Free design resources are a great way to finalize your project whether it is for personal use or commercial use. You must always understand your legal rights when downloading “free” content. Most of the time free is only referring to the cost, and not referring to where or how you can use it. Today I will talk about my favorite top 10 free design resources that I use on a daily basis! All of these resources can be used for commercial use without attribution as long as proper research is done when in doubt.
Pixabay is hands down my favorite free design resource in my list of top 10 free design resources. They have over 920,000 free stock photos, vectors, illustrations, and videos. Their terms state “You can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist. However, depicted content may still be protected by trademarks, publicity or privacy rights.” Everything on Pixabay is licensed in the same way which makes it easy on designers. All images on Pixabay are released as copyright-free. They have the best selection of high quality work in the public domain that I have seen. You can find work that I have contributed to Pixabay here.
Public Domain Pictures
Second on my list of top 10 free design resources is Public Domain Pictures. It is a must for artists in particular. They offer thousands of high quality photography and design. This website makes it easy for an artist to trace or copy a photo without having to worry about copyright infringement.
Public Domain Vectors
Public Domain Vectors feels pretty much like the vector edition of Public Domain Pictures. They offer over 40,000 vector images in the public domain. When you download the vectors they come in svg format that make it easy to edit later.
Many free vector sources pull from openclipart.org. When I signed up to openclipart back in 2014 they did not have very many high quality graphics. Now however they have a good mixture of low quality images and useful vectors. They now have over 123,585 clipart images for download and are growing with about 1,500 new clipart images each month.
Google Images and Bing Images
You must be very careful with these sources and how you use their search features. In Google Images you can search for your term and go to Tools and set usage rights to labeled for reuse. Be diligent and click on the source page of the image and read carefully any terms that are stated. Often times I find images in this category that are actually Creative Commons Attribution instead of public domain. This is great if you are willing to link back credit, but not if you oversight this rule. Bing Images works very similarly. You will search for your term and then click Filter and then click on License and select which license you would like to choose. Once again, you need to be diligent and check your resources as some images are not always under the license you are searching for!
Flickr is a good source for photos in particular. I recently discovered Flickr Commons which is an excellent resource that is easy to use. Once again, be smart. “No known copyright restrictions” means there potentially could be a copyright restriction out there. They have over 41,000 images that have no known copyright restrictions.
ColourLovers has been around for some time now. In fact I would be very surprised if you are a designer and don’t know of it by now. I often use ColourLovers when I can’t figure out what colors I should use on a project. The combinations make for great design. Good color combinations are easy to find since the ColourLover community rates good palettes up and are easy to search for. There are over 9,700,000 colors and over 4,400,000 palettes. They do have a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Creative Commons license. In other words I wouldn’t use their patterns for commercial use and I would be careful not to use a full set of palette colors.
Dust off those old books you have sitting in the closet and scan some images in! The easiest thing is to remember that if a work was published before 1923, it’s in the public domain. Work published after 1923 will have to have a little more research done about its' copyright. Project Gutenberg has a pretty large collection of public domain books, offering over 53,000 ebooks.
Last but not least on our list of top 10 free design resources are libraries. Just the other day I discovered the vast amount of old public domain imagery in our great library systems. There are over 708,367 digitized items in The New York Public Library alone. They feature prints, maps, manuscripts, photographs, videos, and more. The Library of Congress offers the biggest source with over 2 million documents available online, and over 18 million items available in general. Once again, make sure that the work you wish to adapt on, sell, or reference is in the public domain and is dated and stated as such.
This is my small list of top 10 free design resources that I use often. There are thousands more out there. For additional information on what is and isn’t in the public domain visit http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm.