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All over the world, designers and illustrators are finding that art they create in Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop—ranging from simple borders and flourishes, to complex infographics, to traditional watercolors made with brush on paper and scanned — are being licensed and downloaded hundreds and thousands of times and have become a significant source of additional income for the artists.
In California, the illustrator who calls herself “JungleOutThere” describes her style as “cute.” Considering the results she’s gotten, “astounding” or “lucrative” might be a more accurate description. “It always amazes me how a simple illustration sells over and over, year after year,” she says. “Some works I created years ago are still selling. I uploaded the Decorative Borders and Frames file nearly eight years ago, and it’s been downloaded more than 11,000 times, and the Baby Animal Faces at least 5,000 times.”
Decorative Borders and Frames (left) and Baby Animal Faces (right) from JungleOutThere
Research Irresistible Subject Matter
“I only work on subjects I’m interested in, in my signature style,” JungleOutThere explains. “I love cute stuff, so I’m always checking out gift, stationery, toy and home decor shops online and wherever I go. Doing that helps me spot a trend—like unicorns and succulents popping up everywhere. When you follow a trend, it almost guarantees your work will sell.”
Adobe Stock buyers range from art directors at large corporations and agencies to design studio principals to individual freelancers who design anything and everything from ad campaigns and websites and brochures, to greeting cards and wrapping paper (they’ll need to buy the Extended License if the product will be commercially sold). So it makes sense to offer sets, which most illustrators say usually sell very well.
JungleOutThere discovered that llamas are very popular this year, so she made this best-selling llama set with a Christmas theme and uploaded it in midsummer; companies and agencies start creating holiday projects at least four or five months in advance. “Don’t be afraid of doing a subject that everyone is doing,” she advises. “Just do it in your own style and technique.”
Develop a Distinctive Style
Texas-based illustrator Natalia Hubbert works in two distinct styles, a cartoonlike style with black outlines, and a soft, painterly style in watercolors. “Both have their audience and bring me stock buyers and new clients from around the world,” she says. Hubbert has had great success with subjects she considers “essential to most of the modern world, like family, food, nature, seasons, technology, and fashion.” Originally from Eastern Europe, she’s sensitive to regional and cultural differences: “My pin-up girls are popular in the Americas and Europe, but for obvious reasons, not so much in the Middle East and Asia.”
Seasonal and holiday-themed art sells well year-round, Hubbert says, noting that some companies begin working on Christmas-season projects at the beginning of the year, if not before. Her experience is that, once uploaded—at least four months before the season or holiday—seasonal art, like this autumn vegetables watercolor, generates income for years.
Make Art That’s Easy for Buyers to Work With
The most successful contributors not only draw subjects that buyers will love; they make art that keeps buyers coming back to their portfolio pages for more.
Vectors should be on a plain background—or on a layer that can be hidden or deleted. Elements should be intelligently grouped so they can be isolated, moved, resized and otherwise customized by the user. Elements that look like lines should be strokes, not shapes with fills, so the user can change the line weight. Shapes should be cleanly drawn (check it in Outline View for errant bits and pieces), using colors in a Swatch Palette you create.
To test the user-friendliness of the Baby Animal Faces Set by JungleOutThere, I copied the tiger and began changing it around. It was easy to work with, and in less than ten minutes, I had three new baby tigers with gradient fills, heavier line weights, different colors, and a few added details.
JungleOutThere, modified by user
Robert Filip, based in Romania, is a fan of extreme sports and travel: skiing, hiking, biking. He makes stunning poster-like images and infographics with lots of technical details. His Snowboard Outfit and Elements infographic has four layers. Each item can be selected, resized, pasted, and ungrouped. The buyer can create his or her own swatches and, say, change the jacket pattern from shades of red to shades of blue, or any other color combination.
Copy space is important, too. The Ski Resort background, below, by Filip, has lots of room for a headline. Viewed in Adobe Illustrator’s Outline Mode, the lines and shapes are clean and precise.
Use The Maximization Checklist
To Natalia Hubbert, the difference between a file that potential buyers pass up and one they choose comes down to these five factors:
Fitness to the buyer’s needs;
evel of visual appeal;
Relation to seasonal or year-round event rather than onetime event or news;
The buyer’s ability to quickly modify the image, even for watercolor illustrations that are painted and scanned; and
Correct keywords and categories are used.
Her seamless patterns, like these lemons, can be stepped and repeated. Elements in her Retro Collection line art (below) can be isolated, cut and pasted, and resized.
Buyers can always check out “more from this series” to decide on the right variation for their needs. And, of course, as all the artists point out, it’s important to choose the best keywords.
The universal answer to the question “Why Adobe?”: To be among the best. “I contribute to a few other sites, too,” says Filip, creator of this memorable vector kayaking scene. “Adobe Stock is, to me, the most modern. The work is up-to-date and more creative. A larger percentage of the images are of high quality.”
Hubbert points out that Adobe Stock provides uploading requirements that keep the content clean, easy to use when downloaded, and compatible with older versions of Illustrator. “This benefits both buyer and seller,” she says.
Right now, Adobe is offering a special reward to its top Adobe Stock contributors: a full year of free Adobe Creative Cloud subscription to those who’ve had 300 or more pieces of content approved or have earned $500 or more in royalties. Want to be among them? “Be persistent,” Hubbert advises. “Create high-quality content, make as much use out of the base illustration as you can by creating several different variations and layouts.”
“And remember,” she says, “that food is fresh …
… skulls are scary …
… and Christmas is merry (and copy space is important) …
… and that the rules have as many exceptions as your creativity can come up with,” Hubbert concludes. “Everybody loves coffee, right?”
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About Ellen Shapiro
Print contributing editor Ellen Shapiro is principal of Visual Language LLC in Irvington, NY. She has been designing for her whole life and writing about design for more than 20 years. Her website is visualanguage.net.View all posts by Ellen Shapiro →