How to Find the Images You Want in Content Library

In the past, finding stock images was one of the most time-consuming aspects of e-learning development. Between visiting multiple websites to find what you need and trying to parse each site’s terms of use, attribution requirements, and download specs—it was a frustrating time-suck.

But all of that has changed with Articulate 360. That’s because Articulate 360 includes Content Library 360, the ever-growing asset library of millions of images, videos, icons, and illustrations. Content Library 360 puts all of these assets right at your fingertips in Articulate Storyline 360 and in Rise 360. With Content Library 360, you never have to leave Storyline 360 or Rise 360 to find what you need. You can search from millions of stock assets without cranking up your web browser—and without sweating details like image quality or usage rights. With Content Library 360, it’s all taken care of for you.

Having Content Library 360 built right into your authoring workflow is certainly convenient for finding stock assets, but millions of them to choose from how do you hone in on what you really want? In this article, we’ll explore some handy Content Library 360 search tips that can help.

Nail down keywords and phrases

Having access to the stock imagery in Content Library 360 is super-helpful, but at the end of the day finding quality images boils down to smart searching—and as any librarian will tell you: keywords matter. Use keywords that are too broad or vague and you’ll waste time wading through too many of the wrong images.

Do Some Word Association

Since the same words can have a lot of different meanings, I like to do a little word association. I jot down the keywords and phrases I come up with on a scrap of paper and keep those next to me as I search. When certain keywords or phrases yield better search results, I’ll circle them so I know to come back to those later on as I narrow my search and make my final selections.

For example, let’s say I need a picture of someone looking healthy and content for a health and wellness course. When I search for the word “content” I end up with lots of images of writing and paperwork. Not exactly what I’m going for.

Searching Content Library for "Content"

But if I brainstorm some associated words, like “relaxed” or “peaceful,” and then search for those and other related terms, I find many more options that are better suited to my topic.

Searching Content Library for "Relaxed"

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that the more search terms you add, the more refined your search results will be. So if you’re looking for something specific, try using as many keywords as possible at first. You can always remove words or phrases from your search to broaden the results.

Word Usage Impacts Your Search Results

Words that have different uses can complicate searching for the right image. For example, when searching with keywords like “female” or “male,” you may end up with results that seem a little random—or even sexist. That’s because those terms are commonly used as both nouns and adjectives, so searching them is more likely to yield images that include stereotypical gender traits or roles. The term “female leader,” for instance, might result in an assortment of images that include everything from female animals in the wild, leading the pack, mixed in with images of women with exaggerated, stereotypically feminine traits.

Here’s a quick example of what I mean:

Searching Content Library for "Female"

Simply searching “female” yields lots of images of stereotypical traits like youthful women with long shiny hair, curvy body shapes, big eyes, and pouty lips.

However, when I searched for “woman” and added the term “business” it yielded much better, more workplace-appropriate results.

Searching Content Library for "Woman + Business"

Keep authenticity in mind

Stock images are usually commissioned or sold for use in advertising. Often these images are tagged for search engines or stock photo sites by the individual photographers who took the images. The tags they use to categorize their photos may be based on attributes of the project they were hired for. So one photographer may tag an image of a family on the beach with words like “family” or “vacation” and another might tag a similar image as “people” or “holiday.” Obviously, this makes using some word association a powerful technique (see above), but it’s also a good opportunity to consider images that are a bit more evocative and less literal; to focus on more authentic depictions of concepts rather than the cheesy perfection we usually associate with stock photos. After all, when you’re trying to change people’s minds or their behavior, using more authentic images can help you connect with learners on an emotional level.

To help search for and find images with an authentic look and feel in Content Library 360, keep these tips in mind.

Take a cue from your audience

Are your audience members mostly young people in business casual dress? Appeal to these learners by looking for images of diverse groups of people in a more casual, realistic setting, like the one below.

Searching for "Diverse Team"

Source: Content Library 360

Don’t toss out people images that aren’t picture perfect

Human beings come in lots of different shapes, sizes, ages, abilities, and ethnicities. We don’t all look like models and we don’t always stare straight into the camera with a gleaming smile of perfectly straight pearly whites.

Instead of searching for images that depict a model workplace full of designer-clad, camera-ready perfection, like the image below left, opt for a little more realness and character, like the image below right.

