In my IGNITE! Membership, a question came up a while back about where to find images to use as reference. I shared a couple of websites I knew about but decided to look further into where artists could find copyright-free photos to use for painting.

Before I share these websites with you, please remember that if you’re entering an exhibit or competition, you’ll find that you’re probably required to use your own photos for reference even if you find copyright-free photos to paint from. 

So let’s go!

  1. Unsplash 

This is a terrific source! They’ve recently added a Premium level but they still have a HUGE database of unwatermarked photos to choose from. If you download a photo, it will contain the photographer’s name so if you ever need to credit the artist, you can.

I entered “moody landscape” and found this:


Copyright-free photos -Photo by Jan Kronies at-unsplash
Photo by Jan Kronies at Unsplash


2. Pixabay 

This was a website I used frequently a number of years ago when I needed images to illustrate non-art blog posts. Unlike Unsplash, the photograph doesn’t download with info about the photographer. So you’ll need to make a point of grabbing the info.

I searched for “Cafe with people” and came up with this:


Copyright-free photos - Photo by S. Hermann/F. Richter at pixabay
Photo by S. Hermann/F. Richter at Pixabay


3. Pexels 

This is another great website for photos. As with Unsplash, a photo is downloaded with photographer attribution.

I searched for “Cat” and found this image:


Copyright-free photos - Photo by Bekka Mongeau at Pexels
Photo by Bekka Mongeau at Pexels


4. StockSnap

As with Pixabay, you’ll need to consciously grab the photographer’s name. It’s always a good idea to have that info as you never know when you may need it. 

Here I searched for “woman’s face” and came across this photo:


Copyright-free photos. Photo by Matt Moloney on StockSnap
Photo by Matt Moloney at StockSnap


5. Pikiwizard

This website also has premium images but when I searched for “still life” I was still able to find this photo for use. Note: no photo credit was visible, at least for this photo.


Copyright-free photos - From pikwizard-no photo attribution
No photo attribution given – from Pikwizard


There are other sites with copyright-free photos out there for sure. Some are smaller and may not have a large collection to say, find a suitable seascape when that’s what you need. Some of the sites have a lot of annoying advertising (and yes, they need to support themselves financially but that doesn’t make it any less annoying!).

A warning: Shutterstock and other companies may advertise on these websites. Their photos may be royalty-free but you will need to pay for them. These photos are often seen as a banner across the top of a website.

Many of the images on these sites may not be great as a resource for painting but with some poking around, I’m sure you’ll find lots to keep you happy! And..they are copyright-free photos and that’s always a good thing! Be sure to always check the licenses for each website. 

Hope this is helpful!



Pastel Landscape Wins September Honourable Mention


I have one more winner from the September PleinAir Salon to inspire you. Congratulations to Alejandra Gos!


Alejandra Gos, "Island Bound," pastel, 9 x 12 in, September 2022 Plein Air Pastel Honourable Mention
Alejandra Gos, “Island Bound,” pastel, 9 x 12 in, September 2022 Plein Air Pastel Honourable Mention


The clock is ticking. There’s still time for you to pop an entry into the November competition!

Go ahead and enter here.

And that’s it for this time!



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