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Best Stock Photo Sites for Graphic Designers of May 2022

Adobe Stock is the top choice for graphic designers

Matic BrozUpdated May 18, 2022

After extensively testing over 30 stock photo websites, we chose Adobe Stock as the best stock photo site for graphic designers. We chose it because it has native integration into Creative Cloud (Adobe’s applications), the 2nd largest collection of royalty-free images, flexible credit options, and a 30-day free trial allowing up to 40 free downloads.

Based on your preferences and special requirements, some other excellent alternatives include Canva, iStock, and Shutterstock.

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Graphic designers of all skill levels and professions need access to high-quality stock photos and versatile graphic design tools. If you find a service that combines both, you’ve hit the jackpot. Plus, as a graphic designer, it’s your job to create visually appealing graphics, so sacrificing image quality for a lower price is unacceptable.

In this list, you’ll find stock photo sites that tick all of the above in descending order, meaning from the best to the least suitable.

CompanyRatingNumber of imagesPriceFeatures
Adobe Stock
Best Overall
5.0/5.0297 million$0.26–$9.99/image;
$97–$120/premium
Creative Cloud integration;
1+ million free assets
Learn more
Canva
Budget Option
4.0/5.0100 million$9.99–$30.00/monthSuite of toolsLearn more
Shutterstock
Cheaper than Adobe
5.0/5.0389 million$0.22-$14.50/imageCreative Cloud, WordPress, Google Slides, Sketch, PowerPoint integrations;
Shutterstock editor;
Mobile apps;
Image resizer;
File converter;
Learn more
iStock
Adobe Alternative
4.8/5.0140 million$0.22-$9.90/image;
$24–$36/premium
Creative Cloud, Dropbox, Sketch integrations;
iStock Editor
Learn more
PikWizard
Best Free
1 millionFreeDesignWizardLearn more
Depositphotos
Adobe Stock Alternative
220 million$0.22–$89.00/imageVistaCreate Editor;
Background remover;
Image upscaler
Learn more
123RF
Canva Alternative
100+ million$0.36–$9.00/image.Designs.ai integrationLearn more

7 Best Stock Photo Sites for Graphic Designers for 2022

  1. Best Overall: Adobe Stock
  2. Budget Option: Canva
  3. Cheaper than Adobe: Shutterstock
  4. Adobe Alternative: iStock
  5. Best Freemium: PikWizard
  6. Adobe Stock Alternative: Depositphotos
  7. Canva Alternative: 123RF

Best for Graphic Designers

Adobe Stock

5.0

rating 5-0

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Number of imagesPrice per imageFree trial
297+ million$0.26-$9.99/imageYes (10, 25, or 40 images)

LEARN MORE

on Adobe Stock’s website

Why We Picked It

Adobe Stock is the best choice for graphic designers because it meets all the requirements. First, it offers superb image quality and a diverse pricing model, so there’s something for everyone. Second, Adobe Stock is integrated with Creative Cloud, so you can browse and use all assets without leaving Adobe apps. Finally, Adobe is the developer of industry-leading graphic design software like Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, both of which support Adobe Stock integration.

Read more: Adobe Stock review

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Superb image and video quality.
  • Offers templates, 3D objects, and fonts.
  • More than 1 million free images.
  • Creative Cloud integration.
  • Works with Photoshop, Illustrator, & others.

Cons

  • More costly than some alternatives.
  • No promo codes or coupons.
  • Expensive premium content.
Additional information
  • Price: $0.26–$9.99/standard image; $96–$119/premium image.
  • Subscriptions: $0.26–$9.99/image. Subscriptions are available with a monthly (more costly) or yearly commitment. They also come in four sizes (3 or 10, 25, 40, and 750 monthly downloads). With subscriptions, you can download standard assets, including standard images, templates, 3D elements, and audio.
  • On-demand: $8.00–$9.99/image. Credits can be used to download premium assets and the Enhanced license, which are not available with subscriptions. They cost $79.00–$119.88.
  • Royalty-free license: $0.26–$9.99/standard image. It allows unlimited web views, 500K copies and views, and $10,000 legal indemnification.
  • Enhanced license: $96.00–$119.88/image. It has everything a royalty-free license has + unlimited copies and views. All premium assets are licensed under the Enhanced license.
  • Extended license: $79.99/image. It has everything the Enhanced license has + unlimited merchandise.
  • Free trial: 10, 25, or 40 standard images for 30 days. The size of the free trial depends on the size of the subscription plan.
  • Coupon code: /
  • Additional features: Creative Cloud integration and 1+ million free assets.

