70+ Image Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Finding Awesome looking Images Online for Free
Where can you find free images for your website or blog without having to steal them?
Here are my favorite places online to find all of the (legal) images you’ll ever need.
C’mon, I just want a #@$%! picture for my website!
How many times have you said something like this to yourself?
You want to add a picture to your website or latest blog post to make it look nice, but you don’t want to have to pay for it. So what do you do?
Well if you’re like most of us, you probably just search for an image that you like on Google and then “borrow” it for your own site. You may feel a little guilty about doing it but you end up doing it anyway.
You really want to do the right thing, but why do they make it so hard?!?
I’ve been there . . .
Don’t worry, I’m not going to sit here and lecture you about the evils of copyright infringement and how you shouldn’t steal/borrow images from the internet that you don’t have permission to use.
I’m with you. I don’t want to have to spend an hour searching through image licensing agreements on every picture I want to use on my website, but at the same time, I don’t want to feel like the internet police are going to break down my door at any moment to take back that illegal picture of sleeping cats that I put on my blog three years ago.
Luckily, these days it’s a lot easier to do the right thing
Let’s face it, it used to be a giant pain in the ass to find images you could use legally online without having to pay for them. Not only that, most of the so-called “royalty-free” images were usually one step up from crappy Microsoft clip-art from 1998.
The good news is that we now have a lot more options to choose from. In fact, I’m going to show you how you can find a ton of awesome looking images that won’t cost you a thing, even if you need them for a commercial project. You’ll have thousands of images to choose from and still be able to sleep at night.
So what’s the catch?
The only catch is that you have to understand how these free images are licensed and then follow the requirements of that particular license. Some of the these images are released under a Creative Commons license, while others have been released copyright free and are in the public domain.
By the way, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you may want to check out this video on Creative Commons I made a while ago that explains what it is, and what exactly you can and can’t do with Creative Commons images. It’s a little cheesy, but it does a pretty good job covering the basics and it comes with a downloadable PDF cheatsheet.
Okay, so where exactly do we find all of these awesome free images I promised you?
Well buckle up, because I’m about to show you all of my favorite places online to find thousands of awesome looking images, icons, and clip art that you can use on your blog or website for free.
70+ Sources of Free Online Images for your Website
(Listed in alphabetical order of awesomeness)
This site may not be the biggest free image site out there, but you’ve got to like their style. These are copyright-free images that you can use however you would like in both your personal and commercial projects. The images have been categorized but are not searchable. Overall a nice collection of images that keeps growing.
This site has an impressive collection of free images, especially if you’re looking for abstract backgrounds and more “artsy” type of images. You can search for images by topic or category and then sort those search results by the newest or the most popular images in that category. The images are well-tagged you can search by tag keywords as well, which can help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Downloading images is easy, you simply click on the download button below the image.
Agricultural Research Service
When researching free image sites to include in this article, you can’t say that I didn’t dig deep after uncovering sites like this one from the United States Department of Agriculture. These images, as you might suspect, are primarily agricultural based focusing on animals, plants, insects, food, and farmers. If you are in the market for something like this, you probably won’t find a wider selection of these type of images online.
These images are copyright-free and are in the public domain, which means that you can pretty much do whatever you want with them including using them for your personal and commercial projects.
Good site for vintage looking prints and maps. According to the site there are over 31,100 images of old and antique prints, maps and portraits, dating from the 17th century but mostly from the later 18th century and 19th century. You are allowed to use any of these images for non-commercial purposes as long as you provide a link back to their website.
This is a great site for any type of animal photos. Not just cats and puppies, but everything from armadillos to zebras. These images have been released under various Creative Commons licenses. They even provide the HTML code including image source so you don’t have to upload the image to your own website.
Lots of geographic images. Good images for a travel blog or any type of travel related website. Can be used for both non-commercial and commercial sites. No registration required, they simply ask that you provide a link back to their website.
All images in this site are copyright-free and are considered in the public domain, which means that you are allowed to use these images for any purpose whether it is personal or a commercial project. You do not have to include an attribution link in order to use these images, but if possible, I would encourage you to do so as a way of saying thank you for their generosity.
The images are loosely categorized here into albums and you can also sort them by the newest or most popular images on the site. The quality ranges widely here from “professional” looking shots, to vacation type photos of buildings and landscape scenery. Overall, not a huge collection of images but a good resource to have when looking for some variety or images to use in a commercial project.
