Getting started in graphic design
February 25, 2008 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Where does one find images for graphic design?

I am interested in doing graphic design. I know there's programs such as quark that one can use. But, I couldn't find any images or even fancy font on there. I assume that I need another program to add images. Where can I find them?
posted by sixcolors to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Search Google on stock photography
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 PM on February 25, 2008


What kind of images? Most designers either make their own images or purchase them.
posted by dobbs at 9:43 PM on February 25, 2008


are you looking for stock photography?

see here, here, and here. My favorite source is stock.xchng

are you looking for free fonts?

your question is rather vague.
posted by blastrid at 10:44 PM on February 25, 2008


Blue Vertigo is chock full of links to pretty much all the free designy stuff on the Interwebs.
posted by lou at 10:44 PM on February 25, 2008


Yes, I was asking about photography. Thanks for the links.

But, I am also talking about images that aren't photographs. I'm not sure what you call them. It's usually the kind of images I see in logos.

Another question, is it true that I will need a mac?
posted by sixcolors at 10:54 PM on February 25, 2008


I think you mean vector based illustrations. Many stock image websites have both photography and illustrations. To manipulate the vector images you need vector editing software, such as Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, or CorelDRAW v2+.

(I do graphic work on a PC, so I wouldn't say you need a mac...that might be a separate question)
posted by hazel at 11:03 PM on February 25, 2008


Dude, with all due respect, this is kind of like asking, "I'm interested in doing law. I know there are programs such as WordPerfect that one can use. But, I couldn't find any briefs or even fancy arguments on there."

It's kind of the core of the issue, isn't it? People go to school for awhile to learn these things.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:18 PM on February 25, 2008 [15 favorites]


It sounds like you're just looking for generic collections of clip art. That is not graphic design.
posted by Mikey-San at 11:34 PM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


What Mikey-San and mr_roboto said. I think you might be confused about what being a graphic designer really means. It's like saying you want to be a chef, saying you hear you should own a refrigerator and a stove, and then being perplexed about why there aren't delicious meals already in there. Those delicious meals are kinda what the chef's trained and hired to create.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:27 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


On second thought, I'm going to try to help you here.

Okay, so here's how it goes... yes, you can do design on a PC but most serious designers are Mac based. The programs you need for print design will be Illustrator (for vector/line images), Photoshop (for pixelated/photo images) and either InDesign (industry preference right now) or Quark. First things first, LEARN HOW TO USE THESE PROGRAMS REALLY REALLY WELL. And remember, designing for the web is WAY different than designing stuff to be printed, so there will be different rules for each of those.

If you are going to use images you didn't create yourself, there will be copyright issues. You cannot just reproduce anything you want. So many people buy photography from stock photo agencies like Getty or PhotoDisc or Shutterstock. Shutterstock is by far the cheapest, at $199 a month for 25 images a day. If you are designing for print, when you are working with a pixelated image at 100% in size, you will need it to be 300 dots per inch or greater and in CMYK (cyan/magenta/yellow/black) color. If you are designing for the web you will need your images to be at 72 dots per inch in RGB (red/green/blue) color. If that doesn't make sense to you, look it up online or ask a graphic designer and they'll explain what it means.

As for fonts, you should work with a font utility like Suitcase on your Mac to organize those for you. You are supposed to own your fonts too and can buy them online. It is possible to find free fonts online but a lot of them aren't very good... whatever you do try to avoid TrueType Fonts.

Now, as for putting things together you are going to need to develop some talent at this before you should be hanging up a shingle and calling yourself a graphic designer. There's a lot more to it than just slapping a photo onto a white page in Quark. I guess you can go to about.com, but I would recommend some graphic design books or taking classes somewhere that you can really learn about the ins and outs of it. Art history classes don't hurt, either.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:07 AM on February 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


Okay, so here's how it goes... yes, you can do design on a PC but most serious designers are Mac based. The programs you need for print design will be Illustrator (for vector/line images), Photoshop (for pixelated/photo images) and either InDesign (industry preference right now) or Quark. First things first, LEARN HOW TO USE THESE PROGRAMS REALLY REALLY WELL.