Staged Stock Photo

Dreamstime Example of a model office setting

Source: Dreamstime

More Candid Stock Photo

Candid photo of woman typing

Source: Content Library 360

Focus on depicting an authentic mood or setting

I mentioned already that stock photos are not designed specifically for use in e-learning projects. Because of this, many images can end up being exaggerated or cliched portrayals of real-life situations that just don’t resonate with learners.

For instance, terms like “boss” can produce results that are gender stereotyped—like a bunch of elderly white men in business suits. Instead, try searching for environments or situations where you’d find someone collaborating, directing, or looking like they’re taking the lead.

When I searched Content Library 360 with the keyword “team meeting,” I found lots of great images, including the following ones showing diverse team leaders working side by side with employees. The best part about using images like these is that they convey a feeling of teamwork in a modern workplace, rather than perpetuate a dated stereotype. And images like these are open to interpretation about who is “the boss,” so there’s no worrying that you’ve shared a biased depiction of leadership in your organization.

Results when searching Content Library for "team meeting"

Source: Content Library 360

Results when searching Content Library for "team meeting"



Avoid being too literal

Images should never be there just to fill white space on the screen. You want to make sure that you’re using them purposefully to support the content and objectives of your course. Some people may take that a step too far by asking you to use images of someone doing the exact thing you’re talking about on a particular slide or screen—like a picture of a manager juggling their schedule, in a time management course, for example.

But be careful. Searching with keywords that are too literal, like “juggling schedule,” could get you a ton of images like this:

Searching content library for "juggling schedule"

Source: Content Library 360

Instead, of wading through photos of jugglers, try searching for images that complement your content and reinforce context. For instance, you could use words that evoke how it feels to be a busy manager, or focus in on images that support the concept of time, like this one:

Searching content library for "busy manager"

Source: Content Library 360

Get a little creative with stock photos

Some stock images may not always be a perfect fit out of the box, but there are ways you can make them work. Here are a few things to try.

Do some cropping

With the built-in photo editing tools in Storyline 360, there’s quite a bit you can do to customize the look of Content Library 360 images, including cropping out the bits you don’t need, like I did with this image, below.

Cropping a Content Library image

Source: Content Library 360

Add a transparent overlay

Distract from the shortcomings of an image that’s less than ideal by covering it with a transparent overlay. Here’s how to do it in Storyline: 

    • Draw a rectangle shape over the image and add a light or dark fill.
    • Change the transparency of the rectangle’s fill color to achieve the desired effect.
    • Finally, place some text on top of that rectangle overlay, like in the example below.

Now you’ve de-emphasized the image by making it part of the background for your content AND you’ve created a cool, eye-catching way to draw your learner’s attention to what really matters!

Before Overlay

Before a transparent overlay is applied

Source: Content Library 360

After Overlay

After a transparent overlay is applied


More Learning

The bottom line is that stock photos are not designed specifically for use in e-learning projects. And the truth is, you’re not always going to find the perfect image right away. Sometimes you’ll need to go to a highly specialized photo site or get a little creative with how you use an image—or you’ll need to spend some time refining your search terms using the tips I shared above. But the real beauty of Content Library 360 is having the ability to search right at your fingertips. You can’t beat the convenience of finding and inserting images right within the apps. And by using some of the creative search strategies I’ve covered here, you’re bound to find loads of options for your projects.

If you’re looking for more tips on working with stock images, check out these helpful articles:

What are your search tricks for finding stock assets in Content Library 360? I’d love to hear your tips, so please share them with me in a comment, below.

Want to try something you learned here, but don’t have Articulate 360? Start a free 30-day trial, and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.

Trina Rimmer
Susi B
Trina Rimmer

Hi Susi. Thanks for reading and commenting. It sounds like you're describing a feature that some designers might call a mood board. The basic concept is to provide the client with an assortment of images that could work for their project and then let them select their favorites. Is that similar to what you're thinking? If so, one way you can do this is to actually create a scene in your Storyline project that's just for image assets that you'd like to show to clients. You would download all of the Content Library images you're thinking of using, perhaps with a short description about where and how you'll use them. Then, publish only that scene to Articulate Review and invite them to comment on their favorites. Since you can have a threaded conversation with your clients in Review this is a... Expand

Susi B
Stacey Greenwell
Antje Hinze