Can We Image
This site is a search engine for images in the Wikimedia Commons. Because it relies on the accurate tagging of images by anonymous sources, the results can often range from really good to more than a little odd. You can download images directly or click on them to get more information.
This particular site has a really cool retro-vibe to it. There’s not a ton of images here, but the strength of this site is in its international focus. There are images here from around the world that you won’t likely find anywhere else online. Each image is available in several different sizes which you can select by a nifty little slider. Once you’ve selected your size, you simply right-click and download your image. You can use these images for your blog, website, and even your commercial projects.
This site has some stock images but mostly specializes in awesome free clip art and vector images (ask your geeky design friends) for pretty much everything you can imagine. The variety here is pretty amazing and you can either download an image in several different sizes, or they give you the HTML code if you would prefer to embed the image directly on your website.
Compfight is a very good search engine for Flickr images that have been released under a Creative Commons license. Like many of these types of sites, their search results page are a mixture of free images and sponsored not-so free images from stock photography websites. I have no problem with this because it pays their bills and gives the rest of us an awesome resource for finding images we can use. As you can see there are usually a ton of images to choose from (over 385,000 kittens), which can be both a good thing and a little overwhelming at the same time.
Creative Commons Search
This massive Creative Commons search site is run by the good people at the Creative Commons organization. It is basically a collection of search engines that can search everything from images to videos to music.
With any of the Creative Commons image search engine sites like this one, always be sure to double-check the specific license on any image you would like to use. Remember that there are 6 different types of Creative Commons licenses, so it’s important to know exactly which one you are dealing with.
One of my favorite online image sources especially for abstract backgrounds and textures. They also have a great collection of artistic images and wallpapers.
Not the prettiest search results page and it’s not always easy to separate the free and not-so free images, but usually well worth the effort. I would generally recommend looking through the category pages to find an image unless you are looking for something very specific.
Death to Stock Photos
Filed under the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that department. The good folks behind Death to Stock Photos have come up with the idea that instead of giving you a video or PDF when you sign up for their mailing list, they will send you 10 do-what-you-want-with-them awesome looking images every month. Not only that, but these are professional images that you would actually use on your website and not some snapped it with my camera on vacation kind of thing.
Now of course because they send them to you each month you don’t get to pick what you want, but even by my English major math, that works out to 120 free images a year!
Dreamstime is stock photo site that has a “free image” section where you can download images to use on your website. They offer a fairly good selection and the images are stock photo quality (versus “vacation snapshot” quality), but you will have to register for a free account in order to download the images.
Another image search engine that combines Creative Commons images with public domain images. The strength of this site is that it not only gives you a ton of search results, but it also shows you exactly how each image is licensed but using the Creative Commons icons under each picture. Like many of the other image search sites, they also offer some not-so free stock images, but they are clearly indicated by the dollar sign icon under the image.
You can’t download any of the images directly from this site, so you will have to click through to the original source website to get the image. Depending on the particular website, you may or may not have to register for a free account in order to download it. One thing to note, however, is that some of the search results are not necessarily “safe” for work so just be aware.
One of the best image search engines around. Simple to use, lots of images to choose from, and it’s fast.
Even though I’m not sure how they add them up, but when they claim to have indexed over 228 million free images online, it still gets your attention. Searching is dead simple and they even offer you suggestions, similar to Google, in case you don’t know how exactly to phrase your search.
Foter also has a nice filtering option on the search results page and instead of some other image search engines, you can download the image directly from their site. They also give you the correct attribution HTML code that you can simply copy and paste on to your website. One of my personal favorites.
Free Digital Photos is a hybrid stock photo site that both sells images and offers them for free. The unique part is that virtually all of the images on this site can be either free or not-free depending on what you need and how you would like to use them. Essentially you can download the small version of an image for free as long as you provide an attribution link back to the website. The small version is not huge obviously, but they are certainly big enough for a blog post or an inline image. If you would like a larger version of the image, or you would rather not provide an attribution link, you can pay a few dollars and be good to go.
The real strength of this particular site is not just the quality of their images, but also the way the images are logically organized, which makes browsing through them far more enjoyable when you may not know exactly what you are looking for. Well worth a visit!
