Image Design tips

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. “Image is everything”. “Photography is truth”.  Anyway, you get the idea… images are important! Here are a few image design tips for finding and styling images to apply to your web design or blog:

1Free images

You may have a large design budget for images or want to commission a photographer or illustrator. But like most of us, you probably want to find some great looking images and not have to pay for them!

There are quite a few options for sourcing free images. Some ask for a photo credit or a small donation, but for the most part, the images are free to use without credit or cost. Many are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose.

When using these sites be careful not to click on the sponsored images. These link to traditional stock libraries and payment for these is required. You can usually spot these as the image will contain a watermark.

Image Design Tips

Photo credit: dzako83, Pixabay

Some of the best free image libraries:

  • PixaBay: Over 1.4 million royalty free stock photos and videos.
  • Pexels: 3,000 new high-resolution photos added each month. Over 40,000 free stock photos.
  • Unsplash: Great images, generally a bit more thematic or abstract than the two above.

The sites listed above have high quality, easily searchable and well-tagged images.

2Image libraries

As I’m sure you’re aware, there are a large number of traditional image libraries. It seems that many of the smaller, and successful libraries, end up getting swallowed by the bigger companies. This means many of the same images can appear in searches across different websites. It’s difficult to know where to go to get the best deal, particularly as some sites use a subscription model, where others charge by the image.

There used to be tools to search across various libraries but these don’t seem to exist any more. As such, you’ll need to find a few libraries that work for you.

Here is a selection I’ve used in the past:

  • iStock: Good search tools and a massive library of images of photos, illustrations and video. If you’re on a tight budget, click the ‘Essentials’ tab after your search for more reasonably priced images. If you’re looking to purchase multiple images, the monthly subscription might work out better value (just make sure you cancel the repeat subscription if you don’t want to continue paying). iStock is now owned by Getty.
  • Depositphotos: Again, a massive selection of images with a more inexpensive price range. You can purchase download credits or subscribe for multiple downloads monthly.
  • Vectorstock: This is a great resource for vector images. If you’re looking for illustrations, backgrounds or icons then this is the place to come. I’ve found the best way of purchasing from this site is to buy credits. Most images are only 1 CR and can be purchased for $1 each. They also offer a monthly subscription model that brings the individual image cost down.

Photography illustration

A photography illustration from Vectorstock to illustrate photography!

3Avoid bad cheese!

Good cheese:

Good Cheese photography

Good cheese, courtesy of Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash

Bad cheese:

Bad cheese 1

Bad cheese, courtesy of all image libraries

You get the picture! Generally, avoid images that look overly staged, with exaggerated expressions (unless it’s for deliberate comic effect… see above).

4Using the right search terms

Adding certain terms to your searches can help filter out irrelevant images and bring better results. As a random example, the subject of your design or blog might be taxi services in the UK. Searching for ‘taxi’ is going to bring up hundreds of US results that may not be relevant. Try ‘taxi UK’ or include a city such as ‘Taxi London’ and you’ll be on your way to a more representative image.

Another option for you to filter out images that are too literal is to include terms such as ‘abstract’ or ‘concept’. This is useful if you want a mood or thematic shot.



Taxi UK

Taxi UK

Abstract image

‘Construction abstract’ courtesy of JohnsonGoh on Pixabay

5Styling, filters and optimisation

Sometimes you’ll have found the right image for your project but will want to easily customise and style it. If you don’t have local software for this task, there are some good online resources:

BeFunky photo editor. Lots of free preset filters from black and white to vibrant colours and everything in between. It also has options for adding text, cropping, overlays and more. There is a good range of free options with a much larger selection available for a low monthly subscription ($2.91/month at time of writing).

Insta Editor. If you’re familiar with Instagram filters for your phone, this online resource will look familiar. Upload your image and quickly pan through a good selection of colour and black and white filters.

Optimizilla. If you’re uploading an image to your website, it’s a good idea to optimise them first. This tool allows you to upload up to 20 images before downloading.


Main article image with the ‘United Colours’ filter applied in BeFunky

I hope some of these image design tips and resources prove useful to you. Please visit our website portfolio section for examples of how we’ve used images. If you have any comments, suggestions or additions, please leave them in the comments below.
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