A guide to the best free sites for cc0 art and stock photography

I recently wrote a guide for my library's blog on the best sites for high quality, free, and public domain images. I've recreated part of it below.

These sites are hugely useful for marketing purposes, as you can use them in websites, posters, slides, on social media (but NOT insta! That needs your own photos on...) and so on, completely legally and without shelling out any cash.

The sites listed below contain images which have been made Creative Commons Zero (also known as CCO) by their creators, are available to use by anyone, however they like. The images are in the Public Domain and can be reproduced, incorporated into other works, modified, and reused, without needing permission and in most cases without even needing to credit the author.

Free to use stock photography


Pexels is the CC0 site I go to first when creating slides or websites. It's good on technology particularly, but covers loads of areas well, with stock photography that is far above the average stock shots. It has tens of thousands of pictures, including the ability to search by colour, and also has a sister site dedicated to CC0 video.

A selection of images found using's colour browsing facility

A selection of images found using's colour browsing facility


Once you start using CC0 image sites you get used to seeing the same stock photography appearing on many of them (it comes with the territory, as the fact that the copyright has no restrictions means any site can pick them up and use them - you could start an image bank right now using CC0 images if you wanted to), but Stocksnap seems to have a few more pictures which are unique to it. Thanks to Hilary and Luke who showed me this at the PPRG conference. Here's the 'recently added images' from today:

The most recent additons to

The most recent additons to

Nappy describes itself as “Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people. For free” and this is a rare thing: stock photography is often VERY white. Thank you to @AgentK23 for giving me the heads-up about this site.

Photos from the ‘Work’ category of

Photos from the ‘Work’ category of (that's the actual URL as well as the name) searches through lots of other CC0 sites in one go, including the excellent UnSplash. As well searching by keyword you can browse by colour, collection, or original source.

Images from the 'Glare' category of

Images from the 'Glare' category of

Interestingly after I tweeted this, Unsplash got in touch with a reply, and pointed out that only searches a relatively small percentage of their photos:

I had no idea this was the case! So, worth going direct to too.


For some pictures that are about as far away from tired stock photography cliches as it is possible to get, head over to Gratisography. Quirky, odd images, of extremely high resolution and quality, free to use in any way you see fit. There's really nothing quite like it.

Gratisography. Not your average stock photography site

Gratisography. Not your average stock photography site


A new site for me is RawPixel. They got in touch after reading an earlier version of this guide and I'm happy to include them - if you work in design this site must be a godsend. There's a real variety here, not just in terms of the images but the way they're grouped and organised - check out the Boards section to see what I mean. Just for this image alone I will be using their site again - images of teaching seem to be almost impossible to find!

Finally a decent image of 'teaching' happening! And they've ever-so-helpfully left a lovely big copyspace on the board for you to write in whatever you like...

Finally a decent image of 'teaching' happening! And they've ever-so-helpfully left a lovely big copyspace on the board for you to write in whatever you like...


These aren't cc0 - they're Creative Commons Attribution - but I wanted to include them because they're a set of tech-focussed images focusing on BAME protagonists. It's great that UKBlackTech have made these available for free.

Download these images at

Download these images at

Free to use art and artwork imagery

An absolute ruddy masterpiece, from 1565, available to you, reader, to do with as you please, thanks to The Met

An absolute ruddy masterpiece, from 1565, available to you, reader, to do with as you please, thanks to The Met

  • New York Met

    375,000 images of artworks from The Met's collection to use, share, and remix without restriction. And it's the New York Met, so they have some of the most famous paintings in the world, like Bruegel's The Harvestors from 1565. 

  • Walters Art Museum

    Because the Walters owns or has jurisdiction over the objects in its collection and owns or customarily obtains the rights to any imaging of its collection objects, it has adopted the Creative Commons Zero: No Rights Reserved or CC0 license to waive copyright and allow for unrestricted use of digital images and metadata by any person, for any purpose.

  • Riks Museum Amsterdam

    The Dutch Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam has opened its collection to the public with the majority of its photographed artwork being released under a CC0+ license that requires attribution. You must create a free account in order to download.

  • Getty Museum

    Thousands of images of artworks are available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program. Look for the Download button under the image.

  • Yale Center for British Art

    The Center provides free and open access to images of works in the public domain and certain other materials, and hopes to encourage further the use and reuse of its public domain resources by all who may have access to them.

  • Europeana Collections

    Europeana provides an extraordinary 8 million images which are completely free to re-use, covering the areas of Art, Fashion, Maps & Geography, Migration, Natural History, Music and others.

If you have any more suggestions for great CC0 sites, let me know with a comment below and we'll add them to the list.

Creating images with copy-space for text

This post originally appeared on the Lib-Innovation blog.

As always things have changed in my library over the summer, and we needed some new images to reflect our reconfigured rooms, new signage and new services. We're very fortunate to have easy access to the University photographer Paul Sheilds, who is based in our Morrell Library building, so we booked a morning with him.

We had very specific needs in mind, based on a list we'd drawn up to suit what I wanted for our Induction Project, what my Academic Liaison colleague David Brown wanted for the new LibGuides and what the Comms Team needed. In particular I was really keen to get photos with copy-space.

Copy-space literally means a space to write 'copy' in the newspaper meaning of the word - in other words an area of the image which is less busy and which could be written upon without obscuring a key part of the picture.

