When you need some royalty-free images, it can be hard to find a website that allows you to use their images for free. Fortunately, there are some websites that let you use their images without paying, no strings attached. Let’s explore the best websites for finding creative commons images.
FreePik is a great source for both stock photography and vector graphics that fall under a Creative Commons license.
FreePik features a keyword search bar that allows users to find whatever they’re looking for with ease. Unlike many other sites, however, FreePik offers options for photos, vector images, icons, and even editable Photoshop mockups. This makes it a great, versatile source of images and graphics for anyone, especially those who work in areas like social media marketing or web design.
Additionally, FreePik gives you the option to edit many of its images online, and the editor is very similar to Canva, meaning it’s very user-friendly. Just make sure you don’t try to use one of the premium images, as those cost money to download and use.
If you’re looking for a real-life photo, give Pexels a try. Pexels is a huge database of photos and videos that you can freely use in your projects.
Because Pexels is largely pure photography, you won’t find many images for niche topics. For example, there are only a few results for “hacker,” as it’s not something a photographer would try to take a picture of. However, if you want an image of a seagull, you’ll be spoiled for choices in the range of photographs available.
Pexels also has several filters you can apply when you search. For example, you can pick a color or its HEX value to see images where that color is dominant (e.g., picking a light blue tends to give you images set against a bright sunny sky). You can also search by orientation (vertical, horizontal, square) or image size (24MP, 12MP, 4MP).
When you download an image from Pexels, you have the option to download several preset sizes or request a custom size. This can be highly valuable for users who need all of their images to meet a specific size, like for a blog or social media posts.
If you are looking for something that can’t really be photographed, try Pixabay. It, too, has photos in its library, but it also allows people to upload vector graphics and edited images. This means you can find more abstract and niche topics on Pixabay.
When you search for a topic, you can search the entire image library or choose between photography, vector graphics, and illustrations. While photographs provide a more realistic feel, vector graphics and illustrations look a little more cartoony and casual. As such, you can tweak your search parameters depending on whether you want to go for a professional or laid-back look for your project.
In addition to searching by image type, Pixabay also provides options to search by orientation (vertical or horizontal), size (in pixels), and color. Furthermore, you can search for images with a transparent background or even look for black and white (grayscale) images.
When you download an image from Pixabay, you have the option to download in one of four sizes, all of which are provided with pixel dimensions.
Unsplash claims to be “the Internet’s source of freely-usable images” and has over a million high resolution images that you can download and use for free.
Like Pexels, Unsplash primarily provides stock photograph images that users can download for free. You can search for images based on key terms, then filter results by orientation or color. If you use the site frequently, you can also have the site sort the results of your search by the most relevant or newest content, which is helpful for those who don’t want to see the same images repeatedly.
When downloading an image from Unsplash, there are a total of four size options. These sizes are: original image size (which is the highest resolution), large, medium, and small. Similarly, you have the option to simply share the image instead of downloading it.
Representation and diversity matter more than ever before, especially when it comes to the media you use for your website or branded content. Luckily, Nappy is a website full of creative commons images featuring Black and Brown people, and all of their images are completely free to download.
Like most of the other royalty-free image sites on this list, you can quickly search for images on Nappy by typing the keyword(s) you’re looking for into the search bar at the top.
Unfortunately, because the image options are still somewhat limited, they don’t provide filtering options based on orientation or color. Furthermore, the library doesn’t offer many suitable options for some keywords, especially if you’re looking for something less mainstream. However, the photos that are available are high quality and lovely.
When you download an image from Nappy, you have three sizing options for downloading via .jpg. While most of the other comparable sites freely provide image attributes, Nappy does not – but you can easily cite the source yourself if needed.
PikWizard is another source of free creative commons images that offers many options. With over 1 million image options, you can easily find what you’re looking for.
With PikWizard, you can search for an image based a keyword or phrase, then scroll through the available options. However, some of the provided image results are part of the “premium” content, meaning they cost money. You need to look for the words “premium” in the upper-left corner to avoid those if you’re wanting a free download.
Although PikWizard doesn’t give you the option to filter results by any specific criteria, it does give you more options than most sites when downloading. In fact, you have the option to download as is, share with someone else, or edit the image in the site’s free Design Wizard, which lets you change the size, add shapes and text, and apply filters.
While the Design Wizard is a nice perk, there isn’t much else that makes PikWizard stand out from the crowd. However, it’s always nice to have options for stock images, and this site provides some that don’t appear on most of the other well-known sites.
StockSnap.io is yet another reliable source for creative common images that you can download for fee and use without worry. You can even browse by category or search with your own terms – it’s entirely up to you.
StockSnap.io operates in a very similar fashion to the other stock image websites on this list, with a few small differences. When you go to the website, you can browse images by category or search using your desired keywords and see what comes up. You’ll receive results that are both “sponsored” images (meaning pay to download) and free content, as StockSnap.io is affiliated with Shutterstock, a well-known stock image provider.
Images are only available in one size through the site, which means you get what you get when you download. However, you do have the option to customize images with the Shutterstock Editor for free before you download (if you wish).
The simple editor allows you to change the image size and transparency, add text or other elements, or upload another image to add to the existing one before you download the final version.
Flickr has a vast selection of user-submitted images, but there’s a slight catch. Unlike some others, not every image on Flickr is free for you to grab and use. As such, you need to practice due diligence to ensure you don’t breach any copyright laws.
