1st Dec, 13
Category: Creative, Design
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5 Best Places to Download Public Domain and Out of Copyright Images


I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of stories about how copyright law has enabled people in the creative industries protect their work from theft by other less reputable artists, designers, musicians, writers, etc. Well you’ll be pleased to know that copyright law can help creatives in another completely different way.

You see, copyright has a time limit on how long it lasts. Usually that time limit applies after the death of the artist, author, etc. For example, in the UK, a piece of art, music or writing loses its copyright protection 70 years after the copyright owner’s death. This means that once the 70 years has passed, the work becomes public domain and free to use and edit for personal purposes and, most importantly of all, commercial purposes.
Of course, 70 years isn’t the limit all across the world. As you would expect, different countries have different copyright laws. To see a full list of how copyright lengths apply around the world, see this very informative Wikipedia page.

So here you go, here are the five best places I could find to download public domain and out of copyright images. Have at it!

Public Domain Review

A project brought to life by the Open Knowledge Foundation, this great site allows you to search images by categories such as media type and even the century it was created. If that wasn’t enough for you history buffs, it even gives you some historical information on the images!

Vintage Printable

Vintage Printable isn’t as easy to navigate and to find specific images than Public Domain Review but its daily galleries (which can be found on their blog) are especially interesting. For example, this post which contains art nouveau and art nouveau related images.

Reusable Art

Unfortunately while Reusable Art has some great categories like alphabet & letter sets, some of them are quite low resolution. On the bright side though, they do their best to let you know where the image came from. So if you really love an image and want to use it, you have a (usually book) title to go from in your search for the original.


Wikimedia Commons

As usual, the offering by the guys behind Wikipedia is one of the best. There are images, videos and printed works from across history and across the world; all helpfully categorised into a multitude of helpful areas such as country, continent, specific publications, etc. The only downfall (and it is a very minor one!) is that if you chose a piece of work that a Wikimedia user has created, there may be specific licensing requirements such as attribution and the like. That said, the majority of the historical images and works are out of copyright and therefore free to use as you please.

Creative Commons

If you’re into more modern images than the previous historical, out of copyright offerings, Creative Commons may be more your thing. These works are licensed by the creators in such a way that allows other creatives the use of these works provided they keep to the requirements set by the specific license. For example, you may need to provide credit to the creator (attribution) or share your image under the same licence (sharealike). Although, with a bit of searching, you can find great images that fit your needs perfectly.

Do you know something we don’t? Got any other great image resources hidden up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments below!

About Karl Gookey

Freelance designer passionate in all forms of design. Throughout recent years I have worked in both a leading Chelmsford design agency and independently for varied clients around the world mainly specialising in branding, print and front end web design.