Adobe Stock license, explained

Adobe Stock Standard License, Enhanced License, and Extended License? You asked, we explain.

By Matic Broz, editor-in-chief of Photutorial covering stock media, Adobe, and design. He founded Photutorial while finishing his PhD in computational biosciences.

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Adobe Stock licenses explained

Knowing which Adobe Stock license to pick is important for two reasons: first, you avoid overpaying for licensing terms you don’t need; second, you avoid copyright infringement by getting the proper license for your use case. The good news is that Adobe’s licensing system is quite straightforward, and there are only four licenses you need to be aware of. In fact, you’ll find that one of these licenses will suffice for 90% of use cases.

What are Adobe Stock licenses?

When you pay for an Adobe Stock image or any other media asset (videos, audio, etc.), you don’t buy the asset itself but the right to use it in some way—and this set of rights is called a license. So in stock photography lingo, we use the verbs to buy and to license interchangeably.

By their very nature, Adobe Stock licenses are royalty-free, meaning after you pay for a license once, you don’t have to pay for subsequent uses. For example, if you license an image and use it in a social media graphic, you don’t have to pay again to use it on your blog. All Adobe Stock licenses are also perpetual (last forever) and worldwide, including for prints, presentations, broadcasts, websites, and social media sites. In total, there are three basic Adobe Stock licenses that differ in usage rights and pricing. There’s also the Editorial license about which I’ll talk in a jiff.

Adobe Stock licenses compared

Unlimited web views
Email marketing, advertising, social media, broadcasts
Modify the asset*
Transfer the license
Used in products for resale 
Product where the primary value is the asset  
Distribute the stand-alone file   
*See Editorial Use Only restrictions. I covered only Adobe Stock licensing for individuals and Creative Cloud for team members. Enterprises should refer to the Enterprise License Page.

How much do Adobe Stock licenses cost?

How much Adobe Stock licenses cost depends on how you buy them (read more about Adobe Stock pricing). The Standard License is available through subscriptions, costing from $0.26 to $9.99 per license, depending on the size and duration of the subscription. For more flexibility, you can get the Standard License also with credits, costing from $8.00 to $9.99 per license, depending on the credit pack size you bought.

The Enhanced License (comes with premium images and 4K videos) costs between $96 to $400, based on the premium status of the asset and the credit pack. The Extended License costs a flat $79.99 fee.

Adobe Stock small icon

Adobe Stock free trial

$0.00 $29.99/mo Free trial

Get 10 Adobe Stock standard assets during your 30-day free trial. You won’t be charged until after your trial ends, when pricing will be US$29.99/month plus applicable taxes for the duration of your annual plan (10 assets a month)

The assets you download during your 30-day free trial are licensed under the Standard License. They are yours to keep even if you cancel the trial.

Types of Adobe Stock licenses

While all Adobe Stock licenses differ in some aspect, they have a few things in common—you may not distribute a stand-alone file, you may use them worldwide, and they are perpetual.

Standard License: The Standard License is the most common Adobe Stock license you can get, available with subscriptions or with credits. It includes images, HD videos, templates, 3D, and music tracks. You may use it for blogs, websites, PowerPoint presentations, social media posts, and emails since it allows unlimited online impressions. You can also reproduce it up to 500,000 times for product packaging, printed marketing materials, email marketing, advertising, and textbooks. But you may distribute it to multiple clients or print it on a poster, T-shirt, etc.

Enhanced License: There are two distinctions between the Enhanced and the Standard Licenses. Firstly, the Enhanced allows over 500,000 copies or views of the asset; secondly, it’s available only for Adobe Stock videos, templates, 3D assets, and Premium Collection. This means you can get it through subscriptions when downloading videos or assets, but not for images and music tracks.

Extended License: The Extended license is separate from the Standard and Enhanced licenses. You can buy it for any asset when you need it for merchandise or resale. In addition to what you get with the Enhanced License

What is “Editorial Use Only”

Assets that depict other brands (logos, packaging, etc.) or recognizable people are labeled with an “Editorial Use Only,” which means they’re protected by an editorial license. Each stock image site has its own rules about editorial content, but in general, they mean you may not use the license for commercial purposes.

Editorial Use Only at Adobe Stock
You can filter the results based on whether you want to use the content commercially or now in the left sidebar. When you open an image, you will find a label “Editorial use only” under Restrictions if it’s editorial. Screenshot by Matic Broz/Photutorial.

The editorial license is separate from the other three licenses covered earlier—you can get it together with the Standard or Extended license. But in doing so, you forfeit certain rights. To avoid any doubts about its use, here I quote Adobe Stock’s licensing terms:

In addition to the license restrictions above, assets labeled “Editorial Use Only”:

  • May only be used in relation to events or topics which are newsworthy or of public interest, typically in newspaper or magazine articles, news blogs, or similar media.
  • May not be used for commercial purposes such as advertisements, promotions, endorsements, advertorials, commercial blogs, merchandise, etc. – even if you have obtained an Extended license – without obtaining prior written consent from the copyright owner of the asset, and additional permissions as necessary.
  • May not be modified, except for minor adjustments for technical quality or slight cropping or resizing, while maintaining the editorial context and integrity of the original.
  • All uses must include the credit line shown on the site and contained in the IPTC credit line field of the file, for example “Agency Name/Contributor Name –”.

