Using illustration in projects

Illustration can bring life and a unique visual identity to your brand but there are a few different options when it comes to using it in your projects.

There are three main ways to get illustration into your project work these are:

  • Purchasing stock illustrations
  • Having the creatives at Toast produce the illustrations
  • Commission an illustrator

Each of the above has different pros and (not so many) cons, but the route you opt for will affect the price and usage of the illustrations you opt for.

Purchasing stock illustrations.

There are literally 1000s of stock illustrations to choose from.

For relatively little investment, you can buy stock illustration to use across your print and website projects.


  • A stock illustration is relatively cheap
  • You can see what you are getting before you commit to buy it
  • There are 1000s to choose from

Things to consider.

  • Other people can use the same illustration, so a competitor, for example, may opt to use the same as you (and there is nothing you can do to stop this)
  • You have to make do with what you can find – often it’s a case of choosing something that’s 90% right rather than spot-on
  • It’s not yours; usage rights are limited and you have to be careful to not treat the illustration as a brand-asset – it’s a stock illustration and not a unique part of your brand

Working with Toast to create your illustrations.

Amongst our talented creative team, we have several designers that create bespoke illustrations for clients.


  • We know you, we know your project, so we can advise on the best options
  • You have everything done by one team, so things get done quicker, with less hassle
  • The illustration is yours, you can use it as part of your set of brand assets (subject to some basic conditions)

Things to consider.

  • Although the Toast team are incredibly creative, we have our own style of illustration work, this might not be right for your project
  • An illustration is seldom quoted as part of a fixed-price project, so there will be an additional fee
  • We will not copy another illustrators style (that’s just bad form)

Commissioning an illustrator.

If you want exactly what you want, bespoke to you and created by a dedicated illustrator then this is the route for you.

Sometimes for projects with unique requirements, commissioning an illustrator to complete this part of the project is the best route.


  • Exactly what you want, created solely for your brand, bang-on style and design
  • Totally bespoke work by a professional illustrator that you/we suggest for the project
  • Using a creative that does what it says on the tin! A full-time illustrator does this for a living, you’ll get spot-on results

Things to consider.

  • It can cost more to commission a professional freelance or full-time illustrator
  • The licensing structure can be more complex; you’ll need to outline usage and agree on terms
  • It can add extra time to the project

If you want to use illustration in your project, we suggest the following process.

If stock illustrations work for you:

  • Consideration has to be given to the usage of illustrations that are purchased from stock sites – most have limited licences and cannot be stored or shared. This means that if Toast buys the image, Toast is the licence holder of the image – we cannot simply give you a copy to use yourself, but we can use it across projects we work on for you
  • If you would also like a copy of the image, you’ll have to buy it too – this way you have the image licence and can use the image
  • Remember that if you ask us to create a derivative illustration from a stock illustration, the original copyright owner (the illustrator) still retains the copyright, it does not become yours
  • It’s best to create a mood board of potential stock styles that you would like to be used
  • Make sure the stock illustrator you choose has a range of work if you are looking to use more that one stock illustration as part of a set
  • Remember that stock illustrations can not be used as part of your logo/branding

If you’d like to go down the bespoke route:

  • As above, create a mood board or collection of styles that you like, these would be for inspiration only
  • Share these illustrations with Toast so we can then suggest the best route – either having the Toast creatives work up some bespoke illustrations for you or discussing the project directly with a professional illustrator
  • Note that all bespoke illustration is licenced in some way. Anything created at Toast is generally a full buy-out license which means the illustration is yours and you can use it as you see fit, other illustrators will have their own terms and licences

Points to note:

  • At Toast we like to help protect the rights of fellow creatives, so we won’t copy peoples work or be lenient with image licencing
  • Just because a stock illustration is cheap, it doesn’t mean we (or you) own it, so please don’t ask us to infringe licencing as we will not
  • Bespoke illustrations may be more expensive to produce, but with the right licence, they are yours to own and use, so if you are creating illustrations that form part of your branding or brand assets, bespoke is the best route

If you are ready to go ahead with using illustration in your projects, get in touch with your designer at Toast and we’ll get started!