Photoshop and Illustrator are great for making banners, backgrounds, and other images that create the ambiance for a website. I enjoy working with these programs. Nevertheless, I’m not a photographer and I’m better at making some types of images than others. So, where can you find images or elements that can be incorporated into other images without spending a fortune?

There are many image resources for design projects. iStockPhoto is an excellent resource for projects that require high quality photographs or illustrations. Fotolia sometimes has just what I’m looking for, and there are some amazing photographers and graphic artists there, too. Once in a while, I can find a lovely image, like the tree frog (left) or peas-in-a-pod (below), in the Microsoft Office Images collection search. Along with the retro clipart, a search may turn up some good photos, even excellent freebies from the big supply houses.

In addition to iStock and Fotolia, I’ve purchased images from Depositphotos and Dreamstime, both large repositories of royalty-free images with an international audience.

If money is no object, Getty and Corbis images are top notch. In my case, money is an object, but I have standards, so I avoid the free clipart sites. When I go to iStockPhoto, I always find high quality images that can be resized or edited without turning to mush. For resizing and masking, I like the Perfect Photo Suite Photoshop plugin by OnOne Software.

Peas in a podStock images are usually priced as credits. Prices for credits vary. Credits cost more at iStockPhoto than Fotolia.  There are more 1 and 2 credit images at Fotolia, and more exclusive images at iStockPhoto. Vector illustrations, which can be resized without loss of quality, are more expensive than photos. Vectors are extremely handy for backgrounds and isolated elements. They usually run between 8 and 15 credits at iStock and 4 to 8 credits at Fotolio.

Free Images

For personal projects and some commercial projects, it’s worth looking into public domain images, which can be reused by anyone, free stock images, and Creative Commons sources.

Visit PublicDomainPictures for copyright-free images. Many images on U.S. Federal Government sites are public domain. After all, you paid for them with tax dollars.

RGBStock offers free stock images for personal and commercial use. Users must register, but they do not ask for anything but your name and email address. Allowed usage is very generous and equivalent to a standard license on many stock photo sites. Read the license. I’m very impressed with the quality of images offered and found several gorgeous photos on this site. Definitely worth a visit.

FreeImages (formerly StockXchng) is owned by Getty Images, with a tie-in to iStockPhoto. Membership and terms of use are similar to that of RGBStock.

Hugo - Maine Coon cat

Hugo, the Maine Coon from PhotoPin

The most generous Creative Commons licenses are CC0 (Public Domain Dedication/copyright waiver) and CC By (Attribution required). The CC By license may also allow derivative works as long as you give credit to the artist.

Wikimedia Commons offers licensed and public domain images. Quality varies, but there are some very nice images available

Unsplash is a spectacular resource for high-resolution CC0 images that you can use however you want. offers many excellent images with a CC By Unported license for personal or commercial usage. When used commercially, they suggest a link back.

You can search for CC images on Flickr and other social image-sharing sites. Try the Photo Pin service to search Flickr CC for non-commercial images, select size, copy required attribution link, and download. The photo of Hugo the Maine Coon cat is from Photo Pin.

Photo credit: stevegarfield via photopin cc