This site is interesting because it is a stock photography site that sells its images to companies and individuals, but it also allows you to download a lower resolution web-version of their images to use for free on your website under a Creative Commons license.
There are a ton of great images here (over 132,000) that you can use on your website, just be sure that you read and understand their free use policy before using them. Because they are a professional stock photography site you can expect professional looking images from around the world that are well organized. I’m not sure if having 3,640 different categories of images is helpful or just intimidating.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will have to give them your email address and agree to their terms in order to download a watermark free image.
Those of you who have been around Skinny Artist for awhile may remember me talking about an awesome little website called sxu.hu where you could find all of these high-quality images to use on your website for free. Well, a few years ago it got bought out by Getty images and recently they’ve rebranded the site.
The good news is that they still have a lot of good free images available to choose from, but now they require you to register and create a free account in order to download them. Like many of the other hybrid sites out there, they mix in the free and the not-so free images together on the same page and it’s not always clear which is which. Still a pretty good source of free images.
This is another really nice site to find images you can use on your website or blog for free even for commercial projects. These images are released under a Creative Commons license that simply requires you to provide an attribution link back to their website. They even provide you with the HTML code that you can cut-and-paste into your blog or forum post. This site is very well organized and a great selection of images overall.
Although the selection of images may not be the largest of the sites we’ve talked about so far, it has to be one of the coolest. Free Media Goo from what I can gather is the work of a few pretty cool guys (and possibly gals) who have a nice selection of images, backgrounds, and textures. As far as what you can do with these image, I’ll let them speak for themselves…
You are free to use these images for both commercial and personal use. The content we provide is royalty free. No need to mention us – but if the spirit moves you and you want to tell others about our site, feel free to give us a link somewhere. If not, no biggy.”
Free Nature Pictures
At first glance this website has everything you would want in a free image site including over 1,000 HD-quality free images that have everything from adorable tiger cubs to romantic beach landscapes. Most of these images have been licensed under a Creative Commons attribution or ShareAlike license so they can be used in both personal and commercial projects as long as you provide a link back to their website.
Browsing for images and downloading them is all done through a nice little lightbox that allows you to choose a size (from thumbnail to huge) that you would like to download the image. The only problem I have is that for whatever reason they have also chosen to include a non-transparent white watermark in the corner of many of their images (as you can see in several of the thumbnail images below). I’m not sure why they have done this, but it severely detracts from the image. Still a very nice collection of free images.
Free Photos Bank
Another good choice for a wide assortment of free images especially for abstract backgrounds and patterns. Image quality ranges widely here from professional to vacation snapshots. Easy to use, however, searching can be a bit cumbersome so you’re probably better off browsing through the categories or checking out the “hot list” of the most popular images on the site.
Free Range Stock
A wide selection of free images here that can be used for either commercial or personal projects. These images are huge (min 2400×1600) so if you need a large image for your website or a particular blog post, this would be a good place to look. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for or where to start, they have section of their most popular photos for you to check out.
They do require you to sign up for a free account in order to download any of the images, but the process is fairly quick and painless.
Freetems is an interesting site because everything on it is either in the public domain or has been released without copyright so you are free to do whatever you want with the images you find here. Although they certainly may not have the largest collection of images and graphics, the quality is fairly high and the site is very well organized.
Even though we’re focusing on finding free images in this post, Freetems also has copyright free music, videos, and ebooks as well.
These web-resolution images are completely free to download and use for both personal and commercial projects. They simply ask that you post an attribution link to their website when you use one of their images. These images are well-categorized and there is decent sized selection to choose from. The image quality is mostly professional-grade and the images are large enough for any type of online project.
In order to download an unwatermarked image, you simply need to agree to their terms that you will not redistribute this image on another website or post on Wikipedia, and that you will provide an attribution link back to their website. Once you agree, a download button will appear and you can instantly download the image. Overall, some very nice free images that are easy to find and download.
Gimp Savvy Photo Archive
If you ever wanted to use one of those cool images from outer space or beneath the ocean on your blog or website, this is the place to go. The images on this site are a collection of public domain images from NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Note: these are links to the free images found on this site and not to the government agencies themselves).
