10 Amazing Sites for Royalty-Free Images and Icons

royalty free images and icons

Whether you’re a marketer or designer, it’s always handy to know where to find royalty-free images and icons for your marketing ventures.

In recent times, a great deal has been made about the importance of including captivating visual content in your commercial projects. The fact that images are processed 60,000 times faster than text certainly gives testimony to this.

When we also consider that 90% of all information transmitted to our brains is visual, it’s no surprise that high-quality, free-to-use images are in high demand.

This Google Trends data shows there has been a consistent demand for free images in the UK over the last 5 years:

Possible Uses for Royalty-Free Imagery:

  • Content Marketing
  • Infographic Design
  • Landing Page Design
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Video Marketing
  • Display Stand Design
  • Web Design
  • Graphic Design

So whether you’re on the lookout for free background images for a social media post, or a set of funky vectors for your next display stand design, this list can be your go-to resource for copyright-free images and icons.

 Royalty-Free Image Providers

free background images

Overview: Unsplash is described as the world's most generous community of photographers - probably because they give their amazing photos away for free!

Unsplash is possibly the most aesthetically pleasing source for royalty-free photos on the web, boasting a constantly growing collection of unique, high-resolution images that are suitable for a range of marketing disciplines. In particular, it's great if you are looking for free background image to provide the perfect backdrop for your marketing message.

The site is easy to navigate thanks to the search function and 'Explore' feature, which displays the most popular searched photos, whilst the home page shows new and trending images.

Ideal for: Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Display Stand Design, Web Design.

License Information: Creative Commons Zero License (Freedom to copy, modify, distribute, and use all of the photos without permissions or attribution. Attribution not required, but appreciated).

free to use images

Overview: Kaboompics is another great source for amazing free to use photos, offering users access to a large collection of multi-purpose images.

The site has a very powerful search function which allows you to apply numerous filters to the results, such as sorting by newest, oldest, most downloaded and least downloaded. Like most other free image sites, categories are provided to improve the accuracy and relevance of your search results.

One feature that sets Kaboompics apart is the option to display the palette colours used in each image. This can be extremely helpful when trying to adhere to strict branding guidelines. Check out this example.

They also have a very informative blog which covers design trends, content marketing, social media and much more. It's well worth a look!

Ideal for: Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Display Stand Design, Web Design.

License Information: Creative Commons Zero License (Freedom to copy and modify for personal or commercial use, but can't be sold or redistributed. Attribution not required, but appreciated). Full Terms

copyright free images pexels

Overview: Pexels is one of the largest providers of non-copyrighted images, with 100 new photos added daily. The site combines freebies from other online sources, as well as uploads from their own community of designers and photographers. As a result, they have an extremely large and diverse range of free images for commercial use.

It's got a tonne of cool features such as the Browse tab which shows popular photos and searches, as well as images you've missed since your last visit to the site. This can be great when you are in need of some quick inspiration!

One unique feature about Pexels is the Photographer Leaderboard which ranks users with the most image downloads. Not only does this gamification keep users hooked on the service, but it also saves you time, as you can go directly to your favourite provider's profile rather than searching through the archives.

Ideal for: Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Web Design, Display Stand Design

License Information: Creative Commons Zero License (Freedom to copy, modify, distribute and use all of the photos without permissions or attribution. Attribution not required, but appreciated). Full Terms

free marketing images startup stock photos

Overview: Startup Stock Photos is a provider of in-situ business, tech & startup images. Whilst this is a fairly niche topic, as a B2B marketer, it's often difficult finding authentic, commerce-focused images free of charge. This site is not just limited to those in the business services sector either, as the images are versatile and can be used for a much wider range of industries.

Although the site doesn't have a search feature, it does possess an infinite scroller, so you can browse 'til your heart is content.

Ideal use: Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Landing Page Design, Email Marketing, Web Design.

License Information: Creative Commons Zero License (Freedom to copy, modify, distribute and use all of the photos without permissions or attribution. Attribution not required, but appreciated). Full Terms

free stock images pixabay

Overview: Pixabay certainly needs no introduction to marketers and designers alike and is often their first destination for royalty-free marketing images.

All images are uploaded under the public domain, meaning there is a large and varied range available to download. What's more, Pixabay has the most powerful on-site search feature, enabling you to filter results based on media type, orientation, colour, and minimum dimensions. This makes the site super easy to use, and in most cases, you'll find what you set out to find.

One feature that got us really excited was the free videos that are available to download. Whilst they may only be short, this added movement will enable you to take your marketing to the next level!

