Thursday, April 2, 2009

Great source of very inexpensive artwork

If you read the headline, you may be wondering why anyone would care about inexpensive artwork when there is so much FREE clipart (photos, drawings, cartoons) available for copying and pasting.

While there are millions of freebies available for downloading, and near freebies on inexpensive discs with thousands of images, in many cases the artwork is not allowed to be used for commercial purposes.

I had picked out a fantastic freebie to use as a book cover from Microsoft's collection of over 150,000 illustrations, animations and sounds.

And then I read the fine print that declared that the clips were not for commercial use. Despite multiple emails and phone calls, I was never able to identify the photographer of the picture I wanted to use. I would have gladly paid $500 for it.

However, its replacement cost me four bucks.

The Microsoft clipart page conveniently provides links to several clipart suppliers with no such limitations, and I've been very pleased with Fotolia.

They have OVER FOUR MILLION images available for immediate and fast downloading. Prices are ridiculously low -- typically $1 to $5 depending on size and resolution. (You use higher resolution for printing than for web work.) If you need lots of pix, you can pay for one-month, six-month or 12-month plans that allow you to get 25 images per day.

Unlike some other "stock photo" sources, Fotolia is royalty-free, meaning that you don't pay more based on type of use or the number of books that you print that use a picture.

The pictures are not exclusively yours, of course, but the cost is a lot less than hiring a photographer and models and renting a studio and building a set, or sending a crew thousands of miles; and you know exactly what you are getting before you pay a penny.

You can even download free "comp" images that are good enough to mock-up a project and determine if a photo is right for you. Even if you do pay and it turns out that you made a wrong decision, or you just change your mind, your loss is minimal.

There are other services that compete with Fotolia, but I've been so pleased so far that I've had no reason to check out the competition.

I paid $4 for the cover art for my first self-published book. I'm going for the big bucks with book number four: $60.

In a previous life I worked for Madison Avenue ad agencies, and I remember the time, cost, stress and disappointment from "live shoots." Now I can get first quality art for the price of a cup of coffee (which I don't drink), and I know exactly what I'm getting without waiting for the film to be developed.

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