Everyone has downloaded images off the internet, but there’s a big difference between using them for personal and commercial projects. While sharing creative work across your social networks is permitted, using licensed images for commercial purposes could risk legal penalties from the author or copyright holder.
The best way to avoid copyright infringement is by knowing where to get royalty-free images online.
We’ve collected a great list of free public-domain websites that offer an extensive collection of photos, illustrations, vector graphics, and other high-resolution images in the public domain.
What Are Public Domain Images?
What is public domain? It is a category of creative works that exists alongside copyrights, patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property laws. Public domain is the absence of copyright, meaning that an image without known copyright restrictions or protections is free to use for your commercial project – a public domain photo.
Photographers, museums, archives, and other artists or institutions upload public domain images. This is done to create digital copies, offer stock variety, promote the artist’s craft, or simply share creative works with the public.
The public domain is almost always free to use and is a great way to share the creativity of artists and collections.
What are public domain images, and how can you spot them? There are three ways royalty-free images receive the title of public domain. When searching online for free stock photos, keep note of public domain definitions, especially if you’re unsure whether you need to get permission before using a work:
- The image is purposefully assigned to the public domain with a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.
- The image is not copyrightable due to its shared cultural heritage or universal and utilitarian use.
- The copyright for the image has expired from its original inception or ended due to the passing of the copyright owner.
15 Best Public Domain Image Websites
Enjoy our website list of free stock photos online – a large collection of library resources and popular searches in the public domain.
While these are public domain archives, additional licensing restrictions may apply. Website policies and artist attribution are determined by the organization or editor’s choice.
Unsplash is a robust image repository with a large collection of free stock photos. The site holds over 3 million high-resolution images by professional photographers worldwide.
All supported material is in the public domain. More policy details can be found on the Unsplash license page.
With a primary focus on photography, Unsplash is a perfect venue to look for aesthetic presentation pieces, design mockups, and well-framed model stills.
Their top trending photos cover categories such as travel, street photography, interior architecture, fashion and beauty, texture and patterns, and more.
Pexels hosts a royalty-free stock photo and video collection, helping millions create beautiful products and quality designs. Their site has hundreds of thousands of hand-picked or sourced photos uploaded by contributors.
All pictures are free to download and use. Pexel’s policy maintains restrictions on created works that put identifiable people in a bad light and images that users might find offensive. Read more on the Pexels license page.
All library images are easy to access through the search or tag function. Browse categories of trending topics such as fire, dark, nature, city, sky, space, pets, and more. Feel free to create private collections and store photos for any creative project.
Pixabay is a stock photo library owned by the graphic design software company Canva, with a 2.7 million-piece collection of free pictures, separated into categories for photos, illustrations, vector graphics, videos, music, sound effects, and GIFs.
Content is available for any use without attribution. While previously holding a CC0 license, the company has made a new license that limits any uploads people might find offensive and bans unaltered redistribution of existing Pixabay images. Learn more about what is and is not allowed on the Pixabay license page.
The Pixabay repository hosts community-uploaded images with a particular focus on curated collections in broad niche categories – seasonal events, mindfulness and meditation, wild animals, oceans and forests, high-resolution wallpapers, and a diverse collection of models and lifestyle stills.
Old Book Illustrations set out to scan and upload public domain drawings from the 18th to the early 20th century, capturing the unique styles of Victorian and French romanticism.
Their library holds a consistent, practical, and tasteful collection of illustrations, engravings, books, and titles from hundreds of famous artists of their time. All works are restored at a high resolution.
Rawpixel hosts a great list of creative stock photo designs, boasting the industry’s most diverse collection of free photos. Browse sections for creative resources, premium imagery, and public domain works. Limited access is available with free login, including downloading all public domain images.
Rawpixel’s free stock photos are digitally enhanced from international museums and privately sourced libraries. Use the Public Domain section to browse pages upon pages of pictures under the CC0 license.
If used for designs, you must add considerable artistic value before monetizing, described in more detail on the Rawpixel license page.
If you’re looking for something more stylized for personalized designs and lettering web art, Heritage Library offers an elegant collection of stock photos that contrast the contemporary minimalist landscape with authentic vintage sets.
Browse the Heritage Library for timeless iconography, type-faces, and pattern designs – collections inspired by cross-hatched sketches, book illustrations, old tapestry images, and vintage photographs.
Use all graphic elements under a free license ready to commercialize and distribute, but note that unaltered images have a 10,000-unit limit before having to purchase an extended license. Find more information for royalty-free use on the Heritage Library license page.
Public Domain Vectors is a treasure trove of clean designs. The website includes a close parameter SVG file generator and editor to create your own vector images for download.