Budget Option

Canva

4.0

rating 4-0

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Number of imagesPrice per imageFree trial
100+ million$9.99-$30/monthYes (30 days)

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on Canva’s website

Why We Picked It

Canva is best known for its simple drag-and-drop editor with a built-in library of over 100 million stock photos. Canva’s big advantage over Adobe is the ease of use but at the cost of limited features and tools. As a result, Canva is a cheaper alternative to Adobe Stock that offers fewer features and is, therefore, less suitable for professionals or anyone who wants to create advanced graphics.

Read more: Canva review

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Free trial
  • Inexpensive subscription
  • Intuitive and super easy-to-use
  • Huge built-in stock photo library
  • Prompts team-work

Cons

  • Bad at photo editing
  • No one-time purchase option
  • Requires internet connection.
  • Lacks advanced design options
Additional information
  • Price: $0.00 for Free; $9.99/month for Pro; $30/month for Enterprise.
  • Subscriptions: $9.99–$30.00/month. Canva’s stock photo library is integrated into its editor, so the only way to get access to the images, you need to buy a full subscription.
  • License: Canva offers multiple licenses, based on the source of images. Fors its Pro content, a form of a royalty-free license applies, which gives you a perpetual, non-exclusive and non-transferable, worldwide right to use the content.
  • Free trial: There’s a 30-day free trial for the entire Canva suite (tools + photos).
  • Coupon code: /
  • Additional features: The entire Canva stock photo library is integrated into all of its tools.

Cheaper than Adobe

Shutterstock

5.0

rating 5-0

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Number of imagesPrice per imageFree trial
384+ million$0.22-$14.50/imageYes (10 images)

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on Shutterstock’s website

Why We Picked It

Shutterstock is the largest stock photo agency in the world, with over 384 million images and another 200 thousand added every day. It landed on this list because you can download a plugin to connect Shutterstock’s library to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. As a result, you get similar features as with Adobe Stock, but it’s not as smooth due to being a 3rd party app.

Read more: Shutterstock review

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 384+ million images.
  • 10 free images during a 30-day trial.
  • Very good image quality.

Cons

  • Misleading free trial terms.
  • Not the cheapest.
Additional information
  • Price: $0.22 to $14.50/image.
  • Subscriptions: $0.22 to $4.90/image. Subscriptions are available in four sizes (10, 50, 350, and 750 monthly downloads) and with three payment options (monthly, yearly, and yearly upfront).
  • On-demand: $9.16 to $14.50/image. On-demand packs come in three sizes (2, 5, and 25 images). Enhanced license images come in the same sizes but cost $67.96 to $99.50/image.
  • Royalty-free license: $0.22 to $14.50/image. Unlimited web distribution, up to 500,000 prints or copies, and up to $10,000 in legal indemnification. Learn more.
  • Enhanced license: $67.96 to $99.50/image. Unlimited web distribution, unlimited prints or copies, up to $250,000 in legal indemnification.
  • Free trial: Any 10 images during 30 days. Be careful, though, because you must cancel the trial 4 days in advance.
  • Coupon code: 25%. Using the 25% coupon code, you get royalty-free images for $0.165. Learn more.

Adobe Alternative

iStock

4.8

rating 4.5

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Number of imagesPrice per imageFree trial
140+ million$0.22-$9.90/imageYes (10 images)

LEARN MORE

on iStock’s website

Why We Picked It

iStock, formerly iStockphoto, is an online RF stock imagery site and the father of microstock photography. iStock has been around for 20 years, during which time it’s earned a worldwide reputation. Similar to Shutterstock, iStock can be integrated into the Adobe Creative Cloud as well as iStock Editor, Dropbox, and Sketch. Like Adobe Stock, iStock also offers premium stock content (called “Signature”), which is more expensive than the basic downloads.

Read more: iStock review

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 140+ million images.
  • The signature collection is of superb quality.
  • Competitive prices.
  • Free trial.

