10 Best Image Sources For Creative Projects

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Original CC licensed Image by Dylan on Flickr

Educating students (and lets face it, ourselves) about copyright and digital citizenship has become increasingly more important as more and more teaching resources are found online.  While creating original image content may still be the best way to gather images, it is not always practical or even geographically realistic. Copyright-free and public domain images often make the creative process easer by allowing for manipulation without needing to cite the source.  However, there are times when when you can’t find what you need in the public domain or want to teach a lesson on digital citizenship.  In these situations, searching for images with a Creative Commons license can be useful.  Our top ten list of imagery for creative use ranges from “no known copyright” (among the least restrictive) to Creative Commons (creative permissions vary).

Screen shot 2010-01-01 at 2.34.00 PM1. The Commons This Flickr database contains collections from museums and libraries from around the world.  The images placed in these collections have “no known copyright” and therefore are free to use without attribution.

2. Public Domain Sherpa This is a one stop shop with a great collection of image sources mostly in the public domain. This site also does a great job explaining copyright information in layman’s terms.

3. Morgue File “Public image archive for creatives by creatives”  This fabulous site is full of easily searchable images that require no attribution.

4. Pics4Learning These copyright-friendly images have been donated by teachers, students, and amateur photographers.  Explore the other features and tutorials to help get you started.

5. PD Photo Most of the thousands of images on this site are in public domain, but not all.  Before using any image, read the license under each picture.

Screen shot 2010-01-01 at 2.35.23 PM6. Creative Commons and Wikimedia Commons These databases are great places to access all sorts of media that you can incorporate into creative projects.  Since both public domain and creative commons images can turn up in a search, be sure to check to see if the image requires attribution.

7. Photos8 This site offers thousands of images free to use for any purpose. The site author doesn’t require attribution but would love to see the creative outcomes.

8. Creativity 103 This source contains images and video ranging from abstract design to architecture.  You are free to download and use any of the images as long as you credit the website.

Screen shot 2010-01-01 at 2.35.59 PM9. Compflight and FlickrCC These two great tools can help you quickly find images licensed under Creative Commons on Flickr.  Another Flickr option is the advanced search to find images to modify or build upon. Download directions for use with your students here.

10. Google Advanced Image Search This search engine is useful for helping you find specific images such as line drawing or photo content with “safe search” filtering.  To find Creative Commons images, select the search terms usage rights “labeled for reuse” or “reuse with modification”.

Oh, and a couple of things that you will want to explore . . .

Creative Project Image Search We gathered many resources listed here along with a few others to create a custom search engine for public domain, copyright-friendly, and Creative Commons images.  This tool could be something you add to student bookmarks to make image searching easy.

If you still can’t find what you need, Copyright Friendly Wiki and Teacher Librarian Wiki are both excellent resources to find images to use.

Hillary Andrlik + Theresa McGee

The founders and primary authors of this blog are Hillary Andrlik and Theresa McGee, who both teach elementary art in the Chicagoland area. Hillary has been teaching art since 2002, received her art education degree from Illinois State University and masters from National Louis University. Theresa has been teaching since 1997 and received her bachelors degree from Northern Illinois University and masters from Benedictine University. In 2008, Theresa became a National Board Certified Teacher. Both Hillary and Theresa have earned the honor of being Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year. Together, Hillary and Theresa have presented at Illinois Art Education Association Conference on topics ranging from classroom management to technology and each have presented on numerous other occasions for other organizations.


  • January 16, 2010


    Great list, although many of these are blocked by our filters at school. (anything related to flickr or google images) As a contributor to morgue files I got that one unblocked for my student use. I also like cgtextures http://cgtextures.com/. I am posting these links to my student blog. thanks!

  • Hillary Andrlik + Theresa McGee
    January 30, 2010


    Thank you cguab for your link to cgtextures! I have added it to the Creative Project Image Search (listed above). Hope you find it useful and not too many sites are blocked at your school.

  • May 23, 2014


    Also check out http://www.goodfreephotos.com for thousands of unique public domain photos. Appreciate it if you could add it to the list.

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