Here is the Blender 90 list of the best Public Domain, Creative Commons and Royalty Free image libraries.
All the essential free to use image library links that you will need in one place! These sites span every age of photography and constitute a large set of artworks, photos, textures and historical image that you can use in your own work.
Image search is something we do a lot in our quest as Digital Artists and Content Creators and it’s always time consuming to find the right image. So we hope this list helps you shortcut some of your day to day work!
If you scroll to the end of the list we have also added some information on usage restriction considerations of different royalty free image license types and some gotcha’s you need to look out for when using images from these sources for your creative / commercial projects.
Either Scroll down or click these anchors to go to the list of your choice:
List of the best Free, Public Domain, Creative Commons & Royalty Free Images
1. PUBLIC DOMAIN COLLECTIONS
(‘Public Domain’ comprises the larger collections which are usually Foundation or Government sponsored)
Uses: Terrific for the following types of shots. Historical, Architectural, Urban, History of Design, People throughout the Ages, Era’s, Footage of City Construction, Newsreel Shots, Cultural, Ethnics, Public Domain Arts Photography, Anthropological subjects, Propaganda, War. Basically most things to do with any kind of record of the Historical development of Humanity since the advent of photography.
Uses: A vast resource of historical and modern photography with good coverage of works of art from every century.
The Internet Archive
Search Creative Commons
Public Domain Space Images from NASA’s Hubble Telescope.
The Public Domain Project – Pond 5 Public Domain
Open Street Map
Wikimedia Commons – Hubble Images of Galaxies (Space)
Flickr – Hubblesite Stream (Space)
NASA Visible Earth (Earth Maps and Bathymetry)
Aalto University Public Collection
Alkmaar Region Digital Archive
British Library Creative Commons
British Library Creative Commons
Caen University, Normandy, Public Collection
Sisters of St. Joseph Canada Public Image Collection
Finnish Broadcasting Company Public Archive
Finnish Museum of Photography
Gallen Kallelan Museum Digital Collection
Hamilton Public LIbrary, Ontario
Huron County Museum and Historic Jail Public Collection
Jerwood Library, Faculty of Music, Public Collection
2. ROYALTY FREE IMAGE LIBRARIES
(‘Royalty Free‘ comprises the smaller private and/or commercial collections)
Free Images (formerly Stock Xchange)
Free HiRes SkyMaps (Blender Artists)
New Old Stock
Public Domain Archive
Travel Coffee Book
3. WE RECOMMEND
We recommend checking out Unsplash and Photobash. Both have excellent creative content and great images. Unsplash is a good alternative to Pixabay and Photobash has great high quality larger textures. We also recommend checking out our own Blender 90 Free Texture Packs and CG Textures and Free Images as well.
Our Top Recommended
Free Images (formerly Stock Xchange)
Vintage Stock Photos
SOME THINGS TO BE AWARE OF WHEN USING ROYALTY FREE IMAGE LIBRARIES
There are a lot of different license types so be careful when using images from any of these Royalty Free image libraries and do always check that you have read and understood what the license terms mean for your intended usage. Even if an image is stated as being in the ‘public domain’ there may be other rights you need to consider. For example if your chosen images features a Face, Brand or Logo or if the image prominently features a famous building there may still be other rights that need to be cleared before you can use it commercially. There are also other rights restrictions to take care of such as moral rights, passing off rights, privacy rights and ethical rights, so Copyright is not always the only issue that should determine how you use an image.
Here are some common examples of the type of things to be careful of:
Example 1 – Use of NASA ‘public domain’ images.
NASA typically releases most of its image into the Public Domain and the definition of public domain means that if so labelled these can be used for even for commercial purposes, however there are moral rights restrictions and endorsement stipulations that strongly prohibit you from using those images to imply that NASA endorses a specific brand or commercial venture.
Example 2 – Shots of Individual Buildings versus a Shot of a City Skyline.
If you use a shot of a city skyline where the photographer has released his copyright or that comes from a Royalty Free image library then your usage is probably fine. However if your shot uniquely features a background, for example, with only the Lloyds Building in London or some other Famous Building of the same stature in focus then, even if it is comes from a Royalty Free image or Public Domain collection, there may still be other copyright issues to consider above just the simple issue of the photographer’s copyright. There are other design rights and moral rights to consider so you may still have to clear the right to feature the building in your shot.
Example 3 – Shots of Individuals and some of the moral questions involved in using them.
The US library of congress has great historical photos of people who lived more than a 100 years ago. If you are, for example, building a 3D character the US Library of Congress is a great reference resource of human faces, of costumes from different ages, and of historical reference. In most cases using the photo as a base for your character could be fine, however if you remake a digital character exactly like the person in the image you are using from that collection, then you may encounter the issue of living relatives or descendants of that person who may object to and block your use of their family member on moral rights or privacy grounds.
So if your work draws too closely on a real person who did exist then you do have to consider the impact on living family members. For example would you be upset if a 3D artist found an image of your grandfather and turned him into a character in a Multiplayer Zombie game? You might well be.
Obviously if you are doing a 3d recreation of a famous person like Ghandi or Martin Luther King or Marilyn Monroe then that doesn’t necessarily apply because they were already famous and in the public domain in the first place, but do be mindful of usage that could bring distress to private family members of people you find in public domain photos.
It is therefore always good to keep these type of issues in mind when choosing ‘free to use’ images.
While the copyright of the image may well be in the public domain it is prudent, and considerate, to understand that within the image itself there may still be moral rights elements which you are unaware of which need additional clearances for your specific image use.
As in all things proceed positively and in good cheer, however also use your own good judgement!
If you think we are missing a great library or public domain or royalty free site please let us know in the message section below and we’ll be happy to add it!