While I agree with most of what miss lynnster says, what you actually need to do first is a) figure out what a graphic designer does, and then b) learn and understand the fundamentals of design. Otherwise you will be just another idiot with a pirated copy of Photoshop wasting my time and yours.

Graphic design has nothing to do with InDesign or Illustrator or one of the dozen or so other programs I use in the course of my work. They are merely the modern equivalent of a paste-up table, pen, and french curve. They are tools. They will not make you good. They will not allow you to create worthy printed material simply by being installed on your system.

So to answer the title of this thread - and I think that's what you really need - you get started in graphic design by going to your local library and reading about the history and background of the profession.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:57 AM on February 26, 2008 [8 favorites]


Once you start reading up on the basics, here's a Paul Rand video you can watch.
posted by mikepop at 5:40 AM on February 26, 2008


I agree with Optimus Chyme. You need to know what you want to do, and if being a graphic designer is your bag, take classes. I'm an advertising major but have done a lot of graphic design things for my classes, and it's not easy. Not only do you need to learn the above listed programs in and out, you need to know about layout, design, and typography. You can't just go and stick type on an edited image in Photoshop, and if you aren't well versed in Illustrator, i wish you luck getting anything accomplished. I don't think (professional) graphic design is something you can just fool around with and be self taught. I could be wrong, you could know color schemes that work well together and which fonts work for different clients, etc., but from the questions you've asked it seems like you have a long, long way to go.
posted by whiskey point at 6:15 AM on February 26, 2008


I don't entirely disagree with whiskey point and Optimus Chyme, formal design study will give you stronger foundations, but there are many people (pro and enthusiast) who have just fell into design work by chance. It's not a waste of time to take the practical approach to learning graphic design and layout. I started out recreating ad templates from past workers and now, after much failure and enthusiasm, I can safely put design aptitude on my resume and have a portfolio to back it up. We all learn differently, and maybe you would be fine diving into technical work before coming to design theory.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:58 AM on February 26, 2008


Just, please, learn how to kern letters. If you do, you will already be one step ahead of most graphic designers in the world today.
posted by lovejones at 7:51 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry if I'm confusing people. I think my question is more technical. I do have some background in drawing, photography, and a little of painting. I also took a few art fundamental courses. I'm not really concerned about theory quite yet.

When I look at fancy flyers and websites, I wonder where do artists literally find these images and fonts.

An example, I saw a neat flyer yesterday. It was a peace sign made out of cans and bottles. The circle was made out of crushed cans (maybe a dozen of them?). The bars were made out of clear glass bottles. The background looked like rusted metal. The font was quite fancy, it didn't look like the artist just pulled them from Microsoft word.

The questions I asked myself were:
Did the artist take some crushed cans and glass bottles, arranged them into a peace sign and took a photo of it with his/her own camera?
Did it come from one of those image/clipart programs like PrintMaster?
Did he get it from a stock photography website?
If s/he did get it from a stock photography website, did each can and bottle come from a different photo?
Where did he get the background from?
Did he create the font with freehand calligraphy?
Did he snatch the font from some program I've never heard of? It wasn't anything I recognized from microsoft word.

More Questions...
For those who do their own photography, is a film SLR sufficient? I heard if you go to camera store, they will convert film into digital. But, I'm not familiar what role it plays in graphic design.

I know you get 3d images from photographs, where does one get 2d images?
posted by sixcolors at 7:53 AM on February 26, 2008


The designer could have done any or all of those things in order to get his images. Your question has been answered in the first few comments. Stock photography and illustration (y'know, those 2-D images) sites are plentiful on the web, as are free font sites.

I'm not really concerned about theory quite yet.

