- Arts and Design
Vintage Public Domain Images
Copyright Free Vintage Images Online
I am a fan of vintage items and art and more. One thing I really love is finding published works, such as writings or art, that are in the public domain. That means that there is no longer a copyright on them, so people can use them however they want...to republish as is or make new works out of them. Images can be used to make crafts, art, and even things for sale. (I sometimes use public domain images for sale on "print on demand" product sites such as cafepress.com and zazzle.com
Many people have blogs where they have generously shared vintage/antique public domain images for others to use. Over time I have gathered a list of links of such blogs. I have decided to share them so you can enjoy them as well and you will find a list of the links to them below.
However, I cannot guarantee that all of the images included in these blogs are in the public domain, so it is up to you to educate yourself about public domain works and your responsibility to determine the legal rights of using any works.
Please check here for a few resources about public domain info.
Public Domain refers to works that do not have a copyright (generally because they copyright has expired or the works were created before copyright laws existed). I recommend that people wanting to use Public Domain images read what they can on the subject matter.
What Can You Do With Vintage Images?
The image shown at the beginning of this page, of a man and a boy who appear to be going fishing together, is one from the public domain. It was originally a black and white illustration, but I altered it with an image editing program. It looks somewhat "watercolor" like to me. Using layers and textures I changed the appearance of it. You can find lots of tutorials online on how to alter images with the image editing program of your choice...but that will not be what is covered here on this page.
What is covered here is places where you can find some of these great images to alter. For free. But there are also mentions of sources to buy vintage illustrations as well, if you are interested. And also here is an example of how someone has used public domain images to create something new, to inspire you.
This Vintage Santa over Paris Christmas Card by 13MoonshineDesigns is a fun example of how several vintage images were combined together. The artist used a picture of the Eiffel Tower from an antique postcard, and another image of a vintage Santa and his toy filled sleigh, and surrounded it all with a vintage illustration of an ornate frame.
Blogs About Free Vintage Public Domain Images
Over time I have added quite a few blogs to my browser's bookmarks that share free, public domain, vintage images. Quite a few of these have not been updated recently, but you can still go through and find many cool and interesting vintage illustrations.
Some have pictures where the image resolution are not very good and are best for web use, while others have image resolutions so good that they are great for print on demand products. In some cases the blog owners have etsy shops where you can buy other public domain images not available on the blog or higher resolution versions of the images.
- The Graphics Fairy
This is a very well known blog for vintage images...so you may expect to find that many others are using the same images from it as well.
- The Old Design Shop
A vintage image treasury...a truly nice collection of interesting vintage images.
- Vintage Ephemera
This blog hasn't been updated in awhile and has both images hosted on the blog and links to vintage images curated from other online sources.
- Antique Images
Over 1,300 digitally restored antique and vintage, royalty-free images.
- The Vintage Moth
This blog is devoted to providing vintage/antique images to mixed media and collage artists.
- Carol Anne's Boutique
This is more of a personal blog, so many of the images are Not in the public domain. But the author has shared a few public domain images for the use of other artists. (The blog has not been updated in quite some time.)
- Vintage Feedsacks
This is not a blog about vintage feedsacks...that is just the name of the blog. :) Although it says she adds new things everyday...alas nothing new has been added in awhile.
- Catnip Studio Collage
Many vintage images are on this blog. There are also some original collages the author has created that are not public domain. This blog has not been updated in awhile.
- Magic Moonlight Free Images
This primitive artist shares a lot of old photos, postcards and more on her blog. Most are fairly small in size though.
- Vintage Field and Garden
Reference materials and graphic resources from (mostly) the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
- Vintage Fashion Catalogs
A blog with vintage images that are specifically fashion related.
- Bumble Button
The author of this blog creates "button cards" using vintage images for vintage buttons that are sold at a unique thrift store. And that led her to sharing her vintage images online (see her profile for the whole story...I think it is neat).
- Vintage Snips and Clips
At the moment there are only a few images here, but most are large image resolution, suitable for many purposes.
Vintage Clip Art
You can find vintage clip art for sale in book or digital form on places such as Amazon.
Note: Even though many of the images in sources like these may technically be in the public domain, some of these sources place restrictions on how they are to be used (whether that is legal or not...is another story).
Public Domain Info
The following are links to resources about Public Domain works (which usually refers to works where the copyright has expired or they were created before copyright laws existed), such as what public domain is and how to determine if something is in the public domain or not.
This is the official site of the Copyright offices of the United States.
- Public Domain Sherpa
This is a great site for learning more about public domain and copyright.
- Public Domain Chart from Cornell University
Cornell University has a lot of good info on Public Domain, including this handy chart showing when things fall into public domain.
Public Domain Sources to Buy On eBay
Are you willing to navigate the complexities of finding your own public domain resources? You better brush up on your homework about copyright and public domain first. But if you are willing to do that and if you are looking for original public domain resources, perhaps ones that are not so commonly available to everyone else online, then eBay is one place to look for them (antique stores, thrift stores, estate sales, etc. are some other places).
You can find ads from magazines, whole magazines, books and more on eBay. If they were published before 1923 then they are in the public domain (however, that doesn't necessarily mean that all things can be used ... for example, an ad for Coca-Cola can be in the public domain but the name and logo for Coca Cola is trademarked and you can't use the trademark without permission). Works published in 1923 and after might be in the public domain, but you'd have to research it to know for sure.
Have you used vintage images? What have you used them for?