There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
But there are many ways to find totally gratis, high-quality assets to use in your commercial projects. At Adobe Create, we keep our eyes peeled for archives of beautiful images, videos, and fonts in the public domain. The following list will direct you to thousands of wonderful things you can download, re-purpose, and exploit without the fear of copyright-infringement notices.
So go forth, explore, and create. (But just to be safe, always check a website’s terms and conditions to make sure their rules haven’t changed, before using an image you downloaded from the Internet.)
1. The Smithsonian
Rejoice! The Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution images from its collections onto an open access online platform. The archive includes historical material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and even the National Zoo. Now anyone can peruse and download images free of charge.
2. The Museums of the City of Paris
There are more than 130 museums in Paris, France. Fourteen of the best are part of “Paris Musées,” and most are free to visitors. Extending their generosity to creators, the Museums of the City of Paris have released a collection of more than 150,000 images into the public domain, including fine art, lithographs, and posters.
3. Yale Center for British Art
The majority of art in Yale’s collection of British works is in the public domain, so it’s fair game. You can easily download thousands of paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, rare books, and manuscripts. Included in the archive are works by Turner, handsome Vanity Fair prints, and various watercolor images of birds.
Rawpixel selects and digitally enhances public domain content from many well-known institutions, but a large portion of its public domain images have been digitized from their own collection of old books and chromolithographic plates. Their high-resolution creative commons images are available with a CC0 License, which basically means they’re free.
5. Library of Congress Film
The Library of Congress has long been a favorite place for creatives to find public domain images. But lesser known is its library of moving images. You can search the archive for films of cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance—including the 1936 cartoon “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor.” Almost all of the streaming films in the new online collection are in the public domain, and easy to download.
7. Prelinger Archives
New York’s Prelinger Archives hold more than 60,000 advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films. Their website advises: “You are warmly encouraged to download, use, and reproduce these films in whole or in part.” Begging to be repurposed into modern music videos are: vintage exercise movies, Cold War cartoons, and even an intriguing 1950s instructional film called “Dating: Do’s and Don’ts.”
8. Public Domain Review
The Public Domain Review is dedicated to the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas. The site dutifully keeps creatives abreast of the latest works to have tumbled into the public domain, as well as other out-of-copyright material that’s free to enjoy, share, and build upon without restrictions.