Skip to Main Content

Images--How to Find, Use and Cite

Where to Find Open Images

There are many places online to find free images that you can use. To be safe, remember to always double-check the licensing conditions of individual items. Here are some sites that we recommend:


Openverse, formerly Creative Commons Search
A meta-search tool that searches across more than 300 million images (and soon also audio and video). Can be used to find CC-licensed and public domain images on Google Images, Wikimedia, Europeana, etc. 

Flickr Creative Commons Search
Look under the “Additional Info” on an image page for licensing info and terms of use

Pixabay, Pexels and Unsplash
Free high-resolution stock photos depicting a wide variety of subjects. 

Wikimedia Commons
20 million freely usable image, sound, and video files. All files are Public Domain or CC-licensed. Check the “Licensing” section for an image to find any terms and conditions for reuse / instructions on attribution.

UBC Library
UBC Library curates a great list of places to find Openly licensed and Public Domain materials. Pay attention to the different columns of use: whether in the LMS (Moodle) or on a public site.

Finding Openly Licensed Images on Google

It is possible to narrow your Google search by type of license. Here are the steps:

  1. Go to Google search at
  2. Before you do your search, look for Settings (may be in different places depending on your browser and browser version)
  3. Choose Advanced Search from the settings menu
  4. Scroll down the page to the Usage Rights drop down. You should see 5 options where you can choose to narrow by different type of license.
  5. Select the Creative Commons licenses option and then perform your search.

Which Library Subscription Databases are Good Sources of Images?

ARTstor: KPU has a subscription to ARTstor which provides access to over a million high-resolution digital images from the areas of architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts and design as well as presentation creation tools for teaching.   Available from the Research Databases link on the Library website,

Permitted uses for ARTstor images include: classroom handouts, presentations, research and student assignments, password protected course websites and display in seminars and lectures. For a detailed list of permitted and non-permitted uses, see

Oxford Art Online: A virtual art reference library, with biographies, subject entries and images, on all aspects of visual arts. (also called Grove Art Online) Primal Pictures Online anatomy reference featuring more than 6,500 highly accurate 3-D anatomy models. Modules focus on individual organs, regions and systems.

Note: Images from subscription databases should not be posted on a public website.

What Sites Provide Good Sources of Images?

There are many other places to look for images to use in presentation slides, portfolio material, course website or teaching materials. 

Check the terms of use for each resource, as some have restrictions (e.g. non-commercial, attribution) or terms may change without notice. Where use is permitted you should always include a statement of attribution (source of image, photographer, owner of work as appropriate) with the image.

Art Images for College Teaching (AICT)  Images of art and architectural works that you can browse by time period and/or geographic location. Images are dedicated to the public domain, so they can be freely used. They don't legally have to be attributed, but this is best practice regardless.

The Artefacts Canada database contains close to 4 million object records and approximately 800,000 images from Canadian museums. Includes a Humanities and a Natural Sciences database. Follow the links on different images to find out about reuse permissions.

Bigfoto is a royalty-free photo agency that offers free downloads of pictures in a massive collection.

Chronicling America  is a website providing access to information about historic U.S. newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). NDNP, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC), is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages.

Compfight  An image search engine tailored to efficiently locate images for blogs, comps, inspiration, and research. They use a Flickr™ API, but aren't affiliated with Flickr. When you run a search, click Creative Commons from the left-side menu.

EOL Encyclopedia of Life  Includes over 1 million images. Focus is on the biological sciences. Each image carries its own terms of use and attribution details.

Earth Science World Image Bank  Geoscience images from the American Geosciences Institute, which can be used for educational non-commercial purposes. Citation requirements are provided on the Image Use section of the site.

Free Images UK is an archive of stock photography for use in websites, printed materials and products. Images are provided free of charge for both commercial and personal use under an attribution license.   All images in the collection are free to use on websites, printed materials and anywhere you need photos for illustration and design use. Check Terms of image.

Google's Art Project is a collaboration between Google and 151 acclaimed art partners from across 40 countries.  Allows users to explore museums from around the world online, discover and view hundreds of artworks at brushstroke levels, and create and share their own collections. Over 30,000 works of art from sculpture to architecture and drawings presented in high resolution imagery. Artworks featured on the art project site are owned by the museums, and these images may be subject to copyright laws around the world.  The Art Project encourages classroom use, but states that users may not print the images, except for the educational materials provided.

IAN Image and Video Library  Particularly good for science topics. Includes custom made vector symbols designed specifically for enhancing science topics. Cost-free for any use, with attribution, except redistribution or sales.

The Image Gallery of the Virtual Museum of Canada showcases thousands of artefacts, photos, paintings and objects from Canadian museums. Amongst others, it contains the works of the Group of Seven, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Emily Carr and many other great artists. The terms of use allow non-commercial, educational and personal use of the images granted you cite the Virtual Museum of Canada as the source institution and if possible, link to the page containing the information.

Images Canada  Search the collections of participating archives, libraries, museums and universities from across Canada. Host sites allow for images to be used for non-commercial purposes. Citation requirements are stated on the Images Canada site.

Imaggeo is an online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Images posted here have a personalised Copyright under the CC-BY-NC-SA

Luna Commons is a repository of images freely available to anyone over the Web.

morgueFile Free Photo Archive  Stock photos that require no fees and no attribution. See permissions details on the morgueFile license page.

National Gallery of Art Images  Over 25,000 open access digital images from the US National Gallery of Art, with many famous works included. NGA's Open Access Policy encourages wide use and provides details on permissions.

Pics4Learning  Copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students. For details see P4L's image use policy.

US Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library  Most of the images in this searchable database are in the public domain; those that are not specify permitted uses and attribution.

World Digital Library (created by UNESCO) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. The WDL aims to promote international and intercultural understanding; expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet; provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences; and build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide between countries.