15 Great Places to Find Free Images for Your Next Course

Images on webpages are almost a given these days. It is what we have come to expect. Likewise learners don't want to be confronted with page after page of text without any visuals. Whilst these might be images, videos or animations, this post is about images and where to get these without costing a fortune, and still being legal.

Why use images?

Apart from the expectation of using images is there any evidence that images improve learning and therefore make it worthwhile to spend time sourcing and inserting them into learning materials? The popular models of visual learning styles such as VAK (1) and VARK (2) proposed that learners have different learning styles and that visual learners prefer, well, visuals in their… Click To TweetMore recent research on PowerPoint use by Richard Mayer (3) indicated that ‘dual processing’ by dividing information between images and text balances the load on cognitive capacities. Leading on from Mayer's work, David Roberts (4) at Loughborough University, UK, found that 1) excessive use of text 'chokes” learning and disengages learners, 2) enabling visual processing capacity made lectures easier to engage with and understand, and 3) dual processing works across a wide range of subject areas.

Unfortunately there seems to be a dearth of research regarding the use of images in learning… Click To Tweet

What images can you use?

Having established that images definitely help our learners, what images can you use?

What you can't do of course is just copy an image from the web as these a copyright protected (even if they don't say so). What you need to look for are Creative Commons licenced images. These are images that have been licenced by the image creator and give permision for their use.

The video below provides an overview of Creative Commons

There are various licences which give more or less freedom about what you can do with the image and some restrict use in commercial settings. If you charge for your course this is a commercial setting.

The least restrictive licence is CC0 which basically puts the image into the public domain. You don't even have to attribute the image to anyone (though personally I think it's only polite to do so). These are the images I tend to look for and use.

Where can you find Creative Commons images?


With a Google search you can use Tools to filter on Usage Rights. Their “Labelled for reuse with modification” is the equivalent of CC0.

Dedicated image sites

My personal preference is to use sites specifically for CC images. Here is a list the ones I have found. Unless noted otherwise these sites provide CC0 images.

  1. Clker
    Clipart not photos.
  2. Compfight
    Searches Fickr. Undertake the search first then click “Commercial” on the left menu.
  3. Digital NZ
    Images from dozens of institutions from across New Zealand.
  4. Flickr
    Many ordinary photographers (like you and me) have chosen to make their images available for use. Make sure you choose the CC licence you want https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/cc0-1.0/ searches CC0 images.
  5. Free Images 
  6. Free Stock Photos
    Photos and clip art.
  7. Open Clip Art
    Clip art not photos.
  8. Pexels 
  9. Photopin
    Searches Fickr specifically for CC images. Undertake the search first then make sure you only have “Commercial Use” checked.
  10. Pixabay 
  11. Public Domain Pictures Ensure you click on the Free Download option.
  12. The British Library
    Although this is on Flickr I felt it worth a mention. To search within the library's images make sure to use the search on the right directly above the images not the one at the top of the page (not intuitive).
  13. The Noun Project
    Images and icons
  14. Unsplash 
  15. Wikimedia 

Do you use any other sites? Let us know in the comments.






About the Author

Carol Cooper-Taylor

Carol Cooper-Taylor is a qualified education profession with 40 years experience. She has taught in schools, in vocational settings and in universities (where she supported academics to be better teachers). She has been teaching online for over 20 years. She loves helping people have that “I get it” moment. Find out more about Carol and her courses at Cooper-Taylor Learning.

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