Graphic Design Trends

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.

Download Some Design Labels Now►
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Brian PlattGraphicStock Member Profile: Inside Woulds Design

10 Inspirational Design Quotes

by Brian Platt on May 26, 2015 No comments

We challenged the award-winning staff of the digital arts magazine Illusion to inspire us, and they fired back with some of our very own images—after anointing them with equal parts stunning typography and artistic insight.

We were completely floored by the results. Not just from the quotes they added from the likes of Picasso and Van Gogh, but from the savvy design instincts used to typeset these quotes, essentially transforming our stock graphics in just a few swift clicks of the mouse.

Click on each image to see the original in our library, and you’ll notice a lot of the small adjustments they made, such as zooming and cropping the images to completely change the composition.





















Thanks again to the staff of Illusion for putting together these awesome images!

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Brian Platt10 Inspirational Design Quotes

Design Insights from the Candy Aisle

by Brian Platt on March 16, 2015 No comments

Want a quick education in color theory? Just walk into any supermarket with a candy section—where you’ll find more than just chocolate, but a crash course in the way colors impact purchase decisions.
In addition to strategically placing sweets beside batteries and newspapers in the only area of the store every customer must frequent—the registers—there’s a lot of design psychology behind making candy wrappers more appealing as impulse buys.

Popular candy colors like red, orange, and yellow are all considered warm colors and are adjacent on the color wheel—more on this later. These warm colors are known to evoke feelings of happiness, optimism, and energy. Red, specifically, can increase heart rate, and therefore increase metabolism, which triggers hunger. All this is great news for advertisers, but makes us seriously question the choice of color for stop signs.

Warm colors, found on the lower spectrum of the color wheel below, elicit more active reactions, from the aforementioned happiness and excitement to anger and frustration. This means that not only can red trigger one’s appetite, but so can yellow, orange and all the shades thereof (the reason most fast food signs are red and yellow).

Cool colors, residing at the top of the color wheel, tend to evoke feelings of calmness and tranquility—which is why you’ll find them more on the packaging of sleep medications than sweets.


Color theory aside, there are other reasons candy products tend to skew away from deep greens, blues, and purples. In nature, these shades rarely correspond to sweetness—but more often, mold and spoiling. This might explain why studies have shown foods dyed blue to cause a decrease in appetite among participants.

Candy marketers have got all of this down to a science: use bright colors to attract attention and trigger appetite, but tread lightly on anything too calming or evocative of spoiling. But at the end of the day, they also kind of luck out since kids will eat anything regardless of color as long as the central ingredient remains sugar.

Brian Platt writes about design, confectionary, and dangerously delicious candies for GraphicStock. 

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Brian PlattDesign Insights from the Candy Aisle

Stock Graphics Good Enough to Eat: Valentine’s Day Vectors

by Brian Platt on February 11, 2015 No comments

If you’ve ever wondered what stock graphics taste like, your wait is over. As it turns out, royalty-free graphics mixed with cocoa butter and artistic vision pair deliciously well with a tall glass of milk.

Confirmation of this comes by way of chocolatier Kimberly Plank, who combined a degree in fashion with her family’s legacy of baking (and countless classes in marketing and accounting) to create the perfect recipe for a successful chocolate business.

Since launching Sweeties by Kim in 2008, Kimberly’s molded chocolates and chocolate-covered Oreos have received glowing reviews from magazines such as Martha Stewart Weddings and Better Homes and Gardens. She’s also designed custom chocolates for Vera Bradley, Food Network premiere parties, numerous celebrities, and our own hardworking customer experience team—who were nice enough to share with the rest of us.

“Chocolates and sweets are like little edible accessories,” says Kimberly, who treats chocolate and pastries more like jewelry than perishable ingredients. The results, of course, are stunning—and have added a whole new dimension to some of the stock artwork found in our library:
Download: Typographic Valentine’s Day Design
Download: Retro Love Design

Once she has chosen and modified a design, the next step is printing it in edible cocoa butter using specialty printers that output an edible “ink” onto clear acetate sheets. The designs are then transferred to the chocolates before they set, after which the sheets peel off clean, leaving behind a glossy finish.

