Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Illustrating Websites

Effective graphics & stock photos

Web Graphics | Stock Photos | Colour & Backgrounds

A colourful stack of crayons representing the colourful aspects of web images.

Websites have moved towards much larger photos and graphics than previously.

The use of very large graphics and video have changed how sites are built, and created even greater demand for variety and quality of illustrations.

This page discusses the use of graphics and stock photography as well as the use of colour on websites.

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Web Graphics

Web graphics include illustrations, infographics and similar graphic content.

Unlike photos, these are generally specific to the point you're illustrating within your text.

Background images are a different category and are covered under the section on colour.


Illustrations can include drawings, screen captures, diagrams and other content that makes the page content easier to understand.

You'll see such illustrations on a number of pages on this site.


Infographics can provide your visitors with a new way to view information about your product or service.

These are generally large images that incorporate an entire series of ideas displayed in graphic text and illustrations that can be shared with friends and contacts.

An example is this infographic:

“Update your software!?” infographic -- click to learn more.
See the full infographic.

Notice how colour and the bold use of text and images can communicate a lot in a small space and is more compelling than text alone.

Meet an Emotional Need

Infographics require some thought and work best when they satisfy an emotional need as well as a technical one.

Infographics are quite complex and should be created by skilled graphic artists.

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Stock Photography

Registration or membership required to download or purchase images many stock photography sites.

Royalty-free is Not Free

Be sure you understand the licence terms for any images you purchase.

Royalty-free, or RF, refers to the right to use copyrighted material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold, or some time period of use or sales.

Standard Stock Photo Sites

The stock photos on these sites require you to purchase a licence. Some may provide free images, but those are often for personal use only.

Free Stock Photography

Be sure to read the conditions of use for the images on these sites. Unless specifically stated, images cannot be used on commercial sites or projects. Some require a link back to the site hosting the image.

Boycott Getty Images

I do NOT recommend using Getty Images. They are not only extremely expensive, but have engaged in practices that are unethical if not illegal.

Upon information and belief, Getty has been carelessly and recklessly acquiring content, not doing due diligence and not taking adequate measures to prevent infringement as well as falsifying/removing proper copyright management information. In fact, its aggressive acquisition schedule is possible only at the expense of others' rights.
Richard Liebowitz.

Photographer Billed for Her Own Images

After sending Carol Highsmith a letter demanding payment for the use of her own images which she'd donated to the public domain, Getty claimed to have the right to charge for images on the same basis as publishers of public domain books.

Getty licensed the images from a Chinese company that purchased Corbis, founded and owned by Bill Gates, which was charging $110 (for internal use only) to $1,735 for TV and Internet for images that could be downloaded for free from the Library of Congress.

Their actions are clearly contrary to the conditions under which the photographer released them to the public domain and contrary to the spirit of public domain, if not illegal.

Publishers of public domain materials may be able to charge for their products, but they don't have the right to sue others for using or selling those same materials.

Getty may charge for public domain images, but those images should be clearly marked as public domain (like public domain books indicate on their copyright page).

Billing the original author shows total disregard for the kindness of that gift and ignorance of the what public domain means.

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Colour and Backgrounds

Be careful when using backgrounds and colour schemes while developing your site.

Some colours may have unexpected emotional or cultural impacts as well as creating issues for those that have various forms of colour-blindness.


Other Resources

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Be sure you read and understand the licensing for the images you use.

Licensing is a big thing when using stock photos, especially if they are free.


Unless you want to get sued by the photos owners, in which case free stock photos quickly turn into super expensive mistakes.
Lior Frenkel

Respect Copyright

Respect the copyrights and requirements stated on the site where you obtain images. Ensure you can meet the conditions of use before using images on your site.

Personal Use Only

Many sites will NOT allow you to use free images commercially. You can use them on personal websites, but not on company websites or on projects for commercial use (some make an exception for non-profit use).

Link-back Graphics

Many companies and individuals create various graphics to put on your page that are intended only to link back to their site. An example is the “Get Adobe Reader” button.

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Related Resources

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Updated: March 27, 2021