The Best Online Sources for Creative Commons Images

As a Web designer, you may want to use free images to enhance your work. Although the Internet is full of images of all types, you can’t use just anything you find on the Web; this can lead to a lot of headaches, the main being an expensive lawsuit.

Unless you’ve created or taken a photo yourself, you must get permission from the owner/creator before using Web images in your work. This is where Creative Commons (also known as CC) images come into play.

It would be an inconvenience and take too much time if you had to personally ask permission for every single Web image that you wanted to use. Instead, you can simply search for Creative Commons images using the online sources outlined below.

These sources will show you beautiful images that you can use for free in exchange for an attribution link on your website. Best of all, this attribution link is often provided for you by the source; all you have to do is copy and paste it into your website’s HTML.

There are different types of Creative Commons licenses. So you need to pay attention to this when searching for images. Some let you modify, adapt, and build upon the image, while others won’t let you change a thing – you will have to use as-is.

So be sure to look for the appropriate license based on how you’ll be using the image. Without further ado, here are eight of the best online sources for free Creative Commons images.

CC Search

Creative Commons has their own search engine that is very easy to use. You can search for images that are for commercial purposes, as well as images that you can modify, adapt, and build upon. You can also choose different sources like Flickr, Google, YouTube, and more.

Flickr: Creative Commons

Flickr is the most popular source for Creative Commons images, so it’s no wonder why they have their own section of CC images sorted by license. These license types include Attribution, Attribution-NoDerivs, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs, Attribution-NonCommercial, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, and Attribution-ShareAlike. If you’re not sure of the difference between each type, it’s explained for you there as well.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to directly search through these images, which is where Photo Pin and Compfight come into play (below).

Photo Pin

Photo Pin prides itself on being a source of “free photos for bloggers and creatives,” and their images come from Flickr It’s a very straightforward site that is easy to use. Just type in your search query, and you’ll be presented with results. You can sort your results by license type: commercial or non-commercial. You can also sort images by recent, relevance and interestingness.

When you click on “get photo”, you’ll be able to download the image in many different sizes, and a photo credit link is provided for you – just copy and paste it into your website.


Compfight is a personal favourite and works in the same manner as Photo Pin: search for an image, sort by creative commons or commercial license type, download in different sizes and get access to a photo credit link. In addition, you can hide unsafe images, which is great if you’re in a public location where viewing these types of images is inappropriate.

Their images also come from Flickr, but professional stock images from other locations are displayed at the top; these are available for a small fee.

Google Image Search

Now I know what you’re thinking; you can’t just go to Google Images and freely use any image that pops up. This is true, but you can go into Advanced Image Search (from the gear icon) and change the “usage rights” option to an appropriate Creative Commons option.

According to the Google Blog, “This feature identifies images that are tagged with licenses that authorize reuse. You’ll still have to verify that the licensing information is accurate.” So, even though using Google Images is convenient, it also may create more work for you since you’ll have to manually verify the licensing information for many of the images.

If these aren’t enough, you may also want to check out Everystockphoto,  Openphoto and Wikimedia Commons, which are also great sources. Be sure to let us know what your favourite source for Creative Commons images is.