10 Web Resources for Free Public Domain Images

Download stunning and free high-resolution images for your next project

A hand holding up an old photograph above a photo album
Digitizing old photos is a great way to preserve those memories. Daniel Ingold / Getty Images

Whether you're creating a new blog, website, or printed project, top-notch graphic elements give it life. Professional photo shoots can be pricey, but plenty of stunning high-resolution images are available in the public domain that you can download and use free of charge. You just need to know where to find them.

Public domain images, that is images that are freely available for use, are all over the web. You can use these 10 high-quality web resources for public domain images for private or commercial purposes. 

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What We Like

  • Range of image sizes, free to download.

  • Discover images without something specific in mind.

What We Don't Like

  • Needs category tags for images.

  • Searching is chaotic, relies on specific keywords.

Pexels offers thousands of royalty-free images licensed under the Creative Common Zero license, which means the images are free for use on personal and commercial projects, blogs, websites, apps, and elsewhere.

Search by topic, select one of the categories listed under the search field, or choose the More arrow to go to a screen filled with popular searches and relevant images.

Not sure what you want? Click the Discover tab at the top of the screen or the Leaderboard tab to see which images have been most viewed in the last 30 days:

  • All the photos on Pexels are free for commercial and personal use.
  • Attribution is not required, although giving a credit line to the photographer is appreciated.
  • You are allowed to modify the photos.
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Public Domain Pictures

Public Domain Pictures homepage


What We Like

  • Premium Download fee for larger images is not expensive.

  • Images offer an option to donate to the image creator.

What We Don't Like

  • Watch for special conditions that govern image use.

  • Pay for premium download of larger image sizes.

Public Domain Pictures offers thousands of gorgeous photos, images, and drawings, all available for your use online or offline. This site offers a free download of a small version of every photo — usually in the 1920-by-1275 pixel or smaller range — and a paid Premium Download for a large download of the same image. The premium fees are extremely reasonable. Most are in the $0.05 to $0.10 range.

Although all the photos are in the public domain, occasionally you'll see a note about a special condition attached to your usage of a particular image. For example, if a person or paid model appears in the photo, the condition may be that you cannot use the photo in any way that depicts that person in a bad light or that the person might find offensive.

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WPClipArt homepage


What We Like

  • Over 80,000 images available.

  • All images are free with no conditions on use.

What We Don't Like

  • Unattractive, but straightforward website.

  • A hobby project, it's long-term development isn't assured.

If you need clip art for any project you can think of, you'll probably be able to find it at WPClipart, a repository of more than 80,000 free, high-quality, public domain clip art images and photos.

The interface is simple. You enter a term in the search bar or click the Browse button to see all the clip art categories.

All the clip art and photos on WPClipart are in the public domain. The images have no restrictions on their use.

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What We Like

  • Large collection of images.

  • Donate to the creator.

  • Free images, regardless of download size.

What We Don't Like

  • Complaints about poor and rude customer service.

  • Complaints of arbitrary rejection of images.

Pixabay is home to more than 1.5 million royalty-free photos, illustrations, and vector graphics. The photos are stunning, high-resolution images that are free to use on any personal or commercial project. No attribution is necessary.

Browse by category, enter a topic in the search field, or click the Explore tab at the top of the home screen to see the current Editor's Choice images to kick-start your creativity. 

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From Old Books

From Old Books homepage


What We Like

  • Tightly focused with an antiquarian bent.

  • Use search and categories to find content.

What We Don't Like

  • Visual design is not appealing.

  • One-person hobby site, seeks donations.

Looking for something out of the ordinary? Try Liam's pictures at From Old Books, a private collection of more than 2,600 high-resolution free images scanned from a wide variety of old or out-of-print books.

The images are free for non-commercial and educational use, although the site owner appreciates donations. The images are available for commercial use for a small fee that requires you to tell Liam how you plan to use the image. 

This is not your typical free image site, but these images are not your typical free images. Just use the Browse tab to see them.

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Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons website


What We Like

  • Enormous catalog.

  • Familiar design and navigation, similar to Wikipedia.

What We Don't Like

  • Confusing, multi-channel layout.

  • Administrative overhead on pages that's not related to media discovery.

Wikimedia Commons is a gigantic repository of more than 49 million free media files, including public domain images and other media content available in a wide variety of languages.

If the site has a downside, it is its vast size. Wikimedia Commons suggests that anyone new to the Commons start by visiting Featured Pictures, Quality Images, Meet our Photographers, or Meet our Illustrators, all of which have links on the homepage. 

Almost all of the content of the Commons is free to use. Some of it comes with restrictions that are explained on the same page as the image. The most common restriction is that the original creator must be attributed.

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MorgueFile homepage


What We Like

  • Established resource, popular with creative professionals.

  • Beautiful site design.

What We Don't Like

  • Not always clear what's free and what's not.

  • Some image URLs are served by ad domains, and blocked by ad blockers.

Morguefile is a high-quality source for public domain images you can use for commercial or personal purposes. The site tends to attract high-resolution photo submissions and has more than 350,000 free stock photos on file.

Morguefile also hosts paid images, so click Free Photos at the top of the home screen to see only the free images.

  • Any of the free photos can be used for commercial purposes.
  • You can make alterations to the images.
  • If you don't alter the image, you must credit the photographer.
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NYPL Digital Gallery

New York Public Library Digital Gallery


What We Like

  • Astounding selection of thematically arranged content.

  • Focus on archives, not on generic stock photography.

  • Outstanding site navigation and visual appeal.

What We Don't Like

  • Mix of free and license-required images.

  • Although the collection is gorgeous, it's likely too hyper-focused for general editorial usage.

The New York Public Library has organized a huge collection of amazing public domain images and made them all available to the public. This collection includes illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs, and more.

To get started, type a topic in the search field and click the box in front of Search only public domain materials, or browse the items featured on the homepage. Once on a photo's information page, scroll to the bottom to see the Rights Statement. On free images, it states that the New York Public Library considers the image to be in the public domain and does not require, but appreciates, a link back to the library.

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Flickr Commons

Flickr Commons homepage


What We Like

  • Historical photographs, free for general use.

  • Partnership with many prestigious organizations.

  • Long-running, started in January 2008.

What We Don't Like

  • Weak search capability, with keyword searching only.

  • Images are returned in no coherent order, honing in on what you want may be difficult.

Access thousands of public photography images at Flickr Commons, a joint project with the Library of Congress. More than 115 institutions around the world participate in the Commons. 

Many of the photos are historical, and all are fascinating. They are categorized as having "no known copyright restrictions."

The program has two main objectives:

  • To increase access to publicly held photography collections
  • To provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge
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DesignRush Public Domain Archive homepage


What We Like

  • Nice, abstract, high-resolution images.

  • Clean site design with category-based discovery.

What We Don't Like

  • Very few images.

  • Photos are part of a larger site that is dedicated to a for-profit design company.

The Public Domain Archive hosted by the DesignRush agency is home to hundreds of high-quality public domain images. The free public domain images are found by clicking Categories at the website's homepage or by browsing the images located on the Public Domain Archive homepage.

All the images are released under CCO 1.0 Universal. You can copy, modify, and use the images for personal and commercial projects.