Kimberly says she was the first on Etsy to offer “designer Oreos,” but has since branched out to include the chocolate lollipops and bars seen above, among other items, which she dips and molds by hand in white, milk, and semi-dark chocolates. While the chocolate blends she uses remain top secret, Kimberly is very vocal about her recipe for design: “The quality and appeal of the design comes first,” she says, “then chocolate, then cookie, then edible addition.”

People eat with their eyes first, she knows—especially when it comes to sweets ordered for Valentine’s Day, wedding favors, or promotional gifts—so the chocolates have to look every bit as good as they taste.

Not prepared to take our word for it? Kimberly is offering a buy one, get one free special on her designer Oreos and chocolate pops exclusively for our members through the end of February 2015. Just enter the promo code “graphicstockfeb” in her Etsy shop.

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Brian PlattStock Graphics Good Enough to Eat: Valentine’s Day Vectors

Design Theory: The Rule of Thirds

by Brian Platt on January 12, 2015 1 comment

There are plenty of contrasting theories on the topic of design composition. You’ve likely heard people touting the importance of embracing white space and creating harmony though size variation, yet you’ve probably only ever heard one such theory referred to as a rule: the rule of thirds.

Despite the imposing name, the rule of thirds isn’t so much a rule graphic designers and illustrators have to—or, even, should—follow with any certainty; there are infinite reasons to break it. However, it is somewhat of a rule where our brains are concerned, as we’re naturally programed to perceive more interest and attraction from appropriately oriented designs.

The history of the rule of thirds began long ago in 1783, when a painter by the name of Sir Joshua Reynolds described his thoughts on the “grand style” of the imperfect. Essentially, Sir Reynolds believed that paintings were uninteresting when perfectly centered. Their equal portions gave everything equal importance and therefore gave the eyes no hierarchy of focus or suggestion of movement. He called the result an “awkward suspension” of the subject.

Body 1

However, if he divided the same design into thirds as opposed to halves, he found, the resulting contrast led the eyes of viewers more easily from one distinct area of his paintings to another. This is the reason you’ll often find horizon lines on the lower third of a canvas as opposed to the direct center; the result is generally more visually pleasing and comes across as more dynamic.

Body 2

Taking the rule of thirds further, the same idea applies to vertical composition as well as horizontal. Typically, this is expressed in the form of a nine-section grid within which intersecting lines mark areas of particular attraction.

Look closer at the same planetary sunrise graphic, and you’ll find the sun aligns perfectly with both horizontal and vertical thirds; this is no coincidence.

Body 3

In fact, whether you’re looking at your favorite paintings or stock images involving any subject from commercial jets to corporate puzzles and bicycles at sunset, you’ll find a great deal of design elements intersect with these “power points” that come together to make the rule of thirds.Body 4

body 5

body 6

None of this means symmetry isn’t beautiful, but it is more effective in some places than others—and best when used intentionally, and not as a go-to design theme.

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Brian PlattDesign Theory: The Rule of Thirds

Our favorite stock images of 2014

by Brian Platt on December 31, 2014 2 comments

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but stock images are worth more than eleven million downloads (thanks to your devoted downloading in 2014).
Among your favorite downloads from our library this past year were stock backgrounds, stock textures, and stock social media graphics—along with heavy hits in the Christmas celebration categories.
Without further adieu, here are the best stock images of 2014, ranked by number of user downloads. Happy downloading in the year ahead! We’re looking forward to bringing you the best stock images of 2015 and beyond.

Our favorite stock images of 2014 Our favorite stock images of 2014
Our favorite stock images of 2014 Our favorite stock images of 2014
vector-t-shirt-design-with-skull-and-wings_M1icrb__ christmas-greeting-card_zywbTEIO
metal-scratched-22-texture_zJk_Tord Wooden Floor Background
simply-minimal-infographic-template-design-vector_fkTprxwu Forest road. Landscape.

