Sell Stock Illustrations

How To Get Passive Income From Selling Stock Illustrations

If you’re a digital artist, illustrator, or graphic designer, you may be wondering whether selling stock illustrations and vectors online is a viable option to make some extra income.

The truth is, there are many benefits to selling your artwork online as stock illustrations and vector graphics.

When you sell your artwork online as stock illustrations and vectors, you’re not limited by geographical boundaries. Your artwork can be downloaded and used by anyone in the world, which gives you the opportunity to reach a far greater audience than you would if you were only selling your artwork locally.

It’s a great way to build up your portfolio. When starting out as an artist or graphic designer, one of the best ways to build up your portfolio is by selling your work as stock illustrations and vectors. As your portfolio grows, so too will your reputation as an artist – which will eventually lead to more opportunities for commissioned work.

Most importantly, the stock content you make today can generate a passive income that lasts long into the future. Every time your artwork is downloaded, you receive a commission for it. This means that by submitting your artwork once, you can continue to generate a passive income from it even months or years down the line.

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Selling Stock Illustrations. Image by grandfailure - Adobe Stock contributor
Image by Grandfailure. One of the best-selling illustrators in Adobe Stock.

What are Stock Illustrations?

In today’s world, visual media is more important than ever before. With the rise of social media and the popularity of personal blogs, the demand for high-quality images has never been higher.

This is where stock media comes in. Stock illustrations are a part of content creation where you upload illustrations or vectors to online libraries available for licensing by anyone who needs images for commercial purposes. 

These libraries are kept by stock media sites that license out the artwork to people who need images for anything from website design to advertising campaigns.

Every time an image is downloaded, the creator gets a commission from it. This can be a great way to make passive income as a digital artist, and it’s also a great way to get your work out there and seen by millions of people.

How Much Can You Earn?

So, now a word about the thing you’re most interested in; how much you can earn from selling stock illustrations?

The answer varies depending on a number of factors, including the stock site you use and your contributor level.

In general, royalty rates range from 15% to 40%, and a single sale can earn you anywhere from $0.10 to $70. In some cases even more than that. The amount you ultimately earn will depend on the popularity of your illustrations and the demand for the type of artwork you create.

In total, more than 80% of stock producers make at least $100 a month, 53% make more than $500 a month and 18% make more than $2000 a month. These figures are based on a survey I made in Microstock Group forum.

If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, selling stock illustrations can be a great way to supplement your income.

Where To Sell Stock Illustrations?

There are many different websites that allow digital artists to sell their artwork as stock illustrations and vectors, but some of the most popular include Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and iStock.

Making money from stock illustrations correlates with sales volume. If there are no sales, then there won’t be any income. That is why the site you choose to use is very important.

You want to make sure that the stock site you use has a wide network of customers and attracts buyers who are looking for the type of artwork you specialize in.

Each platform discussed here has proven to have a high sales volume. You can make money from each of them if you put in the effort to upload quality stock illustrations consistently.

Let’s take a quick look at them.

Adobe Stock

When it comes to stock illustration, Adobe Stock is a great platform to start with. Their royalty rate is currently at 33%, which is pretty good in today’s market.

Illustrations and vectors also tend to sell well on Adobe Stock, making it a great choice for those looking to monetize their artwork.

I’ve made a separate post on selling images in Adobe Stock. Check it out here: Selling Photos to Adobe Stock – The Best Practises Make sure to check that out also.

Below you’ll find the current royalty rates in detail.

IMAGES (33% ROYALTIES)Photos, vectors, illustrations
Buyer's planEarnings per download
3 CREDITS PER MONTH Monthly subscriber$3.30
10 CREDITS PER MONTH Monthly / Annual subscriber$1.65 / $0.99
25 CREDITS PER MONTH Monthly / Annual subscriber$0.92 / $0.66
40 CREDITS PER MONTH Monthly / Annual subscriber$0.82 / $0.66
350+ CREDITS PER MONTH Minimum guaranteed$0.33 to $0.40
EXTENDED LICENSE On demand / Subscription$26.40 / $21.12


Shutterstock is a stock photography website that also allows users to sell illustrations. Shutterstock pays illustrators a royalty rate of 15% to 40% depending on their level. Shutterstock is a very popular site among buyers and therefore has a very high sales volume.

Shutterstock’s strength is in the occasional high sales that can earn you more than $70 per download. I’ve even got exclusive deals that have earned me thousands of dollars just for a couple of images.

Shutterstock pays illustrators via PayPal once a month and has a minimum payout of $35. Overall, Shutterstock is a great option for selling illustrations because of the high sales volume and the potential for high earnings per illustration sold.