To find creative commons-friendly images, first search for what you want to find. Then, near the top of the page on the left, click on “Any license” and select the license you want.
Once you find an image you like, scroll below it and look at the license details. Click on it to see what you can do with the image and whether you need to credit the uploader or not.
While Flickr searches require a few extra steps than Pixabay or Pexels, the sheer volume of media available to you makes it worth the effort. As long as you pick the images with the right licenses and give credit where credit is due, you can put Flickr to good use.
9. Openverse (formerly CC Search)
Openverse, formerly known as CC Search, is a site which collects creative commons images for reuse across the Web and compiles them into one search. All you need to do is enter what you want to search for, and Openverse will show you all the results it can find.
When you search on Openverse, you can either look through all the results or use the menu on the right to filter based on usage rights. Once you find an image you like, you can click to view it and see the specifics of the usage terms. If you agree to the terms, you can then click a button to go to the website that hosts it to download it.
While most of the images on Openverse can obviously be found on other sites from this list, the benefit to using Openverse is seeing results from all of the creative commons sites at once instead of visiting each individually.
While most of the other sites on list provide royalty-free photos, Clker is one of the few resources on the Web for public domain clip art. With both vector and bitmap images available for download, it’s a great option for icons and symbols that you may need for various projects or infographics.
When you type to search on Clker, you’ll get pages of options for vector clipart or the option to view raster images. From here, you can download an SVG file, download a PNG in one of three size options, edit the image, or use the embed info provided to embed the image directly into your website.
One of Clker’s standout features is that it lets you edit any SVG image in a browser-based drawing program. You can use the visual editor or modify the raw SVG source code, which is an easy way to change the colors of elements, as no “paint bucket” tool exists.
If you don’t see anything you like, Clker lets you free draw on the SVG editor to make your own custom clipart.
11. Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons has over 15 million free image, sound, and other media files. You can search, download, and receive attribution all within a few clicks. Furthermore, Wikimedia Commons is one of the few places you can find images for very specific terms, such as a specific car model or celebrities.
When you look for images on Wikimedia Commons, you can browse by topic-based categories, location, media type, author, license, or source. You can also do a custom search using the key term(s) you choose. Once you find an image you like, you can click on it to get more info and also download it.
All images are licensed either with one of several Creative Commons licenses, the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), or a public domain license.
MorgueFile is a collection of free, high-resolution photos that you can use for personal or commercial purposes. Before users upload images to MorgueFile, they must agree to the terms: “You are uploading your own images, not a photo of a photo or someone else’s work.” This prevents the site from ending up like Imgur, a popular image-sharing site that hosts mostly unoriginal work.
All images on MorgueFile are released under the MorgueFile license, which specifies that users are free to remix the work, use it for commercial purposes, and use it without attribution.
Viktor Hanacek started Picjumbo when other stock photo sites wouldn’t publish his images. Since then his images have been downloaded millions of times by users all over the world. Almost every image on Picjumbo has been taken by Viktor himself, which means you won’t run into any copyright surprises.
Like most other sites on the list, you can search using any term(s), then scroll through the image options and download the one you like best.
Picjumbo also has a premium membership that gives you access to exclusive photos. Regardless of whether you stick with the free version or go premium, all photos are free to use as you see fit.
If you’re in the market for quirky, original photos, look no further than Gratisography. The site features free high-resolution pictures you can use for personal or commercial projects. All pictures were photographed by Ryan McGuire and are free of copyright restrictions.
The site has a handy search function, and all images are grouped into categories, like urban or whimsical, to help you narrow your search. However, the options are somewhat limited, meaning this may not work for you if you’re looking for something very specific.
If you’re a blogger, social media influencer or in marketing, you’ll want to check out Burst. It’s another site full of stock images ready to download.
Curated by Shopify, Burst is a stock image site geared toward business. In fact, Burst encourages you to use is images for commercial purposes. Therefore, Burst’s high-res photos can be used in ad campaigns or to create websites.
All of the photos on Burst are under the Creative Commons Zero license, so you can do anything you want with them. Under the CCO license, you don’t even have to credit the photographer, but it’s good karma if you do.
With Burst, you can download both high-resolution and low-resolution versions of each image, or use an image as a starting point to create your website using Shopify. Besides that, there aren’t many bells and whistles, but the images are clean and easy to download, which makes it another great option.
16. New Old Stock
This site is different from the rest, as it’s a niche one. New Old Stock specializes in free vintage photos. If you are into old stuff, you can find real gems here.
When you hop onto this site, you can try searching for images based on the terms you choose, but the results are limited. Inversely, you can look through the site’s photo packs and simply pick and choose what you like based on what you see.
There aren’t many fancy features here – just some old photos with plenty of character.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why can’t I just use images from Google regardless of their copyright status?
Many images that appear in a Google image search have a copyright, Don’t use these images without permission, unless you’re looking for a legal dispute or to be hit with fines.
2. How do I properly attribute material offered under a Creative Commons license?
Although not all images under Creative Commons license require you to include attributes, it’s always a good idea to credit all images with the name of the photographer or creator along with a link to the site where you downloaded the media. Some sites on this list, such as Pexels and Unsplash, will even provide you with the proper attributes when you download an image.
3. What is considered “commercial use” when it comes to creative commons images?
“Commercial use” means that an image is being used to market or promote a product, meaning you will monetarily gain from the use of the image. In other words, if you’re using a photo to sell a product or direct people to your website for the purposes of making money, your use of an image may fall under “commercial use.”
Image credit: Pexels
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