Our favorite stock images of 2014: Brian Platt writes about trends, design, and user’s awesome download habits for GraphicStock

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Brian PlattOur favorite stock images of 2014

Requests That Drive Designers Crazy—and How to Respond to Them

by Brian Platt on December 15, 2014 No comments

What designer hasn’t dreamt of a world without requests for free design work? A world where clients never ask for a “quick” ten hours of revisions and where the printer ink flows like wine.

We might someday reach this magical land of milk and Helvetica. However, until that time, we’re probably better served dreaming up ways to deal with the pressures of design work—rather than dreaming of ways to escape them.

Here are a few strategies you might consider the next time a design client asks for something that’s not possible (or profitable).

The request:Making “Quick Changes”

Why it bothers us: Expecting unrealistic turnaround times can undermine our work, our craft, and our calendars.

How to respond: Before you respond by telling a client how you really feel about being asked to drop everything and scramble on their behalf, consider the reason they’re asking for this. More than likely, it’s not because they’re devaluing your work—but because they lack perspective on just how much time goes into it.

Strong design takes strategic planning, careful execution, and thoughtful revision. And none of that comes quickly. Unfortunately, thanks to both general ignorance and the magic of TV, people often have the wrong idea of programs like Photoshop—assuming designers can just hit a button to “enhance” or redesign an image.

Aside from mentioning the dangers to rushing design work (e.g., compromised detail and consistency), it’s worth making sure clients fully understand the scope of what they’re asking for. Do they realize the “flat” file they’re seeing is really sixteen layers as a PSD? That the “small” change they’re asking for has to be made in seven different places? And that “quick” changes to one area mean halting all progress in another? Probably not.

Politely shining some light on misconceptions like these is the first step toward getting the time you need for execution—and toward your client getting the quality they expect in return.

The request:Working for Free

Why it bothers us: Let’s not dignify this with a response.

How to respond:Once again, this often boils down to misconceptions about design work. More than likely, clients aren’t questioning your worth when they ask for free labor—just miscalculating the time and effort behind their request.

The same client who asks you for free work probably wouldn’t ask someone with a shovel to dig them a free hole—because they know this would take considerable time and effort.

But they might ask someone with an excavator—because they know an excavator could do the same work in seconds, without considerable time or effort. What they’d be overlooking, of course, is that someone still has to transport that excavator to and from the job site, someone still has to pay for its fuel, and someone else would have to lose out while that excavator is away from their project.

People have similar misconceptions about design work. They don’t expect you to break your back for free; it’s just that they don’t realize they’re asking for backbreaking work to begin with—and not something that only takes a few seconds of your time.

Once again, the best response is probably a polite explanation of the process involved. If that doesn’t resolve things, you might try revisiting their needs instead of revisiting your fees. A client might want a sixteen-page brochure, for example, but maybe they only need a tri-fold (which might be more in line with their budget and your calendar.)
The request: Following Vague Directions

Why it bothers us: Asking someone to “make something pop” is like asking someone to read your mind.

How to respond: Peter Hurley loves to say that being a photographer means being 90 percent therapist and 10 percent photographer. What he means is that it’s his job—not anyone else’s—to make sure his subjects are comfortable enough to pose on camera without looking stiff. If his subjects aren’t comfortable, he knows, the resulting photo is going to be bad regardless of how much effort he puts in behind the camera or in Photoshop.

Similarly, it’s a designer’s job to make sure the directions are clear before any design work begins. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean playing 90 percent therapist or reading a client’s mind—but it might mean holding their hand a bit by walking them through your design choices.

Asking a client if they “like the red” you used is vague, and you’ll only get something vague back in response. Instead, try meeting them halfway by asking specific, open-ended questions:

I went with A because of X, Y, and Z. What are your thoughts on that? And which of those elements are you unhappy with?”

Being detailed in your presentations is the best way to get detailed feedback in return.

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Brian PlattRequests That Drive Designers Crazy—and How to Respond to Them