Screenshot of the images I sold on Shutterstock for thousands of dollars
Screenshot of the images I sold on Shutterstock as an exclusive deal. I can’t show the exact amounts because the contract forbids that, however, I can say they sold for thousands of dollars

Below you’ll find the royalty structure for Shutterstock, and HERE you’ll find more details about the SS royalties. (May require to be signed in to the Shutterstock contributor portal)

Earnings breakdown for photos, illustrations, and vectors
Contributor LevelDownloads per yearRoyalty Rate
Level 1Up to 10015 %
Level 2101 to 25020 %
Level 3251 to 50025 %
Level 4501 to 2,50030 %
Level 52,501 to 25,00035 %
Level 6Over 25,00040 %

Read also this post for some tips on selling content on Shutterstock: How To Make Money On Shutterstock?


IStock is a popular stock photo and image site, and they offer a wide range of images for sale. You can sell both photos and illustrations on IStock, and the royalty rates vary depending on whether you sell exclusively through IStock or not.

Non-exclusive rates are 15% for photos and 20% for illustrations, while exclusive rates can be as high as 45%. The big advantage of IStock is its high sales volume – so even though the royalty rates may not be as high as some other sites, you can still make good money if your work is popular.

I’ve had particularly good success selling 3D renders on IStock. So if you’re looking for a place to sell your artwork, IStock is definitely worth considering.

Find below IStock royalty rates.

File typeNon-
Exclusive rates
and Download targets

Those are The Big Three of the stock media agencies. There are many others, such as Dreamstime, 123RF, and Alamy, which you may want to consider. However, the sales volumes on those platforms are far from The Big Three volumes.

I suggest starting with Adobe Stock and looking at how your illustration sales develop and whether the whole stock-selling system makes any sense to you.

Read also this post The 3 Best Websites to Sell Stock Photos to find out more.

How To Become Successful In Selling Stock Illustrations?

There are a few things to keep in mind when starting to sell stock illustrations.

Be consistent

The most valuable tip I can give you is to be consistent and patient. It may take many months before anything happens in your account. It may take a long time before your first sale.

This is where most of the new contributors fail. They just quit because the money doesn’t pour in immediately.

You need to keep on uploading and building your portfolio consistently. You should build a portfolio of thousands of high-quality images. The results will come eventually, but it may take some time.

If you’re already an established illustration professional, it may be quicker for you if you have high-quality content to upload right away.

So be patient and keep on uploading!

Understand the market and keywording

The stock illustration market is like any other marketplace. There is competition.

Many people want to sell the same kind of images as you do. The winners will be those who have their illustrations on the first page of the search results. To get your illustrations on the first page, you need to caption and keyword your content properly.

Also, you should find subjects that have less competition. Unless you’re already a world-class artist, it may be challenging to get your illustrations on the first pages in high-competition subjects.

Please find out more about keywording in my post, A Guide To Stock Photography Keywording And Keyword Research.

Follow The Trends

There’s always something happening in the world. Whether it is a global pandemic, Brexit, or the World Cup. These are so-called trends, and they always fill the news feed when they’re ongoing.

Buyers are often looking for images to illustrate these trends. That’s when stock illustrations are on the front line.

If you manage to make great illustrations on some high-level trend in the early stages and get it high enough on the search results, you can expect excellent revenue from those pictures.

So always follow what’s going on in the world. You may hit the jackpot!

Make Content That People Can Relate To

In order to make stock images that sell, it is important to focus on illustrations that people can relate to.

This means creating content that captures the everyday things that people do. For example, rather than simply depicting a generic office scene, try to capture a more specific moment, such as someone working at their desk or making a phone call. These types of images are more likely to resonate with viewers and be memorable.

In addition, it is also important to consider the composition of your images and ensure that they are well-balanced, visually appealing, and leave some space for text.

To understand what buyers are looking for. You can follow portals such as Shutterstock’s Shot List or Adobe Stock’s Recent Top Sellers list in their contributor portals to get the idea. (May require to be signed in)

By following these tips, you can create stock images that stand out from the crowd and have a better chance of selling.

Find more tips on these articles:

And here you’ll find what kind of illustrations are on demand:


It is so easy to start selling stock illustrations. However, to become successful, you need to dig deeper into the market, produce lots of high-quality images and keyword them well.

Unlike stock photos, the illustration market is not yet as saturated. For talented artists, there is a good possibility to make some passive income by selling stock images.

You can receive between 15%-40% royalties in microstock platforms such as Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, and IStock and reach hundreds of dollars in monthly revenue in a couple of years.

The path is not always easy, and the competition is fierce. However, with dedication and consistency, only the sky is the limit.

Thanks for reading, and good luck with your journey!