There are a lot of amazing images here although as you might suspect, they are highly specialized. In other words, in the NASA section you are going to find a ton of pictures of outer space and rockets and not much else. The same goes for the NOAA and the FWS, but then again these are also images you won’t likely find anywhere else.
For more images like these, you may also want to visit the following sites:
NASA Visible Earth: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Digital Library: http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/cdm/landingpage/collection/natdiglib
U.S. Department of Defense Image Library: http://www.defenseimagery.mil/index.jsp
U.S. National Park Service Photo Gallery:
Good Free Photos
This site is exactly what it says, it has good free photos that you can use on your blog or website for free. What’s more, these are images you won’t likely find anywhere else online because they were all taken by the site’s creator. They were all released as copyright-free and in the public domain, which means that you are allowed to use these images in all of your projects both personal and business related. An attribution link is not required to use these images but would be appreciated.
The images themselves are primarily landscapes and architecture from, what I’m assuming, has been the author’s extensive travels around the world. There are, however, also images of food, animals, relics, plants, weapons, fossils, and automobiles among other things. The image quality is very good and they are large enough to be used in virtually any project you might have in mind.
Google Advanced Image Search
Let me just say upfront that Google is usually the last place I check for images to use on my websites. The reason is that even though it typically has the most number of images in the search results, it just isn’t as precise as many of the other websites listed in this article.
This probably has more to do with the way people use tags and Alt titles on their images than it has to do with Google itself. If you think about it, when people submit a photo to Flickr or one of these other image websites, chances are they spend some time accurately tagging the photo. This is not always the case with images they just post on their blog and have been indexed by Google.
Now having said that, Google still has a massive collection of great free images that you can use, but you have to know how to search for them the right way.
Most people simply pull up Google Image search box and just start searching away, which is also how they get themselves into trouble.
The most important thing to remember is that you have to first click the “Settings” button in order to pull up their “Advanced Search” page which is where you’ll have the option of searching only for images you are allowed to use.
Note: If your website is a commercial (i.e. business) website, you may need to select the “even commercially” option as well.
I love this site because they not only give you large thumbnails of the images available, but they make it dead simple to download an image as well. Simply click on the image you want and it will pull up the high-resolution version of the image, and then simply save it to your desktop. All of these images are also completely copyright-free so you can do whatever you want with them.
The only possible downside here is that there is no search ability, so you do have to scroll through the images. If you find yourself coming back to this site and using these images, I would encourage you to consider donating to Ryan’s “coffee fund” to keep them coming.
This is one of my favorite Flickr search engine type image sites because you can quickly find and then download the image without ever having to leave the site. It not only shows you what Creative Commons license that image was real eased under, but it also provides you with the HTML code that you can simply copy and paste into your website.
One of the things that I really like about this particular site is the fact that the images have been tagged and categorized into easily-found collections. Also unlike some other sites, these images have been carefully curated. In other words, you won’t have to sort through hundreds of crappy vacation snapshots in order to find something worthwhile to put on your blog. It may not be the largest collection around, but what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in the sheer quality of their images.
As you may have guessed from the title of this particular site, the images here are mostly icon sets. Some of these icon collections are free and some are not. They have over 40 different categories to choose from and you can easily sort them so only “free” options show up in a particular category.
Some of these icon sets require attribution and some of them can only be used for non-commercial projects so just be sure to double-check the specific license before using.
Need some cool looking icons for your blog or website? You may want to check out this site that has a ton of simple icons to help your website visitors get to where they want to go. These are not the flashy colorful icons that you’ll find at the site above. These are simple minimalist icons that anyone who visits your site will instantly recognize and appreciate.
Not only are they easy to look at, but they are easy to get as well. Each of these icons is available in several sizes as a PNG image. If you need something larger, you can download a scalable SVG vector file as well .
These icons are free to download and use in all of your personal and commercial projects including websites and offline promotional material such as brochures and PDFs. No attribution is required. So if you are looking for some instantly recognizable icons for your website, app, or business cards — this would be my very first stop.
One of the things I love about this particular site is its simplicity. First of all, it tells you right up front in the tagline that these are “absolutely free photos”. Then if you still have questions they include a link up top “What does free mean?”. where they’ll tell you that “these images are totally free to use for anything you want including commercial, non-profit, business, print, web, screen, film, or personal applications.” I mean seriously, how awesome is that?