Cons

  • Signature images are a lot more expensive.
Additional information
  • Price: $0.22 to $9.90.
  • Subscriptions: $0.22 to $4.00/Essential image; $0.44 to $9.90/Signature image. Subscriptions are divided into Basic (for Essential images) and Premium (Signature images). Both come in four sizes (10, 25, 50, and 750 monthly downloads) and are available with month-to-month and annual plans.
  • On-demand: $8.00 to $12.00/image. iStock offers ten credit packs (1 to 300 credits) that you can use to buy photos, vectors, illustrations, and videos at the following prices.
  • Royalty-free license: $0.22 to $12.00/image. Unlimited web distribution, 500,000 copies or prints, and a $10,000 legal guarantee.
  • Extended license: $79.99. Unlimited web distribution, unlimited copies or prints, $250,000 legal guarantee.
  • Free trial: 10 free stock images with the 30-day free trial.
  • Coupon code: You can get up to 20% discount with iStock coupons.

Freemium

Pikwizard

2.6

rating 2.5

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Number of imagesPrice per imageFree trial
1 millionFree

LEARN MORE

on Pikwizard’s website

Why We Picked It

This is a simple stock photo website that makes searching and downloading images from its huge library a breeze. There are over a million free images. The template options are extremely affordable and allow professionals with no design experience to get started right away. The paid portion of PikWizard is its graphic design tool, DesignWiazrd, which integrates the PikWizard library.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Free images.
  • Integrated into DesignWizard.

Cons

  • Basic graphic design tool.
  • The library contains ads for paid stock photo sites.
Additional information
  • Price: Free images; $9.99–$49.99/month for Design Wizard.
  • License: PikWizard offers images with a free license that doesn’t require attribution, although it’s encouraged. However, the licensing terms seem a bit shaky, considering the following wording is used: “Editorial usage is generally okay as long as it is for news worthy purposes.”
  • Free trial: /
  • Coupon code: /
  • Additional features: The PikWizard library is integrated into DesignWizard.

Best for small subscriptions

Depositphotos

4.8

rating 4.5

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Number of imagesPrice per imageFree trial
224 million$0.22-$14.00/imageNo

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on Depositphotos’ website

Why We Picked It

Depositphotos is a stock content platform with over 230 million royalty-free stock images, music, and video files. Graphic designers can choose among high-quality photos, vector graphics, illustrations, hand drawings, paintings, clip art, and other file types. The library offers 220 million images that can be downloaded after purchasing budget-friendly subscriptions or on-demand plans. Watermarked preview files can be downloaded for free to check if they fit your design.

Read more: Depositphotos review

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 70K+ free high-quality visuals in addition to 220 million paid visuals.
  • Multiple file format support.
  • Free editing tools.
  • Flexible price plans.
  • Files are offered for personal, editorial, and commercial purposes.

Cons

  • Free visuals require attribution.
  • No general subscription for all kinds of content.
Additional information
  • Price: $0.22–$89 per image.
  • Subscriptions: $0.22–$1/image. Depositphotos offers monthly or yearly subscriptions, with the opportunity to download 10, 75, 150, and 750 images per month under the Standard license. Unused downloads get automatically transferred to the next month. Any additional images cost $1 each.
  • On-demand: $2.99–$89/image. Plans are available for Standard and Extended license types. Within a year, users can download 3, 10, 25, or 100 images for Standard licensed plans, and 1, 5, and 25 images for an Extended one.
  • Royalty-free license: Users get life-long rights to the images. Files are categorized under either Standard or Extended licenses. With the Standard license, images can be used for printing (up to 500K copies), digital purposes (excluding resale), marketing, and advertising. With the Extended license—for printing (unlimited number of copies), digital purposes (including resale), marketing, advertising, as well as for sale, and distribution of merchandise and promotional items.
  • Free trial: /
  • Coupon code: 15%.
  • Additional Features: VistaCreate Editor for graphic design based on templates, a background remover, and an image upscaler.

Canva Alternative

123RF

4.1

rating 4-0

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Number of imagesPrice per imageFree trial
180 million$0.36-$11.80/imageNo

LEARN MORE

on 123RF’s website

Why We Picked It

123RF stock photo site isn’t as good as Adobe Stock, but it’s larger than Canva’s. It’s also integrated into Designs.ai, an online graphic design suite based on AI similar to Canva. However, it’s quite slow and a lot less intuitive than Canva. In addition, it’s more expensive than Canva and even Adobe.

Read the full review: 123rf review.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 180+ million images.
  • Good image quality.

