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Finding and Using Free Image Collections on the Web

This guide identifies sources of free images on the web.


The image collections described on this page have no restrictions on use, but attribution is usually required. For an academic project, you will need to cite your sources even if the image provider does not require attribution.

The Getty - Open Content Program



As of January 2015, there are 87,000 images in the Getty Open Content Program, from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute.

The art and architecture of Italy are a particular strength of this collection, but fine art traditions from all over the world are represented through paintings, drawings, manuscripts, photographs, antiquities, sculpture, decorative arts, artists' sketchbooks, watercolors, rare prints, and architectural drawings of cultural landmarks.


"The Getty makes available, without charge, all available digital images to which the Getty holds the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose. No permission is required."


Make sure you keep the Open Content filter checked on the search screen.

Getty Open Content filter detail


Details about each artwork are given with the image. The credit line "Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program" should be used. More about the Open Content Program.

Above: Detail of lantern design in Kangxi dengtu, China, 1790. Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

Internet Archive Book Images Collection, hosted by Flickr

Automobile from 1920



The Internet Archive Book Images Collection is a set of 2.6 million images harvested from digitized books and hosted on Flickr. The subject matter is unlimited.


Images were taken only from books and journals which were already in the public domain. Therefore, works from the Internet Archive Book Images Collection can be used for any purpose.


When you enter a search term, you'll get a drop-down box with Search Everyone's Photos and Search Internet Archive Book Images Photos. Select the latter to stay in the archive:

Flickr search menu showing Internet Archive Book Images Photostream

If you enter a new search term, make sure the Search menu on the upper right still has the Internet Archive Book Images collection selected:

Flickr search bar showing search limited to book images

(Note that this is different from the method required for the Commons, another collection hosted on Flickr.)


No attribution is required since these images are in the public domain, but for academic projects you still must cite your work properly.

Above: Image from page 164 of "Sargasso" (1920), from Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs

Men dumping alcohol into sewer during Temperance era



Historic images documenting architecture, history, and people, from the Prints and Photographs division at the Library of Congress. This site is dedicated to the most frequently requested topics, such as:

  • the American Civil War
  • the Civil Rights Movement
  • Ellis Island immigration scenes
  • women workers during World War II
  • and many more


This site only includes photos and illustrations that have no known restrictions.


Attribution is not required since the images have no known restrictions. For academic work, remember that you still need to cite your sources properly. Click the About This Item link to see full details about a photo or illustration.

Above: New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid... (1921) from the Library of Congress.

National Gallery of Art

Painting of Ralph Wheelock's Farm, by Francis Alexander, c.1822



The National Gallery of Art offers 45,000 high-resolution images from its collection. American folk art and decorative art are especially well covered here because images from the Index of American Design are being added (18,000 images as of January 2015.)


"With the launch of NGA Images, the National Gallery of Art implements an open access policy for digital images of works of art that the Gallery believes to be in the public domain. Images of these works are now available free of charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial. Users do not need to contact the Gallery for authorization to use these images."


Your search may also retrieve records with text only, or text with a tiny thumbnail image, for works which are still protected by copyright. To filter these out of your results, click Open Access Available on the lower right corner of the Advanced Search. This is just a way to speed up your search; if a high-resolution download is provided, then the image is available for use.


Works in the public domain do not require attribution, but you must cite your sources for academic projects. Use the magnifying glass icon  Magnifying glass icon  for full details on a work.

Ralph Wheelock's Farm, Francis Alexander (c.1822) from the National Gallery of Art.

The Noun Project

Shark warning iconRocket iconHorse icon



Graphic designers may upload icons on any topic to The Noun Project. Subject matter is unlimited.


To download, you must create a free account. To use an icon with attribution, there is no charge. To use the icon without attribution, you must pay a royalty fee. As of January 2015, the fee is $1.99 for a single image or $9.99 a month for unlimited downloads.


When you download an icon for free to use with attribution, the image will include the attribution line. If you do pay to use the icon without attribution, you must still cite it properly in academic projects.

Above, from left: shark warning designed by Okan Benn; rocket designed by Rémy Médard; horse designed by N.K. Narasimhan; all from the Noun Project.

Open Clip Art

Don't Shoot! iconJe Suis Charlie iconHeartbleed virus icon



Open Clip Art offers about 65,000 pieces of clip art created and uploaded by members. Compared to The Noun Project (above) the quality of the material varies: some contributors upload their freehand drawing exercises and other experiments, and some of the "collections" started by contributors contain only one item.

However, Open Clip Art has a greater variety of drawing styles (including items with color) and more material related to pop culture and current events.


Everything on Open Clip Art is available for unlimited use, including all commercial uses.


Attribution is not required. Remember that for an academic project you will still need to cite your sources.

"Don't shoot" clip art by worker; "Je suis Charlie" clip art by mondspeer; "Heartbleed virus" clip art by jonphillips; all from Open Clip Art.

Rijksmuseum: The Museum of the Netherlands

Detail of Still Life with Flowers in a Glass



The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam offers 125,000 images of its works through the Rijksstudio.


There are no restrictions on using images from the Rijksstudio.

To download you must set up a free Rijksstudio account. Then you can search for works, create and share custom collections, order a poster reproduction, and download high-resolution images.


The Rijksstudio does not appear to require attribution when you use its images for your own project, but you will still need to cite the work properly in academic projects. Below the title, artist, and date for each work, a "More details" link will take you to the museum's full record, including a permanent URL.

Above: detail of Jan Davidz. de Heem, Still Life with Flowers in a Glass, from the Rijksmuseum.

Wikimedia Commons

Frog seated on forest floor



Wikimedia Commons offers more than 24 million images, sounds, and video clips. Anyone can contribute to the collection, so the subject matter is unlimited. The image material includes both photos and illustrations.


All material on Wikimedia Commons is available for re-use under one of three license categories:


See the attribution requirements associated with the Creative Commons or GNU Free Documentation License for the work you want to use. For public domain works, no attribution is required, but remember that for an academic project you must still cite your sources.

Above: Rana temporaria in nature park in Trhoň, Rokycany District, Czech Republic, by Petr Brož. Creative Commons license CC BY 3.0.

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