Limited License (Creative Cloud Express)

Some Adobe Stock assets in the Creative Cloud Express app come with the Limited License – Creative Cloud Express. To even get this license, you first need an active Adobe Express subscription and browse Adobe Stock assets. Some of them have a little crown icon—those are licensed under the Limited License.

Adobe Express Limited License examples
Notice the little grey crown icons in the images. Screenshot by Matic Broz/Photutorial.

You can only get this license with an active Adobe Expres subscription by adding the asset to your and then publishing or downloading it. However, it is important to note that you cannot download, export, or share the asset outside of the Creative Cloud Express app, nor can you use it as a stand-alone file. Additionally, you are not permitted to use the asset for merchandise or continue using it after your membership expires.

Audio assets

Adobe Stock’s Audio Standard License is perfect for those looking to add some sonic flair to digital platforms such as social media, websites, and corporate presentations. But if you’re venturing into more premium territories like TV, radio, or paid streaming, you’ll need to level up to the Audio Extended License.

However, Adobe’s got some boundaries you can’t cross. First up, no stand-alone use is allowed; make sure to synchronize the audio with some form of visual content or narration. Second, leave the creativity for other parts of your project because remixing or altering these tracks is off-limits. Lastly, if you’re thinking about embedding these sounds into templates, logos, or brand identities, you’re out of luck.

How to get an Adobe Stock license

Each asset you download comes with a license that sets you a certain set of rights dictating how you may use the license. You can choose which license you get at the checkout by picking the right buying option.

  1. Go to Adobe Stock: You can click this link for a safe redirect to Adobe Stock.
  2. Go to the pricing page: Find and click the “Pricing” button in the top right corner.
  3. Pick the right buying option: Based on your requirements, pick either subscriptions or credits to get the right Adobe Stock license. You can also make single-file purchases by finding the asset first, but this is the most expensive option.
  4. Complete your order: After you find the plan for yourself, head to the checkout, enter your payment information, and confirm.
  5. Download assets: Now that you have an active plan or credits, find the assets you want (images, videos, etc.) and download them. Along with the file, you will also receive the license, which grants you the right to use that asset.

You may also switch the order and do points 5 before 3 and 4, but we found that our way is easier and more clear for new customers.

Can I get an Adobe Stock license for free?

Yes, Adobe Stock’s free trial gives you 10 free downloads of Standard assets (images, 3D, templates) that come with the Standard license.

Adobe Stock small icon

Adobe Stock free trial

$0.00 $29.99/mo Free trial

Get 10 Adobe Stock standard assets during your 30-day free trial. You won’t be charged until after your trial ends, when pricing will be US$29.99/month plus applicable taxes for the duration of your annual plan (10 assets a month)


What does “Editorial Only” mean on Adobe Stock?

“Editorial Use Only” in Adobe Stock refers to assets that depict brands or recognizable people. These assets can only be used in relation to events or topics of public interest, such as in newspaper articles, news blogs, or similar media. They cannot be used for commercial purposes without obtaining prior consent from the copyright owner.

How does Adobe Stock licensing work?

When you pay for an Adobe Stock asset, you are buying the right to use it in specific ways, known as a license. Adobe Stock offers various licenses, each with different usage rights and pricing. These licenses determine how the asset can be used, like in advertisements, product packaging, or merchandise.

How to credit Adobe Stock images?

When using Adobe Stock assets labeled “Editorial Use Only”, the credit line shown on the site and contained in the IPTC credit line field of the file must be included. An example credit is “Agency Name/Contributor Name –”.

What is Standard License on Adobe Stock?

The Standard License in Adobe Stock is the most common. It allows unlimited online impressions and reproduction up to 500,000 times for purposes like product packaging, advertising, and email marketing. It doesn’t allow for the use in merchandise where the asset is a primary value.

What is Extended License on Adobe Stock?

The Extended License in Adobe Stock allows the use of the asset for merchandise or resale and includes everything in the Enhanced License. With this license, assets can play a major role in merchandise and can be reproduced an unlimited number of times.

What does “license” mean in Adobe Stock?

In Adobe Stock, a “license” refers to the set of rights you purchase to use an asset (like images, videos, or audio). It dictates how, where, and for how long you can use that particular asset.

How much is a Standard License in Adobe Stock?

The cost of the Standard License in Adobe Stock depends on how it’s purchased. It ranges from $0.26 to $9.99 per license through subscriptions. If bought with credits, it costs between $8.00 to $9.99 per license, depending on the credit pack size.


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