Best Sources of Free Pictures (Photos, Clip Art, and Other Royalty Free Images)

by Tolovaj

A comprehensive and freshly updated page of sites with free images to use - for non-profit and commercial use free of charge no attribution!

We need images for many reasons and writing articles for the web is only one of them. But finding the picture with a proper license can be a truly painful experience.

Where can you find completely free, no strings attached photos or clip art? High-resolution images in Public Domain for non-commercial or commercial use? How to protect yourself as an author of the article on possible problems caused by the usage of pictures without a proper license?

Should you really pay 20, 30 or even more dollars for a single photo from stock exchange sites which is used over and over again and won't give you any competitive advantage against thousands of other authors writing for the web on the same topic?

When you start searching for free pictures in Google thousands of results will pop up, yet most of them, including first page results, will be outdated, not free at all or simply irrelevant for your projects. For this reason, I have created a list of 10 best sources (I am talking about groups, not sites!) of free images with additional info you should be aware of!


1. Communities of Photographs

Pixabay is undoubtedly the best place to find completely free photos in high resolution right now (2018). A huge community of users is contributing the photos and other images to the site on daily basis and it really offers a very comprehensive selection for most topics. Everybody can become a member and upload his or her work, but all presented images are handpicked to guarantee an appropriate quality. Most images are available in high resolution, so you can even use them in very demanding projects like Print on Demand Services.

Each of the images uploaded in Pixabay is free, you can do with it whatever you want (reasonably) and no attribution is required. Of course, you can contribute to the site in several ways - with backlinks, donations, your own photos or clipart, ...

Pixnio works on the similar principle as Pixabay but I believe it has fewer contributors and a smaller portfolio. Images on this site are on average of slightly lesser quality. They can still be very useful, especially if you are looking for originality. You can download pictures (all Public Domain), or upload yours (thus explicitly giving a permission to anybody to use them for anything he or she wants).

Unsplash is another great source of free images, especially photos. It's another community of photographers who are willing to donate their work in Public Domain, helping you to create more attractive articles on your blogs and making the Web a better place.


2. Clip Art Artists and Web Editors

Openclipart is an Open Source project where everybody can create an account and contribute an original clipart or a derivation of another Open Source Clipart which automatically falls under the Open Source license as well. Simply speaking this license gives you a possibility to use such clipart on your commercial and non-commercial projects. Attribution is not required but will be appreciated as always.

Clker is more a one-man band - it copies clip art from various places, including Openclipart, but has often much better searchability. This means you can find the same clip art on both pages, but in most cases, it will be easier to find it here.

There are many other sites claiming to offer free clip art. But be careful: u huge percent of so-called free clip art is free for non-commercial use only. If you want to place any of these on Wizzley, for instance, even if your article is purely educational, Wizzley will show commercials somewhere on the page and this immediately moves your articles with all its elements into commercial category.

3. Public Domain Vectors

Vectors are close relatives of clipart. You'll often, but not always find vectors in pages with clip art.

The main difference is in the possibility of editing. You can expand, stretch and otherwise change vectors without losing the quality of the final image, what is not possible with a clipart which is in most cases already conveniently saved in bitrate format like JPG or PNG, ready to be uploaded on the web page, what is not the case with vectors.

Vectors are meant to be edited and only after that saved for web.

Here are two good sites to start with:


4. Archives

Internet became bigger than life in only a few years after the first computers were connected to each other. Several ideas for preserving the knowledge of humankind and even giving it to the public came to fruition and Wikipedia is probably the most popular one of all.

Wikimedia is part of Wikipedia project and consists of millions of images (among other items) which are licensed in different ways. Many of them are in Public Domain, but it's your job to find which are in Public Domain (what is not necessarily true in different countries!), which require attribution and which are too iffy to be used in your project. All in all, Wikimedia can be a great resource for many interesting projects. As a bonus, it offers numerous promising links to valuable resources of information that can ultimately help you make an article even better.

Archive is another community of contributors. It's based on numerous Public Libraries although everybody can contribute to it. You'll find millions of scanned books, many in Public Domain, with spectacular graphics available to use in your articles. I wrote hundreds of articles with images coming from Archive, many of them being presented to the web users for the first time, thus giving me a competitive edge, but I have to warn you.

It's your responsibility to check the copyright which is often unclear for a simple reason; copyright laws had gone through many changes in recent decades and many artists are not credited at all! Archive is one of the best sites in the world, probably by far the best among the sites average users never heard of, yet I can't recommend it to the beginners.

