Illustrations are commonly used in graphic design projects. A beautiful illustration can often grab the attention of your audience just as well as a photograph, and in many cases it can be even more effective. Illustrations are often necessary to “illustrate” a point, such as in graphs, charts and maps or in a set of icons for a website. There are several sources of illustrations, each with advantages and disadvantages in terms of quality, cost and time. Regardless of where the illustrations are obtained, be sure to include the terms related to such work in a contract, to make sure you are paid for your time, and that payments to others or stock agencies are covered in the budget.
Creating Illustrations Yourself
Of course, creating an illustration yourself is always an option, provided you have the skills to complete the job. The complexity of illustrations can vary greatly, so whether or not you take on the work may depend on what the client is looking for, and what was agreed on. If you don’t consider yourself an “illustrator,” but a project requires a simple shape or icon, you may want to work on it yourself. The most common software for illustration work is Adobe Illustrator, though many programs, including Photoshop, have the tools necessary to complete this type of work. Again, what is used will depend on what you or a client is looking for.
Hiring an Illustrator
If you are not an illustrator, and a project requires a custom illustration, an illustrator can be hired on a project basis. This is often the most expensive option, as you will be paying the illustrator for their time. However, you will end up with something that is created specifically for your needs and never seen before. Because of this, hiring an illustrator is a great option, assuming your budget can handle it.
Purchasing an Existing Illustration
If you will not be creating an illustration yourself or hiring someone, there are many places to purchase existing graphics. Many stock photography sites also offer illustration. The challenge here is searching what is already available to find that perfect image for your project, or perhaps altering your work somewhat to incorporate the best image found. The cost of stock artwork can vary greatly, but many sites offer low-cost solutions. You will often spend time, and sometimes lots of time, searching several stock sites for the right graphic. However, it will probably take less time than creating it yourself and less money than hiring someone to create it for you. Therefore, purchasing an existing illustration can be the least expensive option, provided you find what you are looking for. As with any illustration or element including in a project, be sure to check the rights related to using and reproducing the work.
Rather than buy an illustration on a per-project basis, you can purchase a collection of illustrations. CD collections are available that contain thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, of graphics at one cost. The quality of these will vary, but if you find a collection that fits with your style it may be worth it. Be sure to check the rights on such collections, as many will have restrictions including forbidding the resale of products that incorporate the illustrations.