There are many places, especially on the internet, where you can find images to use in your own creative work. Some provide these images for free, while others aren’t so free. I know you want to hear about the free ones because, hey, who doesn’t like free? But, it’s best to cover all the angles, so we need to talk about times when you have to spend some money.
First up, the sources that cost money. If you decide to go the stock, royalty-free or rights-managed route, you will most likely need to purchase a license.
The term stock is most often associated with photography, aka “stock photography.” Stock photography is usually provided at an affordable price for people to use so that they don’t need to hire a professional photographer, or attempt to shoot the images themselves.
Royalty-free artwork is usually something that is purchased once, and can then be used freely wherever and as often as the buyer desires. While very cost-effective (yay), a big problem that you can run into is that other people may have purchased the same piece, and could be using it in a completely different way that could affect the message or presence of your work.
Rights-managed artwork works in a similar way to royalty-free, except that for each use, the art must be purchased again. This method helps the artist who created the original work to manage who is using their work and for what more efficiently, but from a financial standpoint, it’s not the best for the consumer.
Okay, now it’s time for the free stuff. Free. Such a nice word.
Anyway, the best way to find content that is free in cost and free to use is by using the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons provides a variety of modified copyrights that allow people like you and me to use the creative work of others, with their permission (and for free!). There are four types of CC licenses: attribution (original artist must be credited), non-commercial (user cannot make a profit off of the CC work), no-derivatives (the CC work cannot be edited) and share-alike (CC content can be edited, but edited pieces must still be credited with original artist). The linked video explains the four licenses in greater detail, plus there’s a cute drawing of a kiwi bird in it!
Sites like flickr and the Creative Commons website itself allow you to search for images, sound, music, and many other forms of media–that’s right, there’s other creative content out there for your use other than images–that are under a Creative Commons license. The Creative Commons allows you to Get Creative! (that was a shameless way to link to that video, I’m sorry)
One last little thing about clip art and icons. There are sites to obtain these images that both cost money, such as clipart.com, as well as free sites like #1 Free Clip Art. Clip art tends to be childish and cute, which can seem unprofessional or amateur, so it’s better off being used in very small doses, or not at all.
Now, go forth and use these resources for good! Or evil, I can’t really stop you.