Pesky theory, always getting the way of just slapping clip art into Word...
posted by Dean King at 8:12 AM on February 26, 2008


You ask very reasonable questions, until I got to

Did he snatch the font from some program I've never heard of? It wasn't anything I recognized from microsoft word.

and that speaks volumes about what you're not understanding about fonts. Yes, Microsoft gives you some basic fonts to start out with, most of them intended for the system, or for normal people who need to throw together a party invitation with Comic Sans. Designers purchase their fonts through agencies whose sole purpose is to manage large collections of fonts and sell them to you. These places are called foundries, and you need to be intimately familiar with them. When I used to work in print we had a copy of The Font Book (among others) and we would literally spend hours hunting through it for the right font with the right look.

Now the Internet makes it easier. All foundries have websites, everything is searchable and indexed, and there are tons of people who are creating free fonts which designers on a budget can use in a pinch (and I have, despite what others might have to say about that).
posted by lou at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2008


> Did the artist take some crushed cans and glass bottles, arranged them into a peace sign and took a photo of it with his/her own camera?

Possibly. That's one common way to do it.

> Did it come from one of those image/clipart programs like PrintMaster?

Possibly, but unlikely.

> Did he get it from a stock photography website?

Possibly. That's one common way to do it.

> If s/he did get it from a stock photography website, did each can and bottle come from a different photo?

Possibly, but that takes decent photo imaging skills to look right.

> Where did he get the background from?

Any option above, or more.

> Did he create the font with freehand calligraphy?

Possibly, although not that common these days.

> Did he snatch the font from some program I've never heard of? It wasn't anything I recognized from microsoft word.

Unlikely. There are a bazillion fonts out there. Many of them are free, many are crappy. Look at Urban Fonts for an example of the free font world. For better fonts, track down a few font houses.

One other common option that you don't list above is hiring professionals to do the parts - hiring photographers, illustrators, calligraphers, etc. Then your job as the designer is to assemble the parts to work as a whole.

(And as someone who went to art school first and then design school later, they're worlds apart and rarely are able to stand in for each other.)

Good luck!
posted by ochenk at 8:29 AM on February 26, 2008


Tutorials give a good idea of how things are done, though you have to find decent ones.
Star field
Planet
Those are good.
posted by Submiqent at 8:41 AM on February 26, 2008


Just to chime in since nobody has mentioned them, I find a lot of great stuff at istockphoto (reasonable prices, per-item fee rather than a membership) and dafont (free fonts).
posted by radioamy at 8:41 AM on February 26, 2008


How?

I'm asking about all the options I have out there. I am not implying that it's the software that makes a person a good graphic designer. I know better than that from taking photography. It's not the camera (or its equipment) that makes a good photographer, it's the photograpther's mind.

My question is strictly technical. I have located a LOT of books and websites about design. I will move on to those once I get the nitty-gritty down. How can I even begin if I can't locate the images and font?

But, most of my questions have been answered now. I have some idea on how to get started. Thanks to all who were helpful!
posted by sixcolors at 9:11 AM on February 26, 2008


Nevermind, the snarky comment above has been deleted. :)
posted by sixcolors at 9:12 AM on February 26, 2008


Look, man, I am not trying to be snarky or mean or defend my profession from hot up-and-coming enthusiasts, but I can say that judging by your responses and clarifications, at this point you are not ready to even man the counter at Kinko's, let alone discard "theory" altogether.

Photographs are two-dimensional images, as are illustrations. Many graphic artists take their own photographs. They also use sxc.hu, Corbis, Adobe Stock Photos (RIP), Getty - there are a lot of stock photo agencies around. Fonts do not "come from" Microsoft Word (please do not use Microsoft Word to layout anything that is not 100% text and even then, don't use it). Typefaces are created by typographers and sold by foundries (why is it called a foundry? Why is the space between lines called "leading"? These are things you want to learn.) such as H&FJ, Monotype, Linotype, FSI, Emigre, Letterhead, and Veer, among a ton of others.

