My Top 6 Free Photo Reference Resources for Art and Design




Creating something from scratch needs a lot of imagination and creativity. We all are inspired by many things around us in everyday life. Nature, architecture, technology and house hold items are some of the sources of inspiration. But there are times when an artist or an illustration is looking for high quality images of the places or objects which are not readily available to them at that moment.

Internet has brought so many amazing resources for us to explore the world and its beauty in just a few clicks. In this post I am going to list some of the top resources and websites that provide a plenty of inspiring images in various subjects like flowers, architecture, food, botanicals, animal and what not. Some of the websites provide royalty free images which you can use for reference in your work for free. I will still recommend, not to exactly copy from those images. Just try to use your creativity and make some tweaks and then make your art.


So here are the websites I always look at when I am looking for some good reference images for my artwork.


  1. Unsplash : Unsplash is an amazing library of free high resolution images provided by people from around the world. You can download the high resolution images and use them. However as I mentioned earlier, it is always best to manipulate and make your own composition and then go ahead with you art. But if you are just using the images for fun and practice, the go ahead with them as is.

  2. Pixabay: Pixabay is another library of images just like Unsplash. It has more than 1 million stock photos.

  3. Pexels : I recently came across Pexels and found it very interesting with so many amazing high resolution images. This website also has a large number of videos which are free to use. Just read the license before using them in your work.

  4. Burst by Shopify: Shopify provides Burst which is just like the above 3 websites. It has a large number of high resolution images free to use in personal and commercial projects.

  5. Canva: Canva is another cool platform for getting free images, creating designs, thumbnails and much more. This is an easy to use tool for artists and graphic designers who do not use any fancy tools like photoshop.

  6. Pinterest: Pinterest is one of my top sources of inspiration for my art. The reason why I am listing the last is because it is not like the other websites I mentioned above. Pinterest is basically a search engine. You can pin any image you like and save it in your personalized boards. It works like a pin board and you can anytime come back and see your picks. One thing I want to mention here is that the images on Pinterest are not free to use. So I just take 2-3 images of same subject, make my own composition and then paint.

If you are interested in getting some inspiration, I have a wonderful collection of pins organized in different boards on my Pinterest. You can have a look and pin your favorites in your boards.




Watercolor Supplies I Recommend for Beginners

Arteza 36 Watercolor Pan Set



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Procreate Brushes
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