Finding Stock Images for Book Cover Art

Top Places to Find Royalty Free Stock Art for Book Covers

While I’m editing the final manuscript of Werewolf Castle: Werewolves in the Renaissance 3, I need to develop the book cover art. Unless I want to commission custom art for a cover, I start the search for appropriate stock art for a book cover design. Although I have commissioned fantasy art for my book covers in the past, my werewolf series has been designed using stock art.

I use what’s known as royalty free stock art. This means that I don’t owe anyone any royalties based on the sales of the works made with the stock art and photos. For a single price, I gain the rights to use the images for commercial applications. The site that I choose to buy images from will specify the precise details of the royalty free agreement.

I’ve used some different sites over the years to find art for book covers and promotional banners. For the most part, they are quite similar in terms of price and terms. They even have largely identical collections, so I can’t really recommend any one company as standing out from the pack.

These are some of the major stock art providers online:

Generally, these companies require that you purchase credits that are then exchanged onsite for the images that you want. Pricing varies according to image size, resolution, and usage rights. The credit buying levels always seem to be cleverly designed to make one spend a bit more than would be necessary for what I need. But I always need to get a new image for something eventually so it works out. Pay close attention, however, to expiration dates attached to credit purchases. Paying for credits and then losing them would be a bummer.

All of the stock art providers include useful tools for customers. After creating an account, I can create folders, or light boxes as they are sometimes called, to save images to. This helps me organize my findings as I browse images that might possibly work for my design. For example, when creating the book cover for Journey of the Hunted, I collected images of a woman who would represent the female character who I wanted to feature on the cover.

An example of book cover art made with royalty free stock art.

I’m able to download low resolution or watermarked images to test in designs before I make a purchase. It’s important to use this approach to avoid spending money on an image that ultimately does not work for my design idea. I determine probably about 90 percent of the final design before actually buying the stock art.

Free Sources of Stock Art

Many websites draw in traffic with the promise of free stock art. Any web search will produce lists of different sites to visit for free to download images. I find the quality and selection available at the free sites to be inferior to paid downloads, but sometimes a free image will work for a background, or I get lucky and find a decent free image that works for a blog post or promotional image.

When I’m scrounging for free images, I like to use Search results here deliver free images and sponsored suggestions from Shutterstock.

Selecting stock images is by far the most time consuming process of developing a book cover design, at least for me. I have to sift through many images before making final decisions.

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