I started off as an amateur enthusiast, just like you. And I was fucking terrible. I feel no shame in sharing that; everyone starts at the bottom. But when people who were better and more experienced said "that shit sucks, and it sucks because you don't know the first thing about X, Y, and Z," I listened. And I still have so, so many more things to learn, so many more books to read, techniques to practice, cliches not to fall into. Like any creative field, you either get better with age, or you get worse: stagnant, lazy, unwilling to learn.

There are some people who are just godawfully talented, intutive masters of harmony, form, proportion, type, color, and composition, who somehow need neither study nor experience nor practice to create the kind of thing that takes we mere mortals weeks spent staring at the tip of our pens wondering if we're a fraud and if McDonald's is hiring. I am one of those mere mortals. It is almost certain that you are, as well. If you just want to make a shitty flyer from stolen, unattributed clipart and stolen, unattributed photos, then Microsoft Word, Google Image Search, and www.10001freefontsfree.ru/afontnotavirus.ttf.exe are all you need. But if you want to get started in graphic design, you start by reading.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:16 AM on February 26, 2008 [13 favorites]


Okay, so let me use some of my own work as an example... here's an image (ignore the borked nav link above. I'm fixing that today).

To create the image of pixela, I did the following:

a) found a black and white royalty free image of a saint.
b) found a good image of a computer that was at the right angle.
c) found a wood texture.
d) found an image of the Sistene Chapel.
e) digitally illustrated the table using the wood texture as a base.
f) digitally masked and composited the elements in photoshop in about forty separate layers to make them look the way I wanted.
g) digitally added shadows and colors, etc... used layer effects and transparency to make them all look just right.

Okay, so as someone with 15 years of design under my belt, it took me three weeks to do six of those. And I teach Photoshop.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:49 AM on February 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


I am one of those people who fell into the field. It started innocently enough, with a relative who was running for office wanting me to help him build some handouts. Then he needed another. And another. And then a guy he knew who was also running for office needed some stuff done. Right about that time I lost my job to a back injury, and since I needed a new non-physical field, I decided I'd give this a go. So I went to school, and got a job at a newspaper doing some very basic page building work in the prepress department. I worked through some more school (I still haven't finished; it's been a few years already, but work gets in the way) and worked my way into a production designer position.

Wanna get started? Well, there are a few things you need to do. First thing is you need to learn to draw. That's one of the first things they're going to teach you if you go to school. Second thing is that you need to start doodling around with Photoshop or something similar. (MS Paint does NOT count.) There are a ton of tutorials on the web. Don't try to create anything in particular; just fiddle around with it, and get a feel for what you can do with it and what it's capable of. Next thing - read, read, read and read some more on the subject. There are some things that you need to learn that are design related (form, color, etc; Optimus Chyme covered it pretty well in his above posts.) There are also things you need to learn from a production standpoint, so that prepress technicians do not build a voodoo doll of you and do unspeakable things to it. You need to learn how the CMYK process works. You need to learn why Photoshop, while a wondrous image editor, is NOT a page layout program. You need to know what they mean when they say your body copy is separating on all four plates. Why you can't use a spot color on a straight CMYK job. Why a photo that "looked fine on the screen" is going to print as a horrific fuzzy blob. And a ton of other things. Oh, and if you ever submit a job for print that you laid out using Microsoft Publisher, don't be surprised if your service bureau puts out a bounty on your head.

Then there's equipment. You can work on a PC, provided that it's got some good horsepower under the hood. But if you're serious, get a Mac. It will make your life much easier, since it can do many things out of the box that a designer needs, and Photoshop, InDesign etc. work a lot more intuitively on Macs. Then you've gotta buy your programs. Nearly everyone starts out on pirated copies, but if you're making any money off of your stuff you'd better by a legit copy of everything you use. Buy some GOOD fonts - don't trust freeware fonts. Take time to learn copyright laws. Yes, you can use your 35mm film camera and have things converted to digital when you get the film developed, but why? Get serious here - you don't have that kind of time and money to waste. A good digital camera might sound expensive, but it will save you a bundle in time and film processing. Would you rather shoot several rolls of film and take them to get developed, wait a while, and then pay the film developer a bunch of money, or would you rather take a ton of shots, go back to your workstation and get to work on those photos? (Taking photos yourself or using stock photos is what you'll end up doing almost all of the time. If you just use Google Image Search, you're setting yourself up for a lawsuit.