In essence I wanted to be able to write directly onto the images (for use in slides, posters, digital screens and social media) without having either a separate area for text, or a back-filled text box - because I think it looks smarter that way and because it allows the images to be full screen at all times. It's a lot easier to do this when the images are captured with that in mind from the outset.

Here are some examples - these are works-in-progress that I'm playing around with for the forthcoming #UoYTips Induction campaign for 2016/17 at my institution. They won't look exactly like this in the final versions but the copy-text principle will remain.

We have borrowable laptops which I wanted to showcase. I've added a piece of text to the copy-space:

Here's an example of an image of the same lockers which is a great pic but which doesn't have copy-space built in (making it a little less flexible to work with in marketing):

It would be possible to write on this of course, but you'd need to manipulate the image to ensure the text was legible, or used a back-filled text box.

Next up is a picture of the copy-print-scan machines - the copy-space in this case being the underside of the lid. I did experiment with having the text at an angle to match it but it looked a little clunky so I went with good old fashioned horizontal text for this one...

Here's a picture of a student - by not putting her centre of the frame (and by conforming to the rule of thirds) we've made space for the text.

Finally here's an example where despite leaving copy-space the background is too busy to write directly onto - the text wouldn't be clear enough. There's a neat divide where the wall ends, so I've inserted a shape over everything to the left of the wall, to make the copy-space more clearly defined. I did this in PowerPoint - inserting the rectangle, filling it black, then making the fill 19% transparent. The white text is clearly visible against it, and the focus of the image (the walls you can write on) is still clear and uncluttered.

A handy guide for when to save images as JPEGs, PNGs or GIFs


Thanks to David Green for flagging up this infographic on Twitter - I found it useful because I tend to use a mixture of JPEG and PNG with saving images, with not much understanding of why I'm choosing what I'm choosing...

JPEGs reduce the size of an image by compressing it - making the image less detailed and so the file-size smaller, but effectively doing so in a way which the human notices least. This is important for web-use as everything each viewer of your website has to download - which is to say, have appear on their screen, rather than save to their computer - takes up bandwidth, and bandwidth costs money. One of the reasons I switched over to Squarespace from is the unlimited bandwidth meaning I don't have to worry about upgrading my package to accommodate more.

PNG files can be transparent - they don't have to have a white (or black, or any other colour) background. This is truly useful because they can 'sit' on top of any background - so for organisatinal logos for example, it's essential to be able to drop them in over any kind of poster or slides or publicity materials, without an ugly white background delineating the logo from the rest of the content. PNG files generally take up more space than JPEGs but keep their quality better by not compressing the file in a lossy way. This is useful for something like uploading an image to Twitter; Twitter compresses the image, so an already compressed image can start to look really quite rough by the time it a Twitter user sees it.

GIFs I use a lot but never really have cause to make. They generally take up the least space and work better for created graphics rather than photographs.

After the recent posts on which format to choose when saving presentations, and which sizes to use when saving social media images, it seems only right to complete the set with one on how to save pictures too! So courtesy of, here we are:

5 fun things to do with Flickr


We all love Flickr, and one of the great things about it is its extensive API is open to programmers who create new ways of interacting with the site. Here are five examples I like of using flickr in creative ways, but not directly via flickr itself.

Write words with Flickr

The Spell with Flickr site ( allows you to input text and get your words or sentence back written in pictures of letters. So for the image below I typed in 'hello flickr fans' and it came up with this:

Click the pic to open Spell with Flickr in a new window

Click the pic to open Spell with Flickr in a new window

What's nice about the site is you can click on any letter and it will replace it with another example, so you play with the aesthetic until it suits what you need. When I've used this (on the front of this slide deck for example) I've taken a print screen and chopped the words up into separate images, so I could arrange them in a way that suited me rather than as the site provides them.


Find only the outstanding images on Flickr

Lurvely ( works by choosing only pictures from Flickr's 'interesting' streams, which have been favourited by lots of other flickr users. You're left with some pretty outstanding photograpy.

Click the pic to open Lurvely in a new window

Click the pic to open Lurvely in a new window

Search Flickr by colour

I've mentioned the Multicolr Search Engine ( on this blog before - I absolutely love it. Put up to five colours into the engine and it brings back an extraordinary amount of Creative Commons pictures which match those colours. You can then move the sliders around to reduce or increase the amount of each colour in the pictures it finds. Hours of fun!

Click the pic to open the Multicolr Search Engine in a new window

Click the pic to open the Multicolr Search Engine in a new window

Use a sketch or image to find similarly constructed images on Flickr

An odd one, this; retrievr ( allows you to upload your own image - or, more intriguingly, make a sketch there and then using your mouse - and then it finds images of a similar construction. With, it must be said, varying degrees of success! I put in the lightbulb logo from this site's homepage, and here's what it found. Needless to say my favourite is the dog on the top row:

Click the pic to open Retrievr in a new window

Click the pic to open Retrievr in a new window

Make a jigsaw out of a Flickr pic

And finally... If you have a super unexciting picture or screengrab, perhaps it would be livened up by being jigsawified? Maybe..?

Click the pic to open the Jigsaw creator in a new window

Click the pic to open the Jigsaw creator in a new window

If you know of any other interesting or fun flickr tools, let me know in a comment.

(The picture in the header is a Creative Commons flickr image by Zanthia.)