As you can imagine the most common questions I get behind “Is this legal?” (post coming soon!) is “Where do you find this?”. Well, Quarantine has forced my hands free so that I can finally put together this resource guide for you digital collage artists chomping at the bit! Each resource shared includes public use and copyright-free material that you can use for your own creative projects or commercial use! If you’re browsing on your iPad or cellphone, press and hold to download images or screenshot to capture.
This database was born out of a desire to share illustrations from a number of (you guessed it) old books. The folks took time to scan and publish each illustration in high resolution for you to use in your artwork.
Not a lot of people would think to dig through the library digital collections, but if there was anywhere to start, New York Public Library’s collection is insane. It includes 889,956 entries dating back to the 1700’s to today covering just about everything you can image.
Another obvious-but-not-so-obvious spot to check are University digital collections. My favorite is Cornell University’s Hip Hop Collection which started back in 2007 to establish and preserve historical moments in Hip Hop history. The collections include thousands of sound and video recordings, hundreds of party and event flyers, artwork, photographs, books, magazines, and advertising, along with the archives of Hip Hop’s photographers, filmmakers, dancers, MC’s, DJ’s, artists, journalists, producers and publicists, and independent labels, managers and agencies.
This was a lucky find, back in 2011 an online magazine published by and for teenage girls was created called Rookie Mag. What was a regular lifestyle magazine also held a deep and amazing secret: they loved collage. So much so, they would dedicate monthly posts to full sheets that you can use in your pieces. Feel free to browse over nearly 100 different sheets full of different colors, textures, and subjects.
You’re probably familiar with Flickr, the online photo sharing platform that invites photographers from around the world to submit and share from their site. You’ll have to be careful here because photographers are the ones that dictate whether a photo is protected by copyright. If you want ease-free browsing, you can check out their Commons section which pools the world’s public photography archives.
One of my favorites to use and the originator of the “anti-stock” image, Unsplash is a Canadian company that has taken over the world with their beautiful public-sourced images. They literally have over one million images, so there’s plenty to look through.
Unsplash was so rad they spawned a couple of similar websites. Pexels is unique that when I don’t feel like I can find something on Unsplash, I can search this site and find totally different, but just as beautiful images.
This one is a little different, Cannaclusive is actually a brand in the cannabis space on a mission to diversify the cannabis space by hosting educational cannabis events and workshops. One of the ways they are dispelling the stigma is by releasing their very own collection of stock photos you can use year round.
Please remember: Copyright laws are territorial, which means it is the law currently in force in the country where you live that will apply to you—not the law of the country where the artwork was created. Here is a guide to the copyright term and the public domain in the US, provided by the Cornell Copyright Information Center.
Now that that’s said, I hope you these spark your creativity and get you inspired to start creating!