I also like the fact that the website has a minimalist clean design and their categories are straight forward. Once you choose your category (or fill out the search form) you simply browse through the images, click on the one you want, decide how big you want it to be, and then click the download button. Finally, I wanted to mention that this site has a very nice collection of free PowerPoint templates as well.
I think when you see the home page of Kave Wall you realize immediately that this isn’t just your run of the mill image site. Once you click on one of the cool-looking category folders you can browse through the images and download them directly from the page.
Although the editor of this site does seem to be a bit obsessed with smoke and fire, there are some very nice images here that you aren’t likely to see anywhere else online. These free images are released under a Creative Commons 2.5 license that simply requires you to provide an attribution link back to the website. Other than that, you are permitted to use these images on your blog or website however you want, even in commercial projects.
This site is another great source of free images that you can collect throughout the year. Basically you give them your email address and every week they will send you 7 high-resolution images that are copyright free, which means that you can use them however you would like. If you would prefer, you can also visit their website each week and download that week’s images in a zip file without having to sign up. Even though 7 images a week may not seem like a lot, but that is essentially an image a day, which comes out to 365 free images a year delivered directly to your email inbox.
This site has been one my favorite online sources for free images for as long as I can remember. I always refer to it as the really cool image site with the really strange name.
There are no categories, but you can easily sort the images (all 323,000 of them) by the most popular, most recent, or the most downloaded. They also have a handy search feature that can help you track down the image you are looking for although the image tagging sometimes seems to be hit or miss.
When you find the image you like, you can simply click on it and it will show you what restrictions (if any) that image has and then you simply download the image.
New Old Stock
If you are looking for vintage images, you probably can’t go wrong with this site. As the name implies these old historical images are part of the public archive and all of them are believed to be in the public domain, which means that you can use them however you would like.
Open Clip Art
Sometimes you don’t need a photograph. Sometimes what you need is an image for your newsletter, something to celebrate a upcoming holiday, or maybe a small image to break up the text in your latest epic blog post. With over 58,000 free clip art images and icons available, chances are you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for here.
This site has been offering free images online since 1998, which was long before our little dial-up 56k modems (ask someone over 40) were fast enough to download them. Most of the images here are released under various Creative Commons licenses but there are many in the public domain as well. Another nice feature is that they have included the HTML copy and paste attribution code to use on your website. Although there are some exceptions, the editors of this site seem to do a nice job curating these images to keep the overall quality high.
You can simply browse through the various categories and then click the image to find out the details and download the image. They also do a nice job showing you similar images to the one you’ve chosen, just in case you are looking for something slightly different.
Every picture on the this site has been released without copyright and are in the public domain thanks to the generosity of their photographers. You see, unlike most of these other sites, they don’t have to worry about whether or not a particular image may have been mislabeled or previously protected under copyright because they have taken all of the images themselves. This means that you can use these images in all of your projects, online and off, without worrying about it coming back to bite you later. Overall, a very nice collection of images.
This site is another good site where you can find a wide variety of images. Not the largest collection around, but there is plenty here to choose from as long as you’re not looking for images of people, which are curiously absent from this site’s collection. These images are free to use in both personal and commercial projects. Providing an attribution link back to the website is appreciated but not necessary.
Another nice Creative Commons search engine site that pulls images from Flickr. Photo Pin allows you to preview and download multiple sizes of the image in a pop-up window without leaving the site. It also provides you with the cut-and-paste HTML code you will need to properly attribute the image on your website.
They also allow you to filter your search by commercial or non-commercial images, which is helpful. The only downside here is that you need to actually click on the image in order to see what Creative Commons license that particular image has been released under. This redirects you to the Flckr website, which just seems like an unnecessary step.
Also notice that the top two rows of images are “sponsored images” which is code for “not free”. Again I don’t have a problem with them doing this, I just wish they would make it a little more obvious. Overall, however, it’s one of the better Creative Commons image search engines out there.
When you’re designing an image sharing website, you would think that you would want to include some images on your homepage. The folks behind the site Photo Rack, clearly didn’t buy into the whole design aesthetics thing. Now having said that, those visitors who never make it past the first page of this site are sadly missing out on one of the absolute best free image websites out there.
All of the images on Photo Rack are free to use for both personal and commercial projects. You are not required to provide a link back to their website, but as always I would encourage you to do so if possible as a way of saying thanks for their generosity.
