Vintage items are everywhere, it seems. There are a lot of people who love the style of bygone eras and will pay top dollar for anything that evokes the feelings they associate with an idyllic past. Even a quick browse on Etsy will reveal hundreds of vintage items in almost any niche you can imagine.
The good news for anybody who wants to sell printables or other products online is that there’s no need to scour the world for authentic vintage items to sell. Of course, some people want the “real thing,” but for many, the only thing that matters is that vintage look. Here’s what you need to know to create vintage items of your own.
What is a Vintage Look?
The first thing to understand is what qualifies as a vintage look. If there’s one defining characteristic of the vintage look, it’s that it inspires thoughts and feelings of the past. It doesn’t necessarily need to be old fashioned because vintage items can include a wide array of styles.
Here are some of the characteristics that can create a vintage look.
- Vintage images, including images in the public domain. These may include photographs or illustrations.
- Vintage-inspired images. There are artists who create images that are in the style of different eras, and these can inspire the same feelings as images from another era.
- Vintage or vintage-inspired fonts. Modern fonts tend to be clean and sleek-looking, which is why most web designers choose sans serif fonts for their designs. Any font with a different look, including serif fonts or calligraphy fonts, can create a vintage feel.
- Faded or nostalgic colors. A lot of vintage items may have once been brightly colored, but age can dim colors. Using filters and other effects can give new images a vintage appearance.
The term “vintage” leaves a lot of room for interpretation – and that’s good news when it comes to creating items with a vintage look.
Where to Find Vintage Images to Use
Finding true vintage images to use in your products is surprisingly easy. What might have taken days of research before the internet can now be accomplished in just a few minutes.
Here are some of my favorite resources to find vintage and public domain images. Let’s start with some resources for vintage photographs.
- Getty Images Archival Photos has a huge array of vintage photos for sale, some dating back to the 1880s.
- The Library of Congress website has a huge array of free digital images, including many that are vintage and historical. The one caveat is that you will need to do your own research regarding copyrights.
- The Smithsonian Institute has digitized their collection of images and posted it on online via Flickr. The same warning about copyright applies here.
- Historical Stock Photos is another great resource with thousands of vintage photographs. As above, make sure to check the copyright to protect yourself.
- Vintage Stock Photos has a huge collection of free vintage photos, including many of famous landmarks and other iconic places.
The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute also have non-photographic vintage images, including illustrations. Here are some other sources for vintage illustrations.
- The Letterform Archive has thousands of vintage images, including movie posters, postcards, magazine illustrations, and other artwork.
- The Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive has over 3,000 images from illustrated versions of William Shakespeare’s plays.
- The British Library has digitally archived its massive collection of more than a million photographs and illustrations. They are free to use.
- The New York Public Library also has a huge collection of vintage images and illustrations that are open to the public and free to use.
- Free Vintage Illustrations is a terrific place to find a huge array of illustrations and other images to use in product creation.
Keep in mind that there’s a lot of overlap in these collections, meaning that many contain both photographs and illustrations. It’s always a good idea to do your own research to confirm that an item is in the public domain. As a reminder, as of January 1, 2022, all copyrighted works created in 1926 or earlier are in the public domain.
Sources for Vintage Fonts
Using a vintage (or vintage-inspired) font in a printable product can make it instantly unique. Here are a few resources to find vintage fonts.
- 1001 Fonts has a wide range of modern and vintage-inspired fonts, and all of them are free to use.
- Fontspace has a whole section of vintage fonts with nearly 2,000 options to choose from.
- Creative Market has over 16,000 vintage fonts that you can buy, including retro, hipster, and art deco options.
You should be sure to read the fine print before using any font to make sure that you have the appropriate license to use it. Fonts that are free may still have use terms and licensing requirements.
Tips to Make New Images Look Vintage
Now, let’s talk about a few things you can do to take a new design and make it look vintage. Since we’ve already covered images and fonts, we’ll focus on some other techniques here.
Vintage filters are everywhere these days and can be used to give a photo you just took on your iPhone a vintage appearance. You’ve probably already used them on Instagram!
I already mentioned colors, but you can give your products a vintage look by looking at vintage images and using their color palettes for inspiration.
One tool that I really love for this is Coolors. You can upload any image and it will generate a complete palette for you.
In addition to experimenting with vintage filters and colors, you can also think about aging effects to make new images and products look older. You’ve probably seen products with worn edges or a crackled background.
There are filters and background effects that you can use if you’re familiar with Photoshop, too. You might even try something as simple as taking a color image and making it black and white.
Vintage products will always be popular and it’s smart to take advantage of the demand by creating vintage-inspired products for your online store. The tips and tools here will help you create beautiful and appealing images and products quickly.
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