Home » Blog » Painting Tips » 8 Great Sites With Beautiful Free Stock Photos
Stock Photos on a White Background

8 Great Sites With Beautiful Free Stock Photos

Using Photos From the Internet

I’m going to start this post by saying that you can’t just download a photo from Google or other searches on the internet and use it in your artwork or blog unless specifically listed as copyright free.

These photos belong to other people and are not free to use. To do so would be a violation of copyright rules and leave you open to legal action.

But where do you get reference photos for your artwork or blog posts? That’s were free stock photos come in.


**This page may contain affiliate links to products I have used or recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. For more information click here.**


Reference Photos


Most artists will need a reference photo at some point. After all we don’t all have a giraffe or polar bear living in our back yard that we can observe while drawing or painting (sigh). We also need photos to enhance our blog posts.

There are a lot of free stock photo sites out there. I have listed some sites that I have used in the past. Most have a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licence, meaning that the photos are free to use for commercial or personal use without any attribution.

Please read the site rules carefully as a few have some exceptions. If in doubt, don’t use the picture.

If you prefer to take your own photos, I have some tips on how to get good photos with little experience or equipment in this post.

I will also be updating this post so there will probably be more than 8 sites listed. If you have a favorite site for free or paid reference photos, please feel free to leave a comment below.


Free Stock Photo Sites



Over 100,000 and growing  free and a few premium images over 20,000 of those are exclusive to Pikwizard so if you are looking for something different this is a good site to check out.

This is a well organized site that is easily searchable. 

ocean, beach and cliffs stock image





Over 1.4 million royalty free stock photos and videos. The quality is good and the site is easily searchable.

Pixabay is a favourite of artists because of its diversity of images. A great place to get reference photos and photos for websites and social media.


Frankfurt stock image






Free stock photos licensed under the CC0 licence. Attribution is not a requirement but it is appreciated. To give attribution you can copy a link from a pop up box before downloading. A small price to pay for beautiful pictures.


orange flowers stock photo





Over 40,000 free stock photos and videos with 3,000 added monthly. Most are licensed under the CC0 license.


Blue sky, lake and mountains





Morguefile has been around since 1996. They use a different license than the CC0 license so please read their licence page before downloading. The site has over 350,000 beautiful images so worth the extra step.


pink flowers with brown butterfly




High resolution images licensed under the CC0 license. Photos are added daily and the search feature makes it easy to browse through the web site.


Grey and red bird on a tree branch




Stock Photos with text overlay Where to get free stock photos




If you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, this is a great site. All images are free to use for personal or commercial use. 

Beige building





Free for commercial or personal use. However, some of the photos have logos which need to be given attribution if you use these. You can avoid these photos or crop the logo out of the picture.


colorful donuts


Styled Stock


These are feminine stock photos, free for commercial use. However, like Picjumbo, some images contain logos that will require attribution. 

white desktop with computer and pencils




Beautiful images on an easily searchable site. All photos are free to use under the creative commons license CCO

small wooden pier stock photo





Kaboompics is a one woman website with thousands of beautiful stock photos that can be downloaded in various sizes. The photos are all available for personal or commercial use. The site is constantly updated and includes a blog with articles to help grow your business.


various stock photos in a grid

If you are interested in learning photography so you can take your own awesome reference photos, CreativeLive has some great photography courses. You can learn everything from how to use a camera to how to style your photos. Check them out here. Photography Starter Kit Classes at CreativeLive




These are just a few of the free stock photo sites available on the web. Be sure to read the licensing agreement before you use the photos.

There are many paid sites out there as well. Some of these paid sites have much higher quality images but a lot are very pricey.

The best inspiration for your art often comes from photos you take yourself, but since that is not always possible, make use of what the web has to offer.

You can combine multiple pictures to give you the scene you want or just use one element from a picture as a reference for your artwork.

Just browsing the pictures on these sites can sometimes inspire you when your are having a bout of artists block. 🙂 

Thanks for reading.

Digital signature Marilyn with butterfly







2 thoughts on “8 Great Sites With Beautiful Free Stock Photos”

  1. Lucy C Brenner

    Thank you so much for all this information on finding free photos to paint. I look for material in nature magazines or any type of magazines. I’ve used photos I have taken, and am always on the lookout for something that grabs me.
    I choose to exclusively paint natural or outdoor subjects. That is where my peace is. I love the outdoors and all of the creatures and birds.

  2. Thanks for all those free sites for photos. I have also used Google search for images. There is a filter you can use for free usage.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top