Started using mostly lettering fonts, used some various copyright free line drawings from various sources, found it much harder to cut things that were not designed by engravers, moved away from the pre-fabed lettering fonts and still focused mostly on lettering to rebuild my long lost (school time) penciling skills, as a result of more time with the pencil, feeling much more confident in my overall drawing skills.
I use original art. I draw on paper at 250%. This allows me to continually edit the drawing. Then I scan it into Adobe Illustrator and transform it into a vectored drawing. Reduce it to the correct size and then print a transfer. When doing western bright cut I draw directly on the silver.
using copywrite free stuff: if we all did that, our work would all be the same. be an original. engravers are asked to do some design work that must be done from scratch. if you don't train yerself to work that way, you will be cheating yerself.
being fairly new to engraving myself, i use photos for reference and draw stuff out myself. 9 times out of 10 laying sharpie down and using a scribe to draw the pattern. an some occasions i will use carbon transfer paper on an image i had already drawn to scale in my sketchbook using basic free programs and a tape measure to size everything and scale it out for the print (there are way easier methods but i havnt found them) but i will say this sketching it out first is the best way to learn as you go even if you use a copyright free image sketch it out to understand how it flows so you can build off of it and add your own style to it
I keep file's on big & small game animal's & bird's that I can go to because you never know what a client want's engraved on his firearm I do sporting arm's mainly rifle's & shot gun's also like to draw from life I'll get with my taxidermist or my friend with a den with African & European game mount's I'll do a pen & ink drawing of the subject and then transfer the drawing to acetate and then transfer the animal or bird to the gun part, another good source for subject's museum of natural history. J.J.