5. Paintings

If you want to write about art or use photos of old paintings for your articles, several museums decided to offer parts of their collections to the public and with a bit of graphics knowledge, you can create stunning results. Here are two valuable addresses:


6. Illustrations

Illustrations are among my passions, so I use them in my articles frequently. Public Domain illustrations are available in various places, including at some of above mentioned (and a few will follow), but there are two more, both specialized in illustration only:

The later is a profile of British Library, created in 2017 to offer thousands of quality illustrations older than a century to the people who would otherwise never had a chance of seeing them. Enjoy their beauty and try to include at least one in one of your next projects.


This example comes from one of such dedicated sites: Hansel and Gretel by Arthur Rackham.

7. Digital Libraries

I have already mentioned different archives and there are their close relatives - national digital libraries offering thousands and thousands of old documents with graphics and other material to the web users:

This one is American:
This one is Dutch:
This one is Norway:
This one is French:

And so on and on.

Beware! Some stuff is in Public Domain, but not all.


8. GIF collections

Sometimes a photo, a clipart or other still image won't do the trick. An animated GIF, what is nothing else than several images connected into a short movie (often lasting less than a second), might be the thing you need for your web article.

 Animations, if they are original and funny, may give you a slight creative boost over the competition, if they lead to more interaction, shares, and backlinks coming from our visitors.


On the other hand, you should know GIFs are typically pretty large files, hijacking your bandwidth and prolonging your load time what are two bad news which should be taken into consideration. 

Here are several sources of animated GIfs in Public Doman:

9. Digital Collections of Art, Documents and Other Material

Art projects of several museums opening part of their collections to the visitors from all over the world are already mentioned.

Several institutions did a similar thing - they created digital collection for everybody who might be interested in their old documents, photos, maps, and similar material.

A huge part of available material is in Public Domain, what makes it free to use for whatever you want..

Not in the Right Mood for a Research?
Full-Color Holiday Vignettes CD-ROM and Book (Dover Elect...
$15.72  $4.52

They are mostly aiming at artists, researchers, and similar highly demanding and relatively specialized groups, but such collections can be a precious source of knowledge and graphic material for just about everybody.

10. Online Collections on Specific Topics by Enthusiasts:

I decided to create one more group as a valuable resource of free pictures. These pages were made by enthusiasts who were looking for photos or clipart on a specific topic. You have to have a bit of luck to find such page offering exactly what you are looking for, but if you manage to do that, a lot of work and research had been already done, so you can just lay back and enjoy using graphics in next pages:

A collection of Fall Leaves:

Free Clipart on Eastern Theme:

Free Photos of Golden Retrievers:


All Illustrations from the Series The Wizzard of Oz:


Before using any of the images you still need to optimize them for the web to take full advantage of this important element of every article.

I wrote a full article with useful and easy tips on the subject:

Updated: 02/25/2024, Tolovaj
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Can you add another source of free images?

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Tolovaj on 12/29/2023

No, I believe they are completely independent of each other. You can be a parrt of one or the other of both or none.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/29/2023

That first subheading, Photographer communities, leads me to consider Pixabay for high resolution, Pixnio for originality and Unsplash for photos.

Might there be any other up-and-coming free-image sources among the photographer community?

DerdriuMarriner on 12/28/2023

The first subheaded free-image source, Communities of photographs, appears to equate Pixabay with high resolution and Pixnio with high originality.

Membership in both communities perhaps can be considered a dreamed-of merger of two bestest worlds.

Does membership in one preclude membership in the other?

Tolovaj on 12/27/2023

Pixabay has relatively long and well-defined written rules in its site nd there is also a community with ability to rank published photos.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/27/2023

The first paragraph to the first source, Communities of Photographs, advises us that "Everybody can become a member and upload his or her work, but all presented images are handpicked to guarantee an appropriate quality."

What does Pixabay require its members to do with images that are not deemed of "appropriate quality"?

Tolovaj on 06/12/2023

I believe this should be looked at from case to case. When I use an image, I always double-check, and save a copyright notice just in case and if I am not sure, I don't use the image.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/10/2023

It's possible for people to change the use from unrestricted to restricted. It may be rather unpredictable to predict that change.

For example, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service images made and shared by USFWS employees sometimes show up copyrighted by someone who seems to have no personal or professional connection and no professional reason to change something that the government put in the public domain.

Would the above situation, of changing use permissions, be common or uncommon for all or most of the sites that you've listed for us all?

Tolovaj on 10/29/2018

I hope it helps, Mira. There are so many other options than stock photo out there... I am working on another, even more comprehensive article with hundreds of free resources. Cheers!

Mira on 10/29/2018

This is very useful info. I've used some of these sites but forgot that we can also find paintings in the public domain, for instance. Thanks!

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