Resources for Finding Public Domain Images

We at CGPS are constantly working with visuals to make our online courses more engaging. Often, this means searching the Internet for images with suitable licensing for reuse, or most often for images that are in the public domain. UNE isn’t an ad-agency; it is a school. And while it is important that we maintain a budget for making what we do as pretty as possible, our primary job is to educate future professionals. So it’s important that we be able to find images that are not only good looking but also appropriately licensed for our use. More often than not, this means using images that are in the public domainthereby freeing us of the obligation to pay anyone for the right to use them.

It is in this context that we’ve decided to share with you some of the great online resources for finding images that are in the public domain. These could be useful for online instructors looking to spice up their course announcements with an image or two, or even for when the explanation of a concept is simply much more easily made with supplemental visuals. Students, as well, should be more aware of the wealth within the public domain, as it is essentially an online library of images entirely at their fingertips.


Pixabay is the resource that I most often return to. It’s very easy to adjust search parameters until you’ve found exactly the image that you’re looking for, even vector images for Adobe Illustrator. Pixabay’s library of images is largely contemporary, ranging from stock-style and natural photography to clip-art style illustrations.

Getty Open Images

Getty’s search tools are incredibly robust, and play on the strengths of the Getty image library’s historical focus. Really, if you think there is an old photograph or illustration that may be pertinent to your subject, look here. You will be surprised by what they have.

Flickr Commons

Flickr is an interesting addition to this list, as the images there are supplied by everyday users. This is both a strength and a weakness. Searching the Flickr public domain (be sure to check that in the search parameters!) image library can be, by turns, incredibly frustrating or rewarding. The quality of images varies greatly, as does their style.

Public Domain Review

Finally, the Public Domain Review is less concerned with providing users a robust search engine than it is with curating an interesting collection of media (not just images). The images come with very careful citations and write-ups that provide a great deal of context for where they come from.

If you have other resources that you commonly use, please write them in the comments below. Or get back to us regarding your experience using the resources above!

Please see our previous posts about other options for images, Another Safe Source of High Quality Copyright-Free Images and Images You Can Use in Your Course or Project Without Breaking the Copyright Law*.

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