Ideal for: Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Display Stand Design, Video Marketing, Email Marketing, Web Design.

License Information: Creative Commons Zero License (Freedom to copy, modify, distribute and use all of the photos without permissions or attribution. Attribution not required, but appreciated). Full Terms

public domain photos

Overview: Whilst New Old Stock won't apply to all, it is without a doubt the best online source for free vintage photos, and we all know people love to look at old photos and reminisce!

All images are free to use, collated from public archives, so there's plenty of hidden gems available - although some of the images are not relevant for most marketing channels.

One feature we liked about New Old Stock is that most photos come with a location and date, which certainly adds context when choosing your free images.

Ideal for: Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Email Marketing.

License Information: Creative Commons Zero License (Freedom to copy, modify, distribute and use all of the photos without permissions or attribution. Attribution not required, but appreciated). Full Terms

open source images

Overview: If you are looking for free images that are guaranteed to grab attention, then Gratisography is certainly worth a visit. Whilst the majority of photos are quite unusual, this only stands to make them more eye-catching in our view.

New images are added weekly, and the site features a 'Magic Auto Search' which shows you results as you type. You can also delve down by categories such as animals, nature, people, urban etc - so you will find suitable photos in no time.

Ideal for: Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Web Design, Landing Page Design, Display Stand Design.

License Information: Creative Commons Zero License (Freedom to copy, modify, distribute and use all of the photos without permissions or attribution. Attribution not required, but appreciated). Full Terms

 Royalty-Free Icon Providers

free icons iconfinder

Overview: Icon Finder has a wide array of free vector icons on offer, and whilst not all of them are free to use, there are more than enough to suit a wide range of different use cases.

One such use for these free icons would be for designing infographics, which are one of the most successful forms of content in B2B marketing today. If you aren't already designing infographics, Icon Finder can be the catalyst for starting!

The site itself is very intuitive to use, and relevant icons can be found in next to no time. This is because of the filters that can be applied to the search results, such as the format, price, license type and size of icons.

There's also a number of styles that can be selected, such as 3D, Handdrawn and Badge, which enables you to narrow your search further.  You can even choose different background colours, or no background at all, which makes these royalty-free icons extremely versatile.

Ideal for: Infographic Design, Display Stand Design, Web Design, Landing Page Design, Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Video Marketing.

License Information: Basic License (Icons can be downloaded and modified, but cannot be sold or redistributed. Attribution not required, but appreciated). Full Terms

free vector icons

Overview: Although Smashing Magazine is much more than just a provider of free icons they often have giveaways to help out their loyal following of web designers and developers.

Here you can download 500 free vector icons for commercial use in four editable variants: outlined, solid, webby and flat. These can be downloaded in .AI, .PS and .Sketch formats.

Ideal for: Web Design, Infographic Design, Display Stand Design, Landing Page Design, Video Marketing, Social Media Marketing.

License Information: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (Freedom to modify the size, colour or shape and can be used in commercial as well as personal projects. Attribution not required, but appreciated). Full Terms

free icons for commercial use

Overview: Last but not least, we have Metrize Icons which is a collection of 300 Metro-style, royalty-free icons for designers, developers and marketers. All icons are created by the talented, and rather generous  Alessio Atzeni, who has promised there's more to come in the future.

Metrize icons are primarily for apps and web projects, however, the versatility they offer means they can be used in virtually any form of marketing. We have found that more and more companies are including vector icons in their display stand designs, as they are a great way to visually translate your value proposition.

The download includes the following formats: PSD, SVG, EPS, AI, PDF and Web Font.

Ideal for: Web Design, Infographic Design, Display Stand Design, Landing Page Design, Video Marketing, Social Media Marketing.

License Information: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (Freedom to modify the size, colour or shape and can be used in commercial as well as personal projects. Attribution not required, but appreciated). Full terms

 Summary

Overall, whilst it is wonderful having so many sources for royalty-free images and icons, it's always worth familiarising yourself with the terms of service for each site before using them in your marketing campaigns.

Yes, we know T&C's are boring, but a bit of diligence could help you avoid a lot of hassle further down the line!

Furthermore, just because no attribution is required, that's not to say it's not appreciated. A simple link back to the image, a nominal donation or even a social share can help the photographer/designer gain exposure for their work, allowing them to grow their following in the process.

The more support they receive, the more freebies they'll be able to offer in the future. It's a win-win for both parties.

Do you have a favourite source for royalty-free images or icons that we've missed? Let us know in the comments section below!

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