Cons

  • sophisticated photo editor.
  • No one-time purchase option.
  • Requires internet connection.
Additional information
  • Price: $0.36–$9.00/image.
  • Subscriptions: $0.36–$3.00/image. Subscriptions are available with monthly and yearly commitments and in four sizes (10, 50, 150, 350). The best prices come from the 350 images plan with a yearly commitment.
  • Download pack: $2.99–$9.00/image. Download packs are available in four sizes (3, 10, 25, 100) and last for a year after the purchase.
  • License: All licenses are a form of royalty-free license. You can extend the license to get more allowed uses, such as prints and design elements.
  • Free trial: 10 free images during 30 days.
  • Coupon code: 20%. Learn more.
  • Additional features: The 123RF library is integrated into Designs.ai.

The Verdict

This list of stock photo sites for graphic designers contains five options, but there are two clear winners—Adobe Stock and Canva. I’ve been using Canva for years to create simple graphic designs, while Adobe is my go-to option for advanced graphics and even logo design. That’s not to say that other sites on this list are not good, but Adobe Stock and Canva are the best, and I have no need for a third tool.

How to choose the best stock photo site as a graphic designer?

Stock photo sites are the most popular places where graphic designers buy their stock photos. They offer high-quality images at affordable prices. There are dozens of stock photo sites on the Internet, but choosing the right one is very important. Here are some factors you should consider before buying stock photos from a website.

1. Price

Price is the most important factor you should consider when buying stock photos. As a graphic good designer, you need a lot of stock images, and if you buy at the best price, you can save a lot in the long run. But the price is only one factor, so also pay attention to what you get for that price. For example, not all stock photos are just as good, and some sites offer other features that are worth spending a little more money on.

2. Quality

Quality is the first thing that matters when you’re looking for high-quality photos. The higher the resolution, the better the quality. A good stock photo website will offer you high-resolution images without watermarks or copyright restrictions. Besides, the sentiment value and overall symbolic quality are even more important because they determine how customers perceive your design.

3. Reputation

Reputation is also an important factor when you’re looking for a reliable source of stock photos. Look at the feedback from previous buyers. Also, inquire about how reputable the company is. Some stock photo websites use unclear or misleading licenses or contract terms.

4. Diversity

Variety is often overlooked, but it’s crucial to the success of your graphic design career. You may not realize it right away, but if you work long hours, you’ll eventually run out of good images on a particular subject. If you choose an image bank with a wide selection, you’ll always find new subjects to use in your work.

5. Licensing

While many websites offer royalty-free licenses, they provide their own version of it, which can often be very restrictive and force you to buy an extended license that costs much more.

6. Additional features

Some stock photo websites offer additional services, such as editing tools, like the image or video editors. For example, Canva has a simplistic image editor, while Adobe Stock integrates into Creative Cloud to improve your workflow.

With that in mind, I’ve listed the best stock photo sites for graphic designers that meet all the above criteria. I’ve also ranked them from good to bad.

What is a stock photo in graphic design?

Stock photos are images taken specifically for commercial use. You can purchase them from stock photo agencies or freelancers who specialize in high-quality photography.

Some people dislike stock photos because they seem too generic, but for designers they’re indispensable. We use them to get visual content quickly and inexpensively. They can look real if they’re well integrated into the design, and that’s what you should aim for.

Do graphic designers use stock images?

Yes, graphic designers use stock photos because they’re more compelling and much less expensive than taking photos themselves or hiring a professional photographer. Stock photos allow graphic designers to create better designs faster. Also, they make sure that your brand looks consistent across different platforms.

Here’s why. Say you need a photo of the White House, but you don’t live nearby. Then you can quickly jump to a stock photo agency of your choice and browse hundreds of images. Plus, photography requires expensive equipment and years of experience. That’s why graphic designers prefer to use stock images that only cost a few cents each.

It’s well-known that quality stock photos improve the worth of your design, especially when used in advertising. Good graphic designers know how to choose and use stock photos, and those are the ones that get paid well above the average. But learning how to effectively use images in graphic design can take quite some time, so it’s important that you put in a lot of effort.

Where do graphic designers get stock images?

Graphic designers choose stock image websites based on their requirements and financial constraints. You should consider what features you need for your work and whether you need only stock images or an editor as well.

Majority of creatives promise by Adobe’s apps and features. Adobe is the most popular company among creatives because of its innovative apps. Photographers and designers love them for their simple but powerful tools and the freedom they offer. That’s why many new graphic designers start with the Adobe Stock free trial, which gives them 10 or 40 free images and a 30-day preview of the premium service. Likewise, they get a 7-day trial of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop so they can experience what it’s like to have professional equipment.

