Working with a Designer

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Beginner’s Guide to Finding the Perfect Visuals – Part 4: Sample Search

So far in the Visual Asset Research Series, we’ve covered tips to help you find great assets for your projects, what file types to keep an eye out for, and sources to find your visuals. Today we’re going to wrap up with a sample search so you can see my process on one of my favorite sources. I’ll be showing you how I might find a set of illustrations of families doing fun, active things together.

Searching and Filtering

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So let’s open up and get started. To use features like collections and to eventually purchase, you’ll need to create an account. [As a reminder, I’m using Creative Market as the example here so you can follow what I do exactly. I don’t work for them and this isn’t even an affiliate link. I just want to be able to help my clients find high quality, cohesive visuals themselves. This same general process applies to lots of stock sites, I just happen to like the functionality at Creative Market, so I usually start there.]

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First, I would decide on search terms. I could just search “family activity” but the word “activity” might limit my results in a way that I don’t like. Just searching “family” may be too broad, and since I know my client likes an illustration style that is popularly referred to as “flat” I’ll start with “flat family” my search term and see if that pulls up some good results. To make sure I’m only looking at illustrations, I filter by choosing All Categories>>Graphics>>Illustrations.

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Already I can see some illustrations I think might work, so I right-click on the pictures to open the link in a new tab. This helps me examine them a little more closely and flip through thumbnails. I usually open several tabs in a row before going back and checking them out. If I don’t like an asset when I see it bigger, I can just close it.

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If I do like an asset, I can add it to a collection to refer back to easily. To do this from the search results page, hover over the thumbnail and choose the button in the upper right of the image with a plus sign on a stack of objects and add a new collection or choose an existing collection to put it in and then hit the “Save Collections” button. (Or I look more closely at one of the opened tabs with the item info and click “Collection” in the right sidebar.)

Check the item pages

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I also like to check the file types just to make super sure that I’m only considering vector files. I scroll down until I can see the file types in the sidebar on the right of the screen. If the file type available is AI, EPS or PDF, I know it’ll work as an illustration for me. Creative Market also happens to tell you that a file is a vector, which is also reassuring. Other file types (PNG, JPG, etc) may also be included and that’s fine, but I’m looking specifically for at least one vector file type to be shown as well.

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Some items will have multiple images to check out, so be sure to click each of the thumbnails to see them. Often for more extensive illustration or photo packs, the first image is the “sales” image and just an overview, while additional pictures will show contents in more detail.

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A thing to watch out for on Creative Market is that preview pictures will be cropped to a certain area at the top of an image. If it looks like part of the image is being cut off, try clicking on it to make it bigger (usually opens in a new tab/window). Then you can see the image at a bigger size and scroll down to see the whole thing.

Now look at the items you’ve collected to assess

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Once I’ve gone through a few pages of assets and found several I like pretty well, I like to look at them all together in the collection I created. I get to my collection by hovering over my name at the top right corner of the menu bar and selecting Collections from the drop-down and choosing the collection from the page that comes up. Then I can look at all of my collected assets so far (if you have enough, they may spill onto a second page) and get rid of any that I like less than others, to help narrow down my choices. You can remove items by hovering over the thumbnail and clicking the grey X that will show up in the upper right of the picture.

Next, find visuals that work with each other

I really like a few sets I can see are by the same shop (the name is listed below the item title below each thumbnail). Since I would like a variety of illustrations for this series of events my client is organizing, I want to see if any of this one shop’s other illustrations will be useful. I do this because an illustrator will often work in the same style, so choosing different items from the same artist is usually a good place to start to keep all of the visuals consistent. Occasionally a shop will actually feature the work of a number of artists, but using this trick is generally a good shortcut to finding additional items to consider. (You can always pair illustrations from different artists as long as you look at them closely side-by-side and they feel similar to you.)

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I open one of the illustrations from the collection and I can navigate to her shop in a few ways: by clicking the shop name under the title or the name or avatar in the sidebar on the right side of the screen. (You may also see More from [this shop] with a few small thumbnails in the sidebar, but those will take you directly to the individual items shown, not the whole shop.)

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Now that I’m in her shop, I can see she has a variety of illustrations for all kinds of subjects. Rather than sort through what can sometimes be dozens of pages, I want to look at only results from this shop for whatever search terms I decide to use. Creative Market unfortunately doesn’t have an easy or obvious way to search just one shop’s results, but I’ve figured out a work-around. I copy the text from the shop’s name in the address bar for the window (after ) and paste it in the search box to use as a term, along with any other term I want to look for. I’ll use “family” again, just so I don’t miss anything, but this would be a great place to put something more specific, (like if I knew I wanted a family eating dinner, I might put “eating” as a term).

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Now I can look through all of the results that came back and pick some great additional illustrations of active families that I can show my client to use for her series of events. I’ll add more illustrations to my collection and then I’ll repeat the shop search process for a few other styles I like. I usually try to present my clients with a few different options so they can choose which style suits them. Because I can’t rearrange items within a collection (another feature I wish CM had!), I usually copy and paste links for each item into an email or Asana discussion for my client to review, with notes on which styles might work best or how I might edit certain illustrations to make them more suitable. This helps my client to compare things with a more critical eye and make a good decision before I make a purchase for them.

Once you’ve decided on a few items, make the purchase

Purchasing is pretty easy and can be done with a credit card, without needing to purchase credits. You only purchase one item at a time (I also wish CM had a shopping cart to collect a few items so you could buy all at once), but it’s pretty easy. After you purchase, you can download the asset as a zipped file to your computer. If you’re working with a designer, you can upload the zipped file to Dropbox, Google Drive or whatever file sharing service you use (if it’s small enough, you can attach it to an email). If you’re using items yourself, you can unzip and organize how you need to. I suggest keeping a folder on your computer just for your asset library, perhaps with subfolders for visuals by type (photos, illustrations, brand fonts), project, or however best fits your organizational style and needs.

So that’s exactly how I start every visual search for my clients. I’m most familiar with the tools on Creative Market, but the general principles apply to lots of different sites.

  • Always check the file types and/or resolution before you make a purchase.
  • If there is an opportunity to save files to a collection (sometimes they’ll be called lightboxes or something similar), that’ll help keep you organized, help you compare assets, and let you take a break and come back later.
  • You can often look at other work by the same artist, though without a way to search just that artist/shop and an additional keyword, it may take awhile to sift through additional results.
  • If you can’t easily search the same artist, make sure you look at the style and composition of assets to find ones that work together.

And make sure you check with your designer if you get stuck!

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Want to catch the entire series? Click through to access parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 in one easy spot! If you want to find your own perfect visuals, this is the place to learn all about it!

That wraps up the Beginner’s Guide to Finding the Perfect Visuals. I hope you found it useful. If you have questions about any of it, be sure to let me know, either in the comments or by getting in touch. I enjoyed putting together a great tool and I have some more fun stuff planned, so make sure to come back (or sign up for my newsletter, where I send out all of my blog posts, plus other news)!


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