How to start selling stock vector illustrations:

My personal experience creating and selling stock vectors


When I began my journey into selling stock vector illustrations in early 2020, I encountered a significant challenge: the lack of comprehensive guides tailored specifically to this niche, as most was tailored for stock photography. Through trial and error I learnend my own valuable lessons along the way.

In this guide, I aim to bridge that gap by sharing my insights and experiences, providing aspiring illustrators a way to start monetizing their work with the guidance they need to embark on their own ventures into the world of microstock, and generating sales with stock illustration. I'll walk you through every step of the process of signing up to the major stock image bureaus, and uploading your first few illustrations, and setting you up for succes.


With over 2000 sales accumulated across platforms like ShutterStock, AdobeStock, Dreamstime, and VectorStock, my journey in the stock illustration market has been both challenging and rewarding. Drawing from this experience, I've gained invaluable insights into the dynamics of the industry, which I'm excited to share with fellow enthusiasts.

Content overview

In this guide, you'll learn how to navigate the complexities of the stock vector market, armed with insights and practical advice gathered from my own experiences. Each section is crafted to empower you with the knowledge and tools needed to succeed in this dynamic industry.

Table of content

  1. What to expect when selling stock illustrations
  2. Your first upload
  3. Collecting data
  4. Expanding Your Portfolio
  5. Parting Words

What to expect when selling stock illustrations

When embarking on the journey of selling stock vector illustrations, it's crucial to set realistic expectations from the get-go. From my own journey, I can attest that it's no walk in the park. Building a successful portfolio takes time, dedication, and patience. You may not see immediate returns, and it's essential to brace yourself for that reality.

In my experience, the road to consistent sales begins with a substantial portfolio. It's often said that you won't start seeing sales until you have at least 100 to 150 illustrations in your collection. However, don't be disheartened if the sales trickle in slowly at first. Consistency is key. It's not until you've built up a portfolio of 400 or more illustrations that you can begin to expect more regular sales.

Despite the initial challenges, selling stock illustrations can offer a reliable income stream over time. Once you find your niche and create content that resonates with buyers, you'll start to see the fruits of your labor. Remember, success in this field is achievable, but it requires perseverance and a willingness to learn and adapt.

As you embark on your own journey, keep in mind that every illustrator's path is unique. What works for one person may not work for another. Stay focused on your goals, continue to hone your craft, and don't be afraid to experiment. With determination and a strategic approach, you can turn your passion for illustration into a rewarding source of income.

Your first upload

When starting your journey as a stock vector illustrator, one of the initial steps is to create your first portfolio. To begin, you'll need a collection of around 20 illustrations to kickstart the sign-up process and gain acceptance on various platforms.

Building your first portfolio can be both exciting and daunting. It's your chance to showcase your creativity and skills to potential buyers. However, it's essential to remember that quality matters more than quantity. Focus on creating high-quality illustrations that stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Before you start creating, take some time to research the guidelines and requirements of the stock platforms you're interested in. Each platform has its own set of standards for image quality, file formats, and subject matter. By familiarizing yourself with these guidelines upfront, you can save yourself time and frustration down the line.

Once you're ready to start uploading, consider diversifying your portfolio to appeal to a broader audience. Experiment with different styles, subjects, and themes to see what resonates best with buyers. Remember to stay true to your unique artistic vision while also keeping an eye on market trends.

Now, let's get you started on your contributor journey. Below are the links to sign up as a contributor for some of the top stock platforms:

Simply click on the links above to begin the sign-up process for each platform. Remember to carefully read and follow the instructions provided during the application process to ensure a smooth approval.

With your portfolio created and uploaded, you're now one step closer to becoming a successful stock vector illustrator. Stay tuned for the next part of our guide, where we'll delve into the importance of collecting data to optimize your sales strategy.

Collecting data

As you begin your journey as a stock vector illustrator, it's crucial to collect data to understand your performance and identify trends that can guide your strategy. Setting up a structured system for tracking your illustrations across different platforms is essential for monitoring your progress and optimizing your sales strategy.

I recommend creating a spreadsheet using Google Sheets or a similar tool to organize your data effectively. Each row should represent an individual illustration, with columns for important details such as title, description, category, and an ID for your file system. Additionally, dedicate columns for each platform where your illustrations are available, including fields for status, sales, and revenue.

By maintaining a comprehensive record of your illustrations' performance on each platform, you can gain valuable insights into which categories resonate most with buyers and where to focus your efforts for maximum impact. Tracking metrics such as total sales and downloads will help you gauge the success of your portfolio over time and identify areas for improvement.

To help you get started, I've prepared a template for your data collection spreadsheet.

Download template

Remember, collecting data is not just about monitoring your past performance; it's also about leveraging that information to inform your future decisions. As you analyze your data, pay attention to emerging trends and patterns that can guide your content creation and marketing efforts moving forward.

In addition to your own data analysis, it's also beneficial to stay informed about industry trends and preferences. Both Shutterstock and Dreamstime offer valuable insights through their respective blogs, where they often share trends and topics of interest to stock contributors.

You can access the Shutterstock blog here and the Dreamstime blog here. Be sure to check these resources regularly for updates and inspiration to enhance your stock vector illustration journey.

Armed with data and industry knowledge, you're well-equipped to navigate the competitive world of stock illustration and drive success in your portfolio. Stay tuned for the next part of our guide, where we'll explore how to identify and capitalize on emerging trends effectively.

Expanding Your Portfolio

When it comes to selling stock vector illustrations, your approach may vary depending on whether you're pursuing it as a hobby or as a source of income. Understanding your motivation and goals can help you tailor your strategy for optimal results.

If you're creating illustrations as a hobby, your primary focus should be on what brings you joy and fulfillment. Explore subjects and themes that resonate with your interests and passions. Whether it's animals, landscapes, or abstract designs, prioritize creating content that excites and inspires you.

On the other hand, if you're in it for the money, your approach may need to be more strategic. Take the time to analyze your data and identify trends in your sales patterns. Which categories consistently perform well? What types of illustrations are in high demand among buyers?

Once you've identified your top-performing categories, prioritize creating content that aligns with these trends. While it's essential to stay true to your artistic vision, focusing on what sells can help maximize your earning potential and grow your portfolio strategically.

That being said, finding a balance between passion and profitability is key. Even if you're primarily motivated by financial gain, it's essential to maintain a level of enthusiasm and creativity in your work. Combining your interests with market demand can lead to a more fulfilling and successful stock illustration career.

Ultimately, whether you're creating illustrations for pleasure or profit, remember to enjoy the process. Embrace experimentation, stay open to feedback, and continue to refine your skills over time. With dedication and perseverance, you can find success and satisfaction in the world of stock vector illustration.

As we wrap up this guide, I encourage you to reflect on your goals and aspirations as a stock illustrator. Whether you're just starting out or seeking to take your portfolio to the next level, remember to stay true to yourself and your vision. With the right mindset and approach, the possibilities for success are endless.

Parting Words

As we conclude, I offer some final advice:

For those seeking to expand their earnings, consider print-on-demand platforms like RedBubble and Spreadshirt for selling merchandise featuring your designs.

Additionally, leverage social media and networking opportunities to showcase your work and connect with potential buyers and collaborators.

Above all, never stop learning and experimenting. Your creativity is your greatest asset.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Best of luck in all your artistic endeavors!