This post attempts to list my top favorite free sites and resources for royalty-free images, music, and videos for creative projects.
Since 2000 I have been teaching university students how to design for print, the web, and the screen.
One of the very first things we go over is that it’s always best to use your OWN original photos, drawings, music, and videos that you created yourself.
Of course, when you need something really specific (say a close up photo of a lion’s mouth or the rings of Saturn) you can’t always get what you need on your own without also putting yourself in grave danger. Space helmet anyone?
That’s where royalty-free and public domain goodies come in!
These are images, sound effects, music loops, and videos you can use absolutely free in your projects without fear of lawyers coming to your house and dragging you off to court to pay millions for copyright infringement.
Just PLEASE make sure you are aware of specific rules that may apply for each item you use.
Royalty-free goodies often require you give credit to the creators, sometimes in a very specific way so please read the fine print. For public domain goodies, you can usually use whatever you want and don’t have to credit anyone.
That said, be CAREFUL and use your head. Just because someone uploads a Micky Mouse animation cell to one of these sites does not mean it’s copyright free. A good rule of thumb is if you can name that character (ex.Tony the Tiger, Buzz Lightyear, Strawberry Shortcake, etc…) then DON’T use that image.
The list below is not at all an exhaustive one, but it will get you started right away with some of my very favorite sites tried and tested by myself and my students over the years with much success.
The links towards the end of each category have been submitted and recommended by readers.
Flickr/CreativeCommons -Royalty-free and public domain images
The British Library -Over 1 million vintage downloads. These centuries-old copyright-free images include everything from from book illustrations to photos – and cover subjects from flowers to cycling and children’s books to maps.
9 Best Sites For Free Vintage and Old Photos -These are the best collections of stunning free vintage images and illustrations – from Shakespeare to the history of the US – so you can find the perfect high-res one for you next project.
Pexels -Free stock images with no attribution needed. Also searchable by color!
New York Public Library’s Public Domain Collection -200K images you can use free in almost unlimited ways.
Pixabay -I hear a lot of good things about this site from others.
Unsplash – Free (Do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.
34+ Other Free Image Resources Available From One Link -They just redid their website and the new layout is a tad confusing. Just scroll down for the links.
List by Harvard Law School Library (Images) -Good Ole’ Harvard. This is a treasure-trove of links and resources.
Digginet -60 more places to find free stock photos. I’m starting to get dizzy.
StockSnap -Gorgeous free stock images with no attribution required.
Wikipedia Creative Commons and Public Domain Sites: A giant list.
Morguefile: Don’t let the creepy name throw you off. Free stock images for creatives by creatives.
Jeshoots – A website kept up to date by Jan Vasek.
Snapographic – Scroll all categories on this great website with tons of free stock images
Travelcoffeebook – A great website with lots of travel pics, many from Asia.
Gratisography – A wide variety of free (and quirky!) stock photos also on this website. One of my personal favorites!
Stokpic – Watch pictures in a sort of a Pinterest setting here. Nice website and great pics. And all free!
Picography – More free stock images. Yay!
Vatican Library Digitization Project – NEW! (and extra cool) The Vatican Library just digitized 4,400 Ancient Manuscripts and is giving them away for free.
Good Free Photos – A large free stock photo site with thousands of public domain photos including landscapes, objects, animals, plants, textures, and many other free photos.
2K+ Turn of the Century Art Posters – FREE, thanks to the NY Public Library
Space Travel Posters from NASA -No joke! Get these beautiful illustrations as free downloads.
MUSIC and SOUND EFFECTS:
Flashkit.com -This is an old favorite of mine and students since the turn of the millennium. Look in the menu in the top right for music loops and sound effects searchable by category or keyword.
Incompetech.com – Kevin MacLeod is the undisputed king of high quality diverse and searchable free music loops. Please note that all the tracks are not free anymore. He (wisely) started charging small fees for his work. You can still find many free gems here, but also check out his other site, Public Domain Music Downloads below for 100% free goodies.
Public Domain Music Downloads “-If only someone would have gone out and found all of the decent Public Domain recordings and collected them in one spot! If only.”
Bensound.com -Huge list that is easy to search and sort through.
List by Harvard Law School Library (Audio) -This is a solid list
Free Music Archive “Every MP3 you discover on The Free Music Archive is pre-cleared for certain types of uses that would otherwise be prohibited by copyright laws that were not designed for the digital era.”
Pexels Video -A glorious collection of stock videos you can use for free in any way you see fit.
Vimeo Public Domain Videos -A huge collection of videos that require no attribution. Quality varies but it can be worth sifting through the pile.
List by Harvard Law School Library (Video) -Yet another solid list. You’ve got to hand it to them.
Coverr -“Beautiful, free videos for your homepage.”
Videvo.net -“The home of completely free HD stock footage and motion graphics for any project!”
Videezy.com -Free HD video stock footage.
A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING:
Internet Archive -This has a bit of everything but is especially useful for historic photography and video.
Docs.com -“Enormous collection of free public domain and CC0 clip art, photos, video, sound, and music that you can use to enliven your online courses and video presentations.”
I will continue to add to this list and if you have any recommendations for it, please leave your links in the comments below. Thanks for helping me build a useful resource!