Find free stock collections in categories such as animals, architecture, signs and symbols, flags, objects, and more. The website hosts a simple layout and search function, with an even simpler Creative Commons CC0 license, found on the Public Domain Vectors license page.
Kaboompics offers a free selection of royalty-free images for branded designs and personal use. Their site has an effortless browsing experience for image selection, previews, and unlimited downloads. Kamboopics stands out with its integrated color palettes, made easy and simple for social media brands and curated feeds.
Use Kamboopics’ color sliders and tags to find images that are expertly matched to your style in categories such as lifestyle, nature, food and drink, urban, or people technology. Their policy is clear and simple – ready for downloading and use in your own products and designs, provided the images are significantly altered. More on the Kamboopics license page.
Public Domain Archives is mainly a directory of other stock image websites – some already included in this list – but has its own publicly sourced library of free photos, updated weekly. While a direct search might be difficult due to limited site functions, it is nonetheless a great source of inspiration.
Search for anything from modern to vintage photos in this surprisingly clear-cut site of free images. All uploads to the site are licensed under the Creative Commons CC0, maintaining full commercial use access with no attribution required.
Wikimedia is a public domain image repository site for educational and informative use. The website contains almost 100 million files created by anyone from professional photographers to academics.
If you want to fall into a rabbit hole for the next couple of months, browsing images from underrated heroes of science and culture to detailed graphs and miscellaneous diagrams, then this is the place for you. Wikimedia Commons only accepts explicitly freely licensed media or media in the public domain. More on the Wikimedia Commons license page.
With over 400.000 images in circulation, Public Domain Pictures is a colorful website with full sets of images in every niche. The site boasts a huge variety of user-submitted free images.
Find royalty-free stock photos from public domain archives – museums, stamps, century-old sketches, symbols, and patterns from around the world. The site features robust categories such as animals, backgrounds, business, still life, or symbols, as well as seasonal photos and top trending images.
Flickr is less of an archive and more of a foundation, built as a long-term creative visual repository to hold and protect our visual heritage for the next generation. It holds tens of billions of images from around the world, curating one of the largest lists of images from national archives to government institutions. Flickr’s Commons is as close to a professional photography library as possible.
The organization runs like a community, offering events, trending blogs, and feature updates.
If you journey away from the Flickr Commons page, photographs and other personal material from an original creator may fall under copyright protection. However, the site offers a handy list of tags to browse only public domain or commercial use images, seen on the Flickr license page.
Magdeleine offers hand-picked high-resolution photos for your inspiration. It’s a modern site with a curated feed of images and a catalog of uploads in multiple categories. Magdeleine comes with advanced search tags and a dominant color filter.
The New York Public Library (NYPL) has its own digital database – a library of almost a million files dedicated to prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming videos, and more of our shared cultural heritage.
The NYPL public domain collections are free to share and use. Images must be requested through the site forms, and it can be difficult when you’re looking for only royalty-free options. The full information on requesting images both in and outside of the public domain can be found on the NYPL terms and conditions.
To find free images, the website instructs you to select the “Search only public domain items” option to filter your results away from any copyright restrictions. Use the “Show Only Public Domain” button in the upper-left corner of the search page for an easier option.
Last but not least, Negative Space hosts a sleek website with smart filters, tags, and primary colors. It has one of the broader category options on the list, a huge variety of photo styles, and tagged images.
Negative Space makes the public domain easy. All material falls under the Creative Commons CC0 license, which means all images are free to download, commercialize, and distribute. Find the full license information on the Negative Space license page.
How to Find Images In The Public Domain
Besides our listed websites, there are other ways to search for free images in the public domain.
- To find free commercial use images on Google, begin a search by typing in the image you want to look for, and clicking on Tools > Usage Rights > Creative Commons Licenses. You will also need to check exactly which CC license applies in order to attribute or alter the image as necessary.
- If you’re looking for something culturally significant in the public domain, try online museum archives and government databases. The Library of Congress offers a digital collection of free photos, as does the Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art, and other local creative commons institutions.
- Note that Printify offers its own free graphics for print-on-demand designs and a Mockup Generator for product creation. Enjoy all that our design team has to offer, free to use.
- Finally, look to your fellow artists and continue the tradition of sharing and distributing free photos from like-minded individuals, provided you offer the necessary attribution and contact the individual for permission.
Public Domain Picture Websites: Final Thoughts
The public domain is mostly maintained by independent creators and non-profit image repositories. While almost always free to use, each site may have some restrictions regarding monetization or attribution. When you use a public domain website, make sure you’re familiar with the website licensing terms and conditions.
Public domain images can be great creative materials and inspiration for your own awesome designs and digital graphics. Consider combining your art with Printify’s product library and selling on-demand merchandise with zero upfront costs, creating beautiful prints on apparel and accessories.
Make It Happen Today!
Share the article