Where to find public domain images

One of the most challenging aspects of creating a game is finding art. This article contains excellent sources of free and public domain art online. (Check out this article if you’re looking for fantasy stock art.)

There are always rules associated with the use of images, and the rules can change. Always be sure you understand the restrictions before you use an image in your project. Just because it’s on this list, doesn’t mean you don’t need to check.

  • Wikimedia Commons – The Wikimedia Foundation (the people that run Wikipedia) maintain a massively-searchable directory of “freely usable media files that anyone can use.” This is probably the most comprehensive site, but the search function takes some getting used to.
  • Pixabay.com – Pixabay is a “collection of stunning free images and royalty-free stock.” It’s easy to use, with a range of images.
  • Unsplash – Unsplash is “the internet’s source of freely-usable images.” The photography is gorgeous and it’s the best user experience out of any site on this list. However, it’s dedicated to photography so it is not always the right fit for game projects.
  • Public Domain Paintings – this site can be a powerful resource for a game developer or author, since it’s a massive directory of paintings.
  • Old Book Illustrations – This beautiful site of old illustrations is easily searchable and was put together with care. The terms of use are quite opaque, however. Make sure you read them carefully.
  • Vintage Illustrations – This easily-searchable database contains a large collection of images under the “public domain creative commons CC0 license”.

Again, always check the restrictions on images before using them. Even free and public domain images can have restrictions.

Having said that, the sites above are particularly helpful resources for game designers. They should help you cut through the clutter as you build your product.

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