When graphic designers are just starting out, they often have a limited budget that prevents them from buying premium applications. Here, they turn to Canva, a fantastic all-in-one solution. For $9.99 per month, you get full access to Canva’s drag-and-drop editor, which is limited compared to Illustrator, but easier to use. Plus, you can use any of the 100 million images in Canva’s library.

Others opt for free stock images. While this is a good option, they’re often held back because a reliable source of stock images is critical for graphic designers.

Which stock photo license?

Graphic designers deal with three types of licenses: creative commons, royalty-free licenses, and rights managed. They differ in use cases, number of reproductions, and price.

Creative Commons (CC) license is free and can be found on free stock photo repositories such as Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels. CC licenses come with very few restrictions and only prohibit resale of the image, defamatory purposes, and assertion of property rights.

Royalty-free (RF) license is the most commonly used license for stock images. A RF -licensed photo can be used as many times as you want once you pay the onetime RF fee. There are some websites that prohibit the use of the image if unsubscribe from their plans, but I find these websites aren’t worth your money, so you won’t find them in my articles. Royalty free licenses are often limited to ~500,000 copies. To exceed that limit, you need an extended or enhanced license, which is like a RF license but allows unlimited copying. These licenses are also more expensive, around $50-$100 per image.

Rights Managed (RM) is an expensive license ($1,000+) that gives you exclusive rights to the image. It’s usually used in large and prestigious advertising campaigns, such as national commercials. You limit the use of the image to a specific place, time, and use. Unless you work for a global company, you probably won’t use a RM license.

What about free stock photos?

Free stock photos are great resources for designers because they are easy to find and can save you money. However, it’s important to understand how to use these images properly so you don’t end up with a copyright infringement problem down the road. The best way to avoid problems is to buy a license, like a royalty-free license.

But you can also get stock photos with one of the numerous free trials, which give you free royalty-free images that are completely safe to use.

Methodology

We reviewed 31 stock photo sites based on 14 data points in the categories of image quality and variety, pricing, licensing, image number, customer support, and additional features. We chose the 7 best stock photo sites for graphic designers on the weighting assigned to each category:

  • Image quality & variety: 20%
  • Pricing: 20%
  • Licensing: 20%
  • Image number: 15%
  • Additional features: 15%
  • Customer support: 10%

Within each category, we also considered several characteristics, the number of images per most popular searches, technical quality, and added value. We also looked at the variety of pricing plans, minimum, median, and maximum image prices, and free trial terms. Finally, we evaluated stock photo sites’ customer support, licensing, and additional features that would enhance customers’ workflow.

For this list of the best stock photo sites for graphic designers, we ranked stock photo sites based on a tweaked formula that emphasized additional features and image quality. We believe that having more tools and better image quality is critical for graphic designers. However, all stock photo sites were scored based on the original formula.

FAQ

Can you modify stock images?

You’re allowed to modify all royalty-free stock photos from any site, except those marked with “Editorial use only” or if their license specifies otherwise. This applies to all major stock image sites, including Shutterstock and Adobe Stock.

Can I use stock images in a logo?

No, you’re not allowed to use stock images in a logo. The problem is that stock image licenses don’t allow copyrighting or trademarking any part of an image.

Can you use stock images in a portfolio?

You’re allowed to use stock images in a portfolio, but you may use the image in this manner, usually as a license. But I discourage you to cheat with stock images in your portfolios, since the portfolio represents your skills, and many employers and universities take it seriously.

Do graphic designers create their own images?

Yes, they do. They use vector graphics because it allows you to scale your work without losing quality. Vector graphics can be scaled infinitely without loss of quality, while raster graphics cannot.

Information provided on Photutorial is for educational purposes only. Your situation is unique and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer financial advice, nor do we recommend or advise individuals to buy or sell particular stocks or services. Performance information may have changed since the time of publication. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Photutorial adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. To the best of our knowledge, all content is accurate as of the date posted, though offers contained herein may no longer be available. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and have not been provided, approved, or otherwise endorsed by our partners.

About the author

Matic Broz profile image
MATIC BROZ

Matic Broz is a photographer, graphic designer, and stock photographer. For over ten years he's been helping photographers improve their photos and graphic designers find the best images for their designs. His work has been featured by Lifewire and PetaPixel. In his free time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and petting random dogs. Read more

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