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Best sources for royalty-free free images

Updated on January 16, 2015

Designers constantly work with images, either real-life photographs or illustrated artwork, in order to create creative and attractive artwork for their clients. These images can be found from a variety of sources, including taking your own photos, or finding images online.

Different Sources

Finding good sources for high quality images to use in your designs can be really hard, and the price you need to pay in order to use some of these images in your designs can sometimes be very expensive.

If you're not a good photographer, or don't have the required tools and skills to create your own images, you will have to find a reliable source for images to use in your designs - this can include finding free images, or paying companies to use some of their images on your website.

Royalty free Images

a Royalty free image is an image you can download from a source and use on your designs without having to link back to the source or give attribution to the source. When paying for royalty free images, you sometimes get a license to use the images in multiple sources, and other times you may only use the image in one single design.

By using free royalty-free images, you can download and use the images on an unlimited amount of sources without having to link back to where you got the image from, or having to add an attribution link to your website or design. This is a great way to find free images you can use in your designs, especially if you are only starting out as a designer, helping out a friend with a design or sponsoring a design for a charity or non-profit organization.

Different types of free images

Simply searching for free images might not offer you the results you are looking for; you need to specify what type of images you are looking for in order to get relevant results and the images you are looking for.

Let's take a look at the different types of images you can find for free on the internet. This will give you an idea of how to search, and what to search for, when you're looking for images to use in your designs.


Clipart refers to a wide variety of drawings you can use in different ways - as icons, avatars, and much more. This type of image can usually be found all over the web, but it's important to find a reliable source that provides high quality clipart, and offers you the ability to use the item for free, even commercially, without requiring an attribution link. This allows you to use the clipart wherever you want to without having to worry about copyright issues.


an Illustration is a high quality drawing that sometimes look semi-realistic. This can include simple character drawings and landscape drawings to complete drawings that include a high level of detail.

Illustrations is great to use to display information to your visitors and capture their attention, turning your visitors into potential customers or subscribers. You can also use illustrations to enhance a variety of designs, and to add more life and color to websites.


Photos is actual photos taken of real-life objects, for example a group of people having a meeting, or a rooftop photo of New York. You can use photos in a variety of ways and in different situations - use them as backgrounds in a slider on the front page of your blog, or use them to compliment different sections of your website.


Icons can be used to display content in a more attractive way, replace the bullet points in lists, or even sometimes to completely replace text with an icon that easily describes the function. You see icons on websites everyday - the social buttons you press to "like" the page you're on, the menu items that's an image instead of a word, an image of an envelope next to an email address.


Buttons are used everywhere - to submit a form, to access a download, to sign in to a website. This is why it's important to use attractive buttons that's not overwhelming, but will give the visitor a clear indication of where to click.


Banners are found all around the web in the form of advertisements, usually to direct you to an affiliate site or other product on the same website. This is a standard way of advertisement that's been used for years, and it's still proven to be a great way of advertising.

You can usually download a banner as a PDS file, allowing you to open and edit the file in Photoshop or Gimp to add your own information and customize the banner according to your requirements. Banners can also be delivered as a background image you can simply add your banner's text-content to.

Most used image types

Which of the mentioned image types do you use most while working on design projects?

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Best sources for free royalty-free images

Finding reliable sources for free images you can use commercially without offering an attribution link can take a lot of time and effort. To save you the time and effort, here's some of the best sources you can use to get royalty-free images, for free.


Pixabay offers free high definition, high quality images in a variety of categories including animals, business, finance, food, drink, science, sports, backgrounds, textures and much more.

You can download all images on Pixabay for free, and use them in any of your projects without having to pay or include an attribution link. Images are also provided in high resolution, meaning you can use these images in a variety of projects, even print designs. More information here

Free Media Goo

Free Media Goo offers their stock photos for free to anyone, to use in any of your personal or commercial products, without having to link back or pay for the images. They do offer the option to include an attribution link when using stock photos and images downloaded from their website, but it's only optional - include it if you feel like supporting them and to thank them for the free images they offer. More information here.


MorgueFile also offers free high resolution, high quality photos and images you can use in any of your projects, even commercial projects, without having to pay for the use or include an attribution link back to their website.

At MorgueFile, you can easily search through all the free images they provide by entering keywords to search for. You also have the ability to sort the images in different ways - according to popularity, release date, most recently downloaded and most downloaded. More information here.


FreeDigitalPhotos.Net offers thousands of images you can download and use for free, and they offer a royalty-free license on all images offered on their website.

Although they offer all their images for free to use in personal or commercial projects, you will need to pay a fee if you want to download their images at higher resolutions. More information here.


Flickr can also be a powerful platform for finding free images you can use in commercial projects if you know how to properly search for them. With thousands and thousands of users uploading images on Flickr everyday, this can be one of your best sources to find high quality images.

To find images on Flickr you can use anywhere, you will need to do an advanced search and tick the box that reads "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content". This will then return all the images, based on the keywords you entered, you can use for free without having to include an attribution or backlink. More information here.

Creative Commons Search Engine

One of the most powerful tools for finding items on the internet you can use for free, the Creative Commons Search Engines allow you to search various sites including Google, Flickr, SoundCloud, Youtube and many more for items that offers the Creative Commons license, and allows you to use it for free without having to add a backlink or attribution link to their website. More information here.


These are some of the best sources to find quality, high resolution images online that can be used for free, without the need to include an attribution link back to the source. All of these websites will give you a solid foundation for building a royalty-free stock image library, and will definitely come in handy while working on graphic and web designs.

Which is your favorite?

Which of the mentioned sources do you prefer for finding high quality, royalty free images?

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