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. Adobe Stock provides provides monthly subscription access to the huge Fotolia collection within Adobe Photoshop and other Creative Cloud apps.

Shutterstock now has an inexpensive subscription service that rivals Adobe Stock, as well as its non-subscription site, BigstockPhoto. Both offer very high quality images for reasonable prices. Another ginormous and useful collection is offered by 123RF, which offers credit packs at comparable prices to other services.

Occasionally, I’ve found a lovely image, like the tree frog (left) or peas-in-a-pod (below), in the (sadly now extinct) Microsoft Office Images, which was replaced in Office 2013 and Office 2016 by an Online Pictures button and/or the Pickit app. Install Pickit on your PC and then insert it as an Add-In to Office 365 (Word, PowerPoint, or Excel).

In addition to iStock and Fotolia, I’ve purchased more than a few inexpensive “image pack” deals from Depositphotos a huge repository of royalty-free images with an international audience. It’s been a lifesaver for blog images and volunteer projects.

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. Be aware that you cannot use “wallpaper” images, which are licensed for personal use only on your phone, tablet, or PC, on websites, blogs, or email newsletters. Doing so is a violation of copyright and illegal distribution of such images. Many wallpaper images are also available in stock photo services. If you find wallpaper photos on Google or Bing, use “search by image” or Tineye to find out their origins in stock or collections.

Use “search by image” in Google images or Tineye to find image sources instead of illegally ripping-off images that other people have created or licensed. Most of the images found by search engines are protected by copyright. Remember that attribution does not equal permission and does not substitute for licensing stock images for your own use!

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.

In recent years, Pixabay has emerged as one of the most widely-used and recognized source of free images. Similar services include Pexels and Pixeden. If you need clipart, try Openclipart, AllFreeClipart, or Classroom Clipart.

If, as many people, you use Google Images or Bing Images, limit searches by license type to find images designated as “available for reuse” or “reuse with modification.” If looking for stock images, use the name of a stock image company in your search to find images quickly. For images on government sites, focus the search by including “” or a federal government domain, such as “” (Library of Congress).

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 some 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