The images themselves are not huge, but they are plenty big for any type of blog post or online publication. The image quality and selection is equal to, if not better than ,many of the paid stock photography sites out there. These are not your amateur looking vacation snapshots here. These are professional looking stock photos without the stock photo price. A hidden online gem and it has my highest recommendation.
This site has a few interesting quirks but has enough worthwhile content that I would encourage you to check it out. First let’s start off by saying that they tell you upfront that you can use any of these images for pretty much anything you want as long as you don’t abuse the privilege. Secondly, this site has a boatload of free vector images (ask your arty design friends) and some free Photoshop brushes that were designed in-house, which is awesome.
The quirky stuff that I mentioned earlier, are that when you are browsing through the photos they only show you 20 small thumbnail images at a time, which can make browsing through them a slow and painful process. The other thing is that the search function sometimes comes up with some rather unusual results. Overall, however, this site is well worth you time to visit especially for the massive collection of free vector images.
This site has a fairly large collection of public domain images that have been neatly categorized by subject matter. All of the images on this site are free to download and use for both personal, educational, and commercial use without restrictions.
The images here are very high quality and there seems to be a pretty good assortment within each category. The search function works (unlike a few of these other sites), but the search results are in links rather than images, so you have to click each link in order to see the actual picture. The other small annoyance is the fact that each category page only shows 12 small thumbnail images. Although me complaining about this may seem a bit petty when they are offering up all of these free images, at the same time, it does slow down the browsing process considerably. Overall, however, this is a very nice free image site with lots of great pics to choose from.
I love when a site is upfront with you. Starting with it’s tagline, on PicJumbo you know exactly what you’re going to get — “totally free photos for your commercial & personal works”.
You don’t have to waste any more brain cells reading the fine print. They also have a premium option available if you want more pictures. I only point this out because they are upfront about it. They don’t try to trick you by mixing the free and the not-so free images together hoping you might click a “premium” image by mistake. They just tell you upfront, here’s what we got.
PicJumbo has a nice selection of free images. The quality is generally excellent and the thumbnail images are large so you can easily see the detail. On the flip side, because the thumbnail images are so bit, they can only fit 8 of them on a page at a time, which makes scrolling through them a much slower experience because you have to constantly reload the next page. Downloading images, however, is quick and easy. Be aware that most of these image files are huge because they are not only full-size images, but they are also high-quality print ready resolution (240 dpi).
Pickup images is another nice site to find good public domain images. This site seems to specialize mostly in travel, transportation, and landscape type pictures — so if that’s what you are looking for, this would be a good place to start.
They not only have photos, but they also have a fairly large collection of clip art images as well with everything from environmental, technology, retail, to DIY projects. Downloading images is easy, and since all of these images are copyright free, you can use them for both your personal and business projects.
This is one of those sites that seems to do almost everything right. It is well organized, has a nice search function that gives you with almost 100 thumbnails on each search result page, which means less waiting around for pages to load. It also seems to be very well curated and offers you an “editor’s choice” page that offers images that have been hand-picked by their team. There is also a “Leaderboard” page that tells you which images have been viewed, downloaded, and voted on the most over the last 30 days.
All of the 240,000 images on Pixabay are copyright free so you can use them however you would like both online and off. In addition to photographs, they also offer over 57,000 free illustrations, vectors, and drawings as well. As you may have already guessed, this is one of my personal favorite image sites and one that I find myself using often.
Public Domain Pictures
This site is another great source of copyright free images that you can use both on your website and in your commercial projects and ebooks. The images are well categorized and you can sort them by their popularity or their overall rating.
In order to download an image, you simply click on the image to enlarge it and then right-click to save it. Having said that, they make it more confusing than necessary by offering a large “premium download” button directly beneath the image, while burying the “simple download” instructions in faded grey type further down the page. Because they have spent the time and resources putting the site together, I don’t care if they try to add premium options, but just be up front about it and don’t try to hide the free option. Especially since they mention that they are “free” images no less than four times on their homepage.
