Why this isn’t 1001 places for free website graphics
It started out that way. I could’ve made this a list of 100s of resources, but as I got further into my research I realised that a huge list of places to explore is just not helpful when you’re time is short and you want to crack on with finding a reliable source of free stock photos and images. Instead I’ve delved into the 100s of different options available and made this summary of the most useful places, based on how easy the site is to use, and how likely you are to find what you need. Lots of the websites I researched were suitable only for graphics designers using Illustrator or Photoshop, and many used fairly scuzzy tactics to make advertising money from your clicks (more on that later) - so I’ve left those out.
A quick tour of website graphics terminology
Before you start clicking away in search of free images for your website there’s a few things I want you to know first.
Most sites split their libraries into stock photos and vectors.
Stock photos = pretty self-explanatory. These are photographs taken by someone else for anyone to use (according the license - more on that in a moment).
Vectors = To the untrained eye (me) these seem to be any online image that isn’t a photograph. They can be cartoons, illustrations, computer-aided designs, digitally-enhanced photographs.
For a quick explanation on what a vector really is, I’ll hand you over to Louise Cowley, founder of graphic-design platform Designsta*:
“A vector design element is like a mathematical equation, it is made up of paths and points instead of pixels. A vector element can be enlarged to the size of the universe and would never lose quality because of the way the paths and points move whereas a raster image such as a photograph, jpeg or png would lose quality and become pixelated. Vector files are usually shown as .eps or .ai files.”
Unless you’re a dab hand at Photoshop or Illustrator these .eps and .ai files will be useless to you.
However, vectors are also often available as .jpeg or .png. If you download these versions you can use them as a standalone image, or add them to a design you are creating on a online graphic design platform (such as Designsta, Canva or PicMonkey).
Commercial Use = Be sure to check the details of licenses before you use an image as different image providers have different rules, but in general commercial use means you’re allowed to use it on your business website and social media. There will also be guidance on whether you need to provide attribution with the image (a note saying where you sourced it and a link back to the site).
How free stock photo and vector websites make their money
We’ve all gotta make money - I make money via affiliate links (for products and services I have used and loved) and by selling subscriptions to Worditude VIPs. This enables me to provide free blog content that has been accessed by tens of thousands of business-builders.
Some websites, like Dreamstime and Creative Market, provide a selection of free graphics as samples of their premium product. These are my favourite sources as they tend to provide higher quality images, and their websites are easy to navigate, as they’re trying to give you the best possible impression.
The rest tend to make money through advertising on their websites.
The website’s I’ve includes in this round-up have a clear distinction between the free images you can download from their site, premium images available elsewhere, and adverts.
Others (that I haven’t included) were less clear, and lead to a lot of wasted time for the user clicking on things that don’t take you where you thought you were going - like this:
The 8 most useful sources of free website graphics and stock photos
Presented in no particular order….
Freepik - An easily search collection of free vectors (available as .jpeg and .png), stock photos and icons). Check license on each download, but most seem to be free for commercial use with atribution.
Flat Icon - If you're on the hunt for a collection of free website icons that fit your brand, this is the place to go. Focussed only on icons, this is the best selection you'll find in one place.
Designsta* - Sign up for a free account at Designsta and you can access hundreds of 800px square templates to create your own free graphics to use on social media or your website.
Stockio - Free vectors, photos, fonts, and videos. Each file states whether it's ok for personal or commercial use with attribution. Reasonably easy to search and the adverts are fairly easy to spot. Under each free image there's a banner of premium alternatives, which is helpful rather than intrusive.
Unsplash - My favourite source of beautiful high-quality, free stock photos. The library is searchable and updated regularly.
Creative Market* - Sign-up for an account and you can access six new free resources every week (freebies are updated every Tuesday). Some of the downloads will be things that only graphic designers can use, but there’s usually at least one set of stock photos and a set of vector images available as .jpeg/.png. These are the highest quality free website graphics I’ve found, and by checking back every week and downloading anything that looks a good fit for my business I’ve created a large useful library of elements and backgrounds to use in my social media graphics and on my website. It's also great for seasonal stock photos and images.
Stock Free Images - Searchable and browsable library of free photos and illustrations with more options if you go premium.
Dreamstime - One of the leading providers of online graphics, Dreamstime also offer a searchable and browsable freebies section.
***Related Blog Post Alert***
For more useful resources, take a look inside the Worditude toolkit - a list of the services and products I use to run my successful small business.
* Starred links are affiliate links. This means that if you buy something from that website I may receive a thank-you commission. This is at no extra cost to you.
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