Working with Primary & Secondary Images

Creativity is a powerful force, but it needs fuel. Artists and designers get this fuel by observing the world around them and using what they see to help them develop their ideas and create deeply personal and creative work.

During your project you should regularly collect images and record the sources you use to support your ideas.

What are Primary & Secondary Sources?

Primary Sources are first-hand experiences, sources that you can directly observe yourself. The most common primary sources you will use in graphics are objects or people that you can look at directly, or photographs YOU have taken of something.

Secondary Sources are things that have been created by someone else, for example, SOMEONE ELSE'S photographs. They are a second-hand experience. 

Each has are their uses, but ideally, you want to focus on Primary sources wherever possible.

Primary Source:

Experienced directly or created by you.

Secondary Source: 

Created by someone else.

Primary Sources

Primary sources come in various forms, like natural objects, artefacts, places, people or events. If available, primary sources should always be your first choice.

Working with Primary Sources has various benefits:

When you have the opportunity to work with primary sources, it unlocks a world of artistic options and creativity!

Primary Sources like drawing from real life or taking your own photographs are ideal.

Secondary sources, like images from the internet should be avoided if possible.

Secondary Sources

It's essential to keep in mind that while primary sources are incredible tools for artistic expression, they may not always be accessible for every topic or subject. Some subjects may simply lack primary sources and only using primary sources could limit your choices.

Secondary sources take many forms, such as reproductions of images and artefacts, photographs, films, videos, or materials found on the internet. 

Some people are inspired by music, media or literature these are all secondary sources.

Work-based around a person or location that you could not actually visit would also rely on secondary sources.

Projects inspired by a person or place that you could not visit in person would also rely on secondary sources as you could not collect primary 


However, it's important to be aware of some challenges that can arise when you rely on secondary sources as your visual inspiration:

While secondary sources can be a valuable resource in the world of art, it's important to strike a balance between them and primary sources., otherwise you will limit your choices.

In general, if you CAN collect a primary source - Collect it and USE it.

Choosing Sources

Sometimes choosing between primary and secondary sources is a compromise. For example, if you were doing a project that required an image of a celebrity you might use the photograph of them (secondary source) but collect your own images (primary source) for backgrounds and other people or objects 

If you want to use an existing artwork or design (secondary source) as a background for a design you should ensure that you use primary sources for the other parts of the design.

Blending primary and secondary sources unlocks a world of creative possibilities. This approach allows you to infuse your work with depth, authenticity, and a unique blend of perspectives, making your artistic journey truly remarkable.