Although this site is intended primarily for crafters and artisans, there are some amazing images here that have been rescued from old books, magazines, and manuscripts. According to the site’s creator, there are over 3,100 public domain images available that range from decorative typography, to old-fashioned holiday images, to old catalog and newspaper advertisements.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about exploring this site was the fact that the site’s author takes the time to describe and explain (here’s an example) where exactly the image came from and some history behind it. So whether you are searching for vintage artwork or not, this site is well worth your time to explore and learn more about these fascinating images.
I understand that some image sites like you to register for a free account in order to be able to upload photos, save your favorite images in a lightbox, or even comment and “like” images on the site. I get that, but I also don’t think that everyone should be required to register (even if it’s free) just to download an image. This is nothing against this particular site, as there are several other websites listed in this article that require you to register, I just think that it may limit your potential audience.
I realize that some of you may be saying that I shouldn’t be looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth and just shut up and give them my damn email address. I realize that no one is forcing me to join their site and download their images, and truth be told, I am a registered member simply because there are too many great images available on this site to not be a member.
So why go through the trouble when there are so many other sites on this list, where you don’t have to create an account? Honestly, there are a lot of images here that you won’t see anyplace else. Part of the problem with many of these “public domain” image websites is the fact that you begin to see the same images over and over again. That’s not the case here. Now is that because they require you to register and accept their image license agreement? I’m not sure, but it might be.
As far as the site itself, the images are very well organized and the search function works very well, which shows that the photographers and/or editors of this site have done a good job tagging photos. Image quality is very good and being able to save my favorite images for future use in a lightbox, is a nice feature to have. Overall, this site is another one of my favorites that I find myself coming back to again and again.
School Photo Project
The good news is that you don’t have to be in school in order to use these free high-resolution images that have been pre-screened to be family friendly. The not-so good news is that all of these images include a rather large watermark. I think I was surprised by this simply for the fact that they also ask you to include an attribution link back to their site. Typically you would expect to either see a watermark or be asked to use an attribution link, but rarely both.
Now depending on how you plan on using these images, this may or may not matter to you, but when you consider how many other sites out there that have similar free images without a watermark, I’m not sure this would be my first stop. Having said that, there are a lot of great images here that you won’t find other places online. I mean honestly, how many other free image sites have a HD-quality image of a fried chicken wing on their front page?
Visiting this site is like going to your favorite independent bookstore. They don’t necessarily have the largest collection, but what they do have has been carefully curated for quality. In other words, you’re not going to find everything here, but what you do find, will often be well worth your time.
All of the images on this site are copyright-free, which means that you can use them however you would like. In fact they tell you exactly what they have in their site’s tagline “License free, high quality photos for anyone to use.” There is no search ability but you can easily browse through the large image thumbnails either filtered by their popularity or by categories. Overall, a great little free image site that’s well worth your time to visit.
Split Shire is one of those free image sites that is easy to like. It is well-organized, has high-quality images, and they are up front about what you can and can’t do with their images. You can use these images for both personal and commercial use, and on the download page, it even spells it out to you everything you can use these images for, some of which you might not have even thought of before. Attribution is not required but appreciated.
The images (and HD-quality videos) are professional grade stock photos, and as I mentioned previously, well organized into categories. They also have some really nice background images that work well for image quotes or even creative PowerPoint slides. My only complaint, and it is a minor one, would be that because the thumbnail images are so large they can only fit 10 of them on a page, which can limit how quickly you can browse through the images in order to find the right one for your project. Overall, a fantastic resource and one that I will be returning to again and again.
This site is another one of those free/premium hybrid sites where some of the images are free and some are not. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of free images here (they claim over 100,000) that you can download and use for your personal and commercial projects. All I’m saying is that it is very easy to stray from the “free” images to the not-so free images as you navigate your way around this site, so you just have to double-check before you fall in love with a particular image.
The good news is that since all of these images come from a professional stock image site, they actually look like professional stock images and not some random pictures some dude took while he was on vacation. If you do any type of video work you’ll be happy to discover that they have some really nice video backgrounds and “lower thirds” that you can download for free. Also if you do any Powerpoint presentations, they have a lot of awesome looking free backgrounds for you as well.
You will have to create a free account with them in order to download any of these images, but it’s essentially just giving them your email address.
This site is one of those sites where it sometimes seems like things are too good to be true. Awesome looking images, backgrounds, and textures (check). Large high-resolution images that you can use for free (yep). No forced registration or hoops to jump through (check). Well organized and easy to find what you are looking for (yep, again) — so what’s the catch?