I'm one of the mere mortals Optimus Chyme speaks of. I'm not even that much of a designer when I think of it. I'm damn good with layout, but I can't illustrate my way out of a paper bag. (Although I can draw pretty damn well now.) But the experience I have gained over the years has done more than anything, especially for those moments when I'm handed an ad ticket with no instructions, "can you just come up with something that pops" for the art request, and oh, by the way, it deadlines in two hours. Be resigned to the fact that you're going to put out mostly crap for the first two years. Take your criticism and learn from it. Maybe you can make a go of it. At least you'll learn something along the way.
posted by azpenguin at 10:39 AM on February 26, 2008


miss lynnster, I love your Saints page... I showed this stuff around at the office and they love it!
posted by azpenguin at 10:41 AM on February 26, 2008


Where to get fonts? Myfonts is a good place to start. Not the best or only place, but a good starting point.
posted by kidbritish at 10:43 AM on February 26, 2008


I literally cannot favourite Optimus Chyme and Miss Lynnster's posts enough. Also, never fake on a computer what you can create by hand. You want an image of a peace symbol made out of crushed coke cans? Better get buying some coke and a decent camera!
posted by ninthart at 11:03 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I humbly take issue with the idea that you should have a Mac to do design work. That was definitely true 25 years ago, but nowadays there's no significant differences between the platforms in terms of what software is available and what the capabilities of the software on each platform. You can do professional graphic design on both with equally good results and no greater challenges on either (I design on both Leopard & Vista every day).

The Mac OS experience overall is somewhat superior, but if the original poster already owns a PC, there's absolutely no reason to go out and buy a Mac to do design work.
posted by Hildago at 11:36 AM on February 26, 2008


I really do hope you'll succeed in becoming a designer. But you'd do well to heed some of the notes of caution that are being voiced here. Years have been taken off my life by "designers" who don't actually understand what design is. Please don't become one of them.

I do have some background in drawing, photography, and a little of painting. I also took a few art fundamental courses.

That is helpful, but—and this is crucial—design is not an art form. It is a technical discipline which happens to make use of some artistic methods—but toward technical, not artistic, ends. It's about clarity of communication; it's about intuitive presentation of information; it's about making the particulars of presentation as undistracting as possible so the content can take center stage. Once this has been done, you can put some frosting on the cake if you like, but this is secondary.

The best design is the design you never even notice, because it serves its purpose—to make the information it embodies self-evident—so well.

I'm not really concerned about theory quite yet.

Then you are not actually interested in being a designer.

Learn color theory—it is crucial. Learn the elements of typography, and learn to be obsessive about them. (You should watch this documentary all the way through; you can watch it online if you have a Netflix account.) Get your hands on some professional fonts by whatever means necessary; Adobe has some excellent type libraries. Spend hours just designing color palettes, and experimenting with different typographical treatments on different kinds of text. Read up on the Bauhaus, until you fully grok what they were about.

And do not go anywhere near web design until you know XHTML and CSS, and I mean know them, blindfolded and upside down. The web is an entirely different thing than print, and until you know XHTML and CSS, you don't actually know what you're designing. Untold pain has been caused by "web designers" of this sort—they are, unfortunately, far more common than actual web designers. Seriously—either learn XHTML and CSS, or just stay away.

I honestly don't mean to be discouraging. I just want to make sure you start off with the right ideas—most designers do not. I think you would do well to learn a little about the history of design (Helvetica and the Bauhaus are good starting points), to get a feel for the kinds of things designers think about, and how they think about them. It's truly a fascinating field, but one that's very often misunderstood.
posted by greenie2600 at 6:20 PM on August 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


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