There are probably hundreds of sites with free images out there, yet when you start searching for that special image you want to use in your design, you might end up spending lots of time in vain. In order not to waste your time, here is a selection of some really good sites with free images. In addition to sites with free images with some restrictions in their use, the list includes many public domain image sites as well, the images of which generally can be used in any way you deem fit.
As with all free stuff you find on the Internet, if you plan to use it for commercial projects, always read the license first because some sites, or some pictures on an otherwise free site, are free for personal use only and/or require attribution. I know, it’s boring to do it but this is the price of free stuff.
Of all the sites with free images, this site with a totally unpronounceable name has been my favorite for years. The reason is pretty simple – it has a wonderful selection of images in almost all niches. The interface of Sxc.hu doesn’t look very exciting but this comes second to the rich choice of images they offer.
2. Deviant Art
Deviant Art offers much more than free images. For a designer, this is a site to check daily because it’s one of the best galleries on the Net where designers all over the world showcase their talents. The site isn’t dedicated specifically to free images – whether an image is free to use commercially or not depends solely on its author, so when you pick an image you’d like to use, check what uses the author allows. Some authors release their images in the public domain, while others don’t allow any commercial use.
Flickr is another popular destination when you are looking for free images. It has a vast selection of images, not all of which are licensed for commercial use. As with the other sites, you need to check if a particular image is licensed under a Creative Commons license and if yes, which version of CC because this defines what you can (and can’t do) with this image.
4. Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia is another huge source of images licensed under a Creative Commons license but the allowed uses vary from one image to the next, so again, check in advance the restrictions applicable to that particular photo you like. Wikimedia Commons has images in any category imaginable and generally their quality is good or even superb. In addition to still images, it also offers videos.
Unlike the other sites, pixabay is an image search engine. It lists results to many public domain images as well. Depending on the niche you are searching images in, the number of retrieved results varies drastically but even in narrow niches you can still find lots of stuff.
6. Public Domain Pictures
As the name itself implies, this site is dedicated to free public domain pictures but as the site itself states, some images might require a model or property release, so check this before you use an image commercially. Most of the images are large in size and with good quality. The site is free to use but downloads require registration.
7. Public Domain Image
Public Domain Image is another site with images in the public domain. This isn’t a site with millions of images but the ones it has across numerous niches are of good quality, so they deserve your attention. The size of the images varies but many large images can be found on this site.
8. Public Photo
Public Photo is one more site with public domain images. At present it has around 25K photos – a pretty rich selection without being a vast source of images. Most larger images require registration, if you want to download them.
The list of sites with public domain images goes on with pdpics. Unlike the other sites with public domain images that have gathered such images from all over the Net, or have scanned them from old sources, the images on this site are taken by their in-house photographers. This gives more assurance that the images are really in the public domain and that they are unique. Additionally, here you can find really huge images, which go well for print, not only for the Web. The site asks for a link back, so if this is not a problem for you, you can link back to them.
10. The Photo Section of All Free Download
There are many nice photos here, though the site is not dedicated to them only. All Free Download is another site I frequently visit because they have many free goodies a designer loves. The quality of the images varies but generally it’s good enough for use in commercial projects. On this site I’ve managed to find many images in narrow niches that were hard to find even on stock photo sites.
morgueFile is one of the oldest sources of free images and its collection is pretty impressive. There are lots of large images here and as a whole, the quality of images is more than decent. In fact, there were times when I stocked myself with free images mostly from here, though in some niches the choice is somehow limited.
12. Free Stock Image Site
This is one more site with free stock images that can be used in both personal and commercial projects. There are many images across various niches and their overall quality is quite good. The description of images includes some technical data, such as the camera model, aperture, etc., as well, which is good, if technical data is of importance to you.
If you are looking for vintage public domain photos, this is one of the first places to try. As you can guess from its name, the site specializes in vintage photos. For today’s standards the quality of some of these vintage images is poor but since it’s vintage art, you can’t expect it to match the quality of today’s images taken with a state of the art equipment.
14. Free Stock Photos
Free Stock Photos doesn’t have the largest collection of images but it does have some really cute ones in many categories. One of the things I don’t like about this site is that very often the largest image size is quite small for many purposes (like 800×600 pixels) but if you need it for an online blog or for a site, this size is quite OK.
Picdrome is one more site with public domain images. The number of images is kind of modest but if you find what you are looking for, numbers don’t matter. In terms of image size the choice varies – from what I browsed I think most images are quite small in size (1000×1000 pixels or less) but for many uses even this size is OK.
16. Stock Free Images
This is one more site with free images but it is powered by Dreamstime. The negative is that you will see links to stock images on Dreamstime all the time, but the on the positive side, the partnership with one of the leading stock image sites is great because the quality (and topical diversity) of the images on Stock Free Images is really good.
17. Free Digital Photos
Free Digital Photos has a huge collection of images but I doubt this will be your first choice, if you are searching for free images because there is a catch. Only the smallest sizes, like 400×300, are free and they do require attribution. If you want larger photos, you need to pay. Still, if you are OK with small sizes and you find an image you like, this site is not totally useless.
18. Open Clipart
There are two kinds of designers – one who like clipart, and one who hate it. If you are in the first group, then you will certainly appreciate this site. Open Clipart is one of the largest clipart collections on the Web. Additionally, all its images are public domain.
wpclipart is one more clipart site to consider. Its images are also in the public domain. It’s also a site with lots of choice because it has over 50K images. In addition to clipart images, you can find photos as well.
Clker is another site with tons of clipart and photos. The arrangement of stuff is somehow peculiar – they do have topical categories but many images are classified under a color category (i.e. pink, red, green, etc.), which is cute, if you are more interested in the color of the image than in its contents and not so cute otherwise. Aside from this, Clker is a great site with lots of unique images.
21. Reusable Art
Reusable Art is full of vintage stuff – free drawings, paintings, and illustrations from old print materials. Many of the images there are more than a century old but they are still usable. Again, if you hold vintage art to modern graphic standards, the quality might seem too low but since this is vintage, you’d better enjoy its value than be picky about the sharpness of the outlines, for example.
22. 1 Million Free Pictures
Despite its name, the site hardly has 1 million free pictures but this is not what matters. What matters more, is the quality of the images and here you will find many high quality photos. Some of the images are in the public domain, while others are just free, so always check what rules apply to the particular image(s) you have chosen.
23. Unrestricted Stock
Unrestricted Stock offers lots of free photos and vectors. Here you can find textures and patterns as well. There are also many hand drawn images, as well as a couple of free PSD files. All in all, this site offers really good free images.
24. Free Range Stock
Compared to the other sites with thousands or even millions of images, this one looks like a poor relative but if you can’t find photos you like on the other sites, it won’t hurt to check this one, too. If you want to download images, you need to register.
If the number displayed on site is correct, this site has about 230 million free images. This is pretty impressive! However, when you pick images, pay attention to the license because not all images on this site are free for commercial use.
If this list seems a long one to you, I should state that there are many more free image sites that are not included in it. Probably I have missed some major ones, too – I apologize for this but these 25 sites that made the list are the ones I think are really good and worth browsing.