This wedding background from GraphicStock is perfect for wedding stationary or a variety of Spring projects. It is available as a JPG, EPS, or PNG, making it fully customizable! Click on the photo to download this graphic.

Step Two: Stop giving your work away for free.

“But I need to get my name out!” you protest. Yes, you do. However, there are much better ways to do it. You have to give your work value. Studies have shown that people perceive a meal as tastier when it is more expensive, and in the same way, your work will be perceived as more desirable if people believe it has value. Don’t go to the extreme and try to charge thousands of dollars for a doodle, but take a good hard look at what you are creating and find out the going rate for similar work.

Step Three: Take advantage of local resources.

Find an arts council or league in your area whose sole purpose is the advancement of the arts in your region. Join professional groups or societies to meet business leaders in your area. Attend wedding expos and set up meetings with event venues. Many venues provide event planners and clients with lists of recommended vendors—find out what it takes to get on that list. Join newsletters and establish a dialogue with local organizations. Networking is the cheapest form of advertising.
Art and music events are great resources for networking. Once you book the job, this cool event poster template will get you off to a great start. You can download this image today as an EPS, PSD, or JPG by clicking the image.

Step Four: Learn the ins and outs of copyright law.

It’s amazing how many new designers don’t realize that the images they pull from a Google search could get them in serious trouble for copyright violation. It is imperative to the health and reputation of your business that you avoid this all-too-common misstep. While it’s smart to learn the basics of copyright law for yourself and to check the licensing on downloaded media, an easy way to protect yourself is to automatically source from royalty-free stock media sites.
A good resource for royalty-free font is, which features a library of free commercial use fonts. Just be careful that you are pulling from the free commercial use library—many fonts featured elsewhere on the site do contain copyright restrictions.
The GraphicStock library contains over 300,000 high-quality vectors, photographs, backgrounds, and illustrations—all of which are royalty-free. Once you download a graphic, it is yours to keep. You can use these images in your transformative designs forever.
Here’s just a small sampling from our library:

In the end, if you put half as much work into your business model as you did into developing your craft, you can create a successful living as a freelance designer (no matter what Uncle Fred says).

Explore Unlimited Stock!


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Caroline Mercurio4 Tips for Getting Started as a Freelance Designer

Reimagining Harry Potter Books—Using Royalty-Free Art

by Brian Platt on October 5, 2015 No comments

Inspired by the and the long-awaited illustrated versions by Jim Kay and also our coverage of the stolen Disney illustrations inside counterfeit Harry Potter books, designer Tommy Rayburn challenged himself to do better—using only stock art.


His chosen resources: one downloaded Gryffindor lion, one downloaded Slytherin snake, one black leather texture, and one brown leather texture from our library. Once he found the images, the design came rather quickly, Rayburn says:

“In the books—and to a lesser degree, the movies—there’s so much talk about the house colors: red and green banners, scarves, crests, and sweaters. I thought it’d be fun to create matching books for the two biggest rivals.”

Using Adobe Illustrator, the whole process took about thirty minutes from beginning until the very end:

“I basically pulled and separated the elements I wanted, filled them with solid colors, rotated them, and replicated them to fill the frame using half-inch borders. The textures are two your leather patterns at about 10% opacity, just enough to make them additive and not overwhelming. The font I used is Garamond Bold. There are fonts out there closer to the original, but I always liked the style you see in old hardcover classics.”

Fifty points to Gryffindor for a job well done! And for those interested in taking the challenge themselves, we’ve put together a Hogwarts-inspired gallery below.

minimalicon_glasses animal_200800752-1113int-animal
old-scroll-with--dragon-913-1165 2861-vintage
crests-vector-2-4 nx_dragon_fighting_silhouette
funkyicon_bolt Christmas Envelope
Accio Unlimited Graphics►
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Brian PlattReimagining Harry Potter Books—Using Royalty-Free Art

GraphicStock Member Profile: Inside Woulds Design

by Brian Platt on October 4, 2015 1 comment

Creative Director Aaron Woods shares his thoughts on establishing a client base, paying your design dues, and getting the most out of stock images.


It’s October;  which means the air is crisp, the leaves are about to change, and during Octoberfest a love of craft beer’s is at an all time high.  Prospective clients perusing Minnesota-based Woulds Design are apt to discover several distinct takeaways: an animated logo that, alongside our other most-prized introductions, warrants watching every time it appears; a pixel-perfect pairing of typography and graphics; and Creative Director Aaron Woods’s embodiment of design “from the feet up.”

Aaron, it’s clear, is one of those right-brained folks whose success in graphic design was heavily foreshadowed by a lifelong attraction to art and design.

