free clip art and web contentFill your website with good quality content on the cheap.

Clients often ask us where we get our images from. We’re a small design shop and most of our clients are not-for-profit, startups, or small businesses with even smaller budgets. Because of our personal project, we’ve become adept at finding copyright-free imagery. We pay little (up to $10) or nothing for the images we use on this project. It helps that I’ve been a graphic designer since the pre-computer (dinosaur) age and have stacks of old books, print clip art like Dover (only available on CD-ROM and as print, not downloadable) and digital clip art like the Art Explosion collection. Art Explosion stuff is not necessarily high-quality, but oftentimes with a little editing in Adobe Illustrator, they can work well.

Some great free resources are:

Wikimedia Commons, a database of freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute., a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more.

The Public Domain Review, film, audio, books and images from the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Library of Congress, print, pictorial and audio-visual collections and other digital services.

Also check out this blog post from for a listing of free stock photography resources: A Collection of 30+ Free Stock Photo Sites

I particularly like for location-based photography.

Images that we pay for come from the following sources, from cheapest to most expensive. — the prices of their images range from $1 – $12 dollars for a standard license (which always covers our needs). Most images that are suitable for online at 346 x 346 are only $1. — I liked this better when it was cheaper and not owned by Getty Images, but it’s still a great resource for copyright-free photography, illustration, video, animation and audio. — Getty has been around forever (see dinosaur above) and is mostly known for their editorial content. This is the description from their Wikipedia page: Getty Images, Inc. is an American stock photo agency, based in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is a supplier of stock images for business and consumers with an archive of 80 million still images and illustrations and more than 50,000 hours of stock film footage. It targets three markets—creative professionals (advertising and graphic design), the media (print and online publishing), and corporate (in-house design, marketing and communication departments).

With sources like Getty Images, there are different levels of usage rights you can buy, and a lot depends on how you use them. It’s rare that we buy rights-managed instead of copyright-free. If there’s a specific image that Getty Images has, like a historic image, that fits our needs and budget, we will buy rights-managed. I often find for what you pay for rights managed, you can hire a photographer/videographer and own the content with no restrictions on it’s use.

With all that said, I know of some “professionals” who use images without regard to copyright. I think this is a bad idea, it puts my company and my client at risk of a copyright infringement lawsuit that I don’t have the time or money for. I also think artists should get paid for their work. Getty Images and other content owners scan the internet constantly looking for people using their images that haven’t paid for them. They will find you and they will pursue you.

Happy hunting, and let us know what your sources are for free and cheap content.