Well as far as I can tell, the only potential downside is that you can only use these images for personal, educational, or non-commercial uses. Like many of these other sites, StockVault does intermingle its free images with the not-so free images on the same page, especially in the search results, so you may often find yourself on a different website after clicking a particular image. I’ve learned, however, that this is just the price of doing business, and considering the sheer quality of these backgrounds, textures, and images I think it’s well worth the occasional navigational misadventure.
Overall, a stunning collection of free images and one of my favorite places to go online to find them.
The only downside that I can see here is that the size of the images, while certainly big enough for your blog post or social media update, are not as large as the images on many other sites we have talked about. Now depending on what you plan to use these images for, this may or may not matter to you.
Superfamous is the Los Angeles-based studio of Dutch interaction designer Folkert Gorter. He has generously posted his images online and released them under a Creative Commons Attribution license. This means that you are allowed to use his images for all of your personal and professional projects as long as you credit him.
There are some truly extraordinary images here, mostly of the natural world, and they are clearly the work of a professional. Although he certainly isn’t the only photographer who has posted his images online for others to use, I think it was very smart that he decided to create his own site to showcase his work rather than just uploading them to Flickr (where he also has a photostream) and hoping that somebody would eventually stumble on them. Even though the subject matter of the images may be limited, I believe these powerful images could benefit almost any type of creative project.
Let me start off by saying that there are some really nice professional-looking stock images here that are free to use under a Creative Commons non-commercial license. This means you can use these images on your personal blog or website, but you cannot use them in a commercial project without permission.
As I said, the quality of these images are top-notch and quite honestly better than some of the images you would have to pay for on the professional image stock companies. The only downside that I can see here, is that there are not a ton of them to choose from, but I think it would be well worth you time to search through all of the free images that are available on this site.
This site has a nice size collection of public domain images that you can use freely in any of your personal or professional projects. These images do not contain any watermarks and an attribution link is not required.
Many of these images seem to be unique to this site and most of them are fairly large in size, which is nice if you are in need of larger images for your project. The image quality here ranges widely and although there are a few hidden gems to be found, most of these images are fairly ordinary.
Here’s a site that doesn’t waste your time with flashy site design and graphics. It just gets to the point. You want awesome free pictures? We’ve got a bunch of free images, and better yet, you can do whatever you want with them!
Personally I love the minimalist artsy vibe from this site, which is why it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places to go online to find free images. These are not your typical boring person-typing-on-the-computer-looking-frustrated kind of stock images that you’ll find at a lot of other image sites. These images have either been carefully curated by some editor with a discerning eye for design, or maybe this site just attracts that type of photographers. Either way, I’ll take it.
The only downside to this type of image curation is that you won’t find the massive amounts of images here that you will on a lot of these other websites. That’s okay though, because I would much rather sort through a few dozen awesome looking images than hundreds of medicare images taken by Anonymous Joe with his new smartphone. You can sort through the images on the main page on an infinite scroll, or you might just want to check out the image archive, which is what I like to do when I’m short on time, and find the image you’re looking a little quicker. Overall, a great site with some fantastic images.
The issue with the WikiMedia Commons has never really been that there are no quality images there, but the fact that you have to sort through so many images to find them. With over 22,000,000 images now available for you to use, the problem becomes one of abundance, there are too many images to choose from and there has been very little curation until recently. This is why if you are searching WikiMedia Commons for images, I would recommend starting with their featured images, which is considered to be the cream of the crop.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, you may want to try their quality images section next, which contains images that have been selected for their technical merit. Followed closely by the valued images, which are sorted by topic and category. As far as what you can use these images for, Wiki says that you can “freely use” these images for your personal and commercial projects but you may want to take a moment to review their image use guidelines just to be safe.
Did we miss your favorite?
Now you know all of my favorite places to go online to get free awesome looking images, clip art, and icons without having to jump through a bunch of hoops or worrying about being sent to picture prison.
Although these are my current favorite image sharing websites, I’m sure that I probably missed a few good ones along the way. So if we missed your favorite, please take a moment to share it with us in the comment section below.
I hope that you found this information useful and I really appreciate you taking the time to check it out. If you know anyone else who you think might enjoy it, please feel free to share it with them below.
About the Author
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.