“As a child I was always interested in drawing and art,” says Aaron, who recalls creating graphics in MS Paint on his first computer before becoming hooked on Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop in high school.

Afterward, he attended art school (graduating with the honor of Best Advertising Portfolio), and took a job “paying his dues” in prepress production—which is where, he says, his education truly began.

Education (And Endurance)

Despite developing an award-winning portfolio in college, Aaron insists it took years of additional learning before he “could really be considered good at digital art.”

“The best thing a teacher ever told me was ‘I’m not here to teach you what to learn. I’m here to teach you how to learn,’” he says. “When I graduated art school, most kids did not get a job in the field at all. I got lucky and had a roommate who had a line on a job at a promotional products company, mostly putting customers’ logos on mugs . . .”

Far from adventure and excitement, he confesses, but precisely the right prescription for a budding graphic designer:

“It was exactly the kind of work I needed but didn’t know it at the time. In the graphic design world, unless you have naturally exceptional talent, you need to pay your dues. You need to learn that technical stuff that is horribly unsexy so you know why things are the way they are and what the limitations are of what you’re trying to do. I knew kids who got their first jobs at high-profile design studios and were in so over their heads that they just couldn’t make it and never got another design job after.”

His advice for aspiring designers, accordingly, is not to feel rushed. It’s tempting to go after dream jobs straight away, but the result can be creative burnout and a lot of turmoil from constant judgment.

Instead, patience is a real virtue—as the years he spent working for others on design teams helped him hone not only his design sense, but the business sense that prepared him to eventually go solo.

153-1013-A0155 vintage_labels_10_ai8-1113vv-v
48-premium-quality-300-min 48-premium-quality-300-min

Freedom In Freelance (And Stock Vectors)

After years of part-time freelance, Aaron built up the clientele to go full-time with his design business. Taking the leap was “a mixed bag of terror and joy,” he says, but ultimately the sense of ownership over his designs and work hours proved irreplaceable.

Both his designs and work hours, meanwhile, have been strongly aided by his engagement with GraphicStock’s vector library:

“Most stock graphics I’ve used in my life have been images. For years it was very difficult to find vector graphics, and as one who specializes in vector, this led to issues while trying to find the exact things I wanted […] often I’d find an image but only want part of it, so I’d either have to redraw that part myself or ‘live trace’ the image and separate it, which isn’t easy.”

Since purchasing his annual membership, however, Aaron says he’s saved a great deal of time by eliminating the need to trace or start from scratch:

“My [GraphicStock] usage is almost exclusively vector based. I rarely have a need for images now. I tend to only want to use elements of designs I download, so I’ll download a few different things and pull them apart in Illustrator and recombine what I need. The people who supply the vector graphics must be very good because the files I download are usually very well made.”

(Thanks, Aaron. We’ll pass that along!)

Finding Clients (And Retro Demand)

Word of mouth and social media remain his key sources of design clients; however, Aaron will occasionally employ entrepreneurial spirit when he sees a well-matched opportunity.

A self-described “beer snob,” Aaron recalls reading about a mobile bottling business in a Minnesota trade magazineand, subsequently, noticing it didn’t have much in the way of branding:

“I contacted [the owner] and asked if he wanted some help with his graphics. He said he didn’t really want help for that mission but was thinking of starting a beer label focused on local breweries paired with local music.”

A few conversations and several GraphicStock vectors later, Aaron helped the launch of Tuned Beer with some epic retro labels:



“Everyone wants that poppy 1960s to 1980s retro look,” says Aaron on his most frequent proposal requests. “It used to be grunge a few years ago, but you can see that style dying out.”

Specifically when it comes to craft beer, he adds, nobody wants to look too modern:

“Beer has such an old lineage, and craft brewers really want to highlight that they are the standard bearers for ‘real’ beer. It’s an ideal way to convey a certain reverence for the past while still being relevant.”

Inspiration (And Dual Purpose)

GraphicStock, explains Aaron, has become his “go-to source,” and not just for art—but for inspiration:

“There is such a breadth to the library that you can easily get inspired by just poking around. Their library has all but eliminated my need to ‘live trace’ images using Illustrator.”

This is why, of course, he never deletes any of his downloads. Storage is so cheap, he says, why get rid of them?

“I often find myself going back to files I’ve already downloaded,” he says, “so I keep all of my files on Google Drive for easy access anywhere.”

Visit Aaron’s Facebook page to see more of his awesome retro beer labels and other designs.

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Brian PlattGraphicStock Member Profile: Inside Woulds Design