Where to Get Free Stock for Your Art

Where to Get Free Stock for Your Art

Every week I get many messages asking where I get my stock images from, so here you go.

But before I answer that question, I am going to throw my two pence (or cents) into the stock image debate.

There is nothing, let me repeat that, nothing wrong with using stock images in your work. It is part of the circle of life (cue to raise any nearby lion cubs in the air). But seriously it has been part and parcel of the photography industry for a long time. Your favorite photographer will have used stock in their images at some point in their career, and their favorite photographer too, and so on, and so on. When I create an image, I try to use all my images, but if I don't have a certain element I need, I have no qualms about turning to stock. I wouldn't let one missing piece of the jigsaw keep me from creating my art.

Now I hear all sorts of outcries on social media, for example, "if it isn't all your images, you are not a real artist." This was a real statement from someone on Facebook. I also heard this little gem of advice, "you shouldn't use stock, you should go out and take the images yourself!" Well, I'm sorry, but if I'm creating an image of a polar bear in its environment, there is no chance I am paying for a flight to the Arctic to get a background photo. Our goal is to create art or to create a specific image for a client. As long as we follow the correct rules for using the stock, be it attribution and whatever else is necessary, then the world will not stop, and the end of days will not rear its ugly head. We can all sleep safe and sound in our beds. Anyway, that is my humble opinion on the whole debate, my two pence is thrown, now let us get on with the article.

When I use stock, I have four main go-to stock sites. Three free stock sites and one paid. Let us start with the free sites. Pixabay is usually my first port of call. It is a good all-rounder, with thousands of hi-res images to choose from, a little bit of every subject can be found. All the images are attribution free, meaning you can use them until your heart's content and you don't even have to credit the photographer. Although if you are feeling generous you can pay for a coffee for the photographer of the image. Every image is available in small, medium, large, and extra large. And the search function on Pixabay is great, very simple and easy to use.

My next recommendation is Unsplash. Unsplash has more of a fine art feel than Pixabay, and instead of having a search engine, it puts images into collections that you can browse through. The main reason I use Unsplash is for when I need a good landscape photo, and boy does it deliver. The quality of landscape stock on this site is outstanding, from misty forest scenes to desolate country roads. If you cannot find yourself a good location image on this site I will slap you across the face with my grandfather's atlas! The stock photos on Unsplash require attribution to be used, which means in layman's terms you have to credit the photographer.

My third and final free stock recommendation is Deviantart. Deviant Art has been around for years, its main purpose is an art community for all creatives to share their work, and browse others. But what you might not know is that Deviantart is also a great place to find the free stock. You can use the search option to browse stock images, and also free brushes and PNGs. With it being a creative community, the stock tends to lean more towards stock you wouldn't find on the last two sites. Science fiction, horror, and various other genres are popular.

One good aspect is the model stock, with some members having a vast array of poses in various outfits. A couple of down points about Deviant Art is quality. You have to search for the hi-res images, and sometimes you will have to settle for somewhere in between (quality wise). Also each stock supplier has its own set of rules for usage. Some suppliers let you use the images attribution free, some want credit and links back, and some want paying. Be careful to read the rules beforehand or you could end up in trouble. Overall though, Deviant Art is a good place to look.

And now on to the one paid site I use. Neostock hasn't been around as long as the other stock sites on this list, and it isn't free, but what you get is quality crafted stock by professional creatives. It hires professional models specifically to go dress up like fantasy characters with high-end props, to get amazing hi-res character stock. It has an array of cool textures and special FX, that will save any creative a serious amount of time, by easily adding them into an image. Also when you purchase the stock, you purchase a pack, so you are not getting just one image, but a whole array of images. The site has easy navigation between the stock packs, and also has an elite section where you can watch tutorials and learn cool tricks, and get access to thousands of high-end assets. I highly recommend it.

So, these are my stock recommendations. Before I go, remember to always follow the rules of the stock sites. I wouldn't want you getting into any trouble. Also, I know many people tend to pinch images from a Google search, this is not advisable; seriously don't do it. Play safe and let us all create some amazing art in these dark days. If anything can uplift the spirit, it's sure as hell is art. If you have any of your stock site recommendations that you feel need mentioning, drop a link in the comments and I will check them out.

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Daniel J. Cox's picture

Amazing how a web site dedicated to photographers is promoting the idea of a guy going out and using stock sites that pay zero income to its contributors. So many articles on Fstoppers are about how to make money in photography and yet this article gets published promoting the very sites that have helped make sure there is no money in photography. That's certainly the case for Stock. And I say, you need a background for your polar bear image? Get off your couch and spend the money to get one of your own. Or... pay a guy like me a reasonable fee to use mine. You won't get any of my hard-earned photography to use as one of your pieces of art for free.

Clinton Lofthouse's picture

The last suggestion is not free its a paid site. You have to move with the times, if you're not making much money from stock you need to pivot. :)

Jeff McCollough's picture

Pivot from making money from stock to actually making nothing? Sure sure.

Clinton Lofthouse's picture

Instead of whining on comment threads, the best use of that time would be putting that energy into finding more revenue streams. There is no point complaining about how the world is changing, how I should pay him and stock photos shouldn't be free. I use a mix of free stock and premium. Its the way of the world now. You cant change that so why moan about it.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Wow what's up with you? You're being quite condescending.

Clinton Lofthouse's picture

It's not condescending at all, its the truth. Why moan about something you cant control.

Jeff McCollough's picture

We can start by no longer justifying these kinds of sites like this article does.