Where to find really free visuals

Just because it is easy to find images online, it doesn’t mean they are free to use. Make sure your students respect copyright  and teach them about plagiarism. There are several options they can consider while preparing visuals. Although using their own images seems to be the safest option, they can also make the most of free images available online either on public domain, marked CCZ (copyright zero) or offered by websites such as Pixabay or Pexel. Sometimes, they will be asked to attribute the image and acknowledge the author. Sometimes, they won’t be  required to do so.  I would recommend that they always credit the source and mention the author as a thank you for their generosity. 

So where to find images and how to use them safely and with respect without breaching copyright. 

Google images – google an image you want in images. Underneath the search bar you will see “tools”. Click and choose “usage right”. Depending on how you want to use a specific images, tick one of the four options. Do not tick “Not filtered by license”. Develop a habit of always crediting the author, even if an image is totally free. Here you’ll find detailed instructions how to do advanced search. You can use yahoo images in a very similar way. Unfortunately, sometimes the range of images labelled for reuse with modification might be limited.

Create your own visual using prograams such as Canva, Spark or Piktochart. Although you can create stunning results, the process might prove time consuming. Plus, you need to be 13+ to use these programs so it’s not a good option for younger kids.

Use Creative Commons

The above image is a result of advanced search on google. The images comes from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository from this site. If you know more about Creative Commons, you may check this website. Briefly, Creative Commons is a license from authours letting us use for free their work (images including). If you want to know what Creative Commons are, watch the video clip:

and another one explaining different Creative Commons licences:


The most important thing for you to remember is that you have to attribute the image unless it is under Creative Commons Zero. I’ll explain how to attribute later. For now, remember this acronym to attribute the image properly:

  • T – title 
  • A – author
  • S – source
  • L – license
PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

And, finally, the best way to do it is through Public domain or Creative Commons Zero (CC0) 

Public domain – This very often covers sometimes very old works such as photographs, paintings, books, which are no longer under copyright and “belongs” to the public. 

CC0No rights reserved: authors decided to waive their copyrights and the public can use their work for free and without attribution

Public domain images for you and your students to use freely: 

My favourite. Click the image to go there.  


License – Creative Commons CC0. which means you can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist. However, depicted content may still be protected by trademarks, publicity or privacy rights. [1. This is a footnote https://pixabay.com/service/faq/]

Sometimes the image doesn’t hot-link in which case you need to download it to your server. Media types available – photos, vector graphics (clipart), illustrations, videos

Pexel https://www.pexels.com; A fantastic collection of stunning photos of very high quality. All free but attribution appreciated. 

Stockiohttps://www.stockio.com; Media types available – photos, vector graphics (clipart),fonts, icons, videos. 

Unsplash– https://unsplash.com/

Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page You are allowed to copy, use and modify any files freely, although the license may require you to credit the source and the author


Morguefile – https://morguefile.com a free photo archive “for creatives, by creatives.”1https://morguefile.com/about (you must be 18 to view the site; some images are NOT  free, so be careful)

Flickr Commons – https://www.flickr.com/commons (do not confuse with flickr)

Photos for class https://www.photosforclass.com/ – images are appropariate for school use and attribution is automatically added as a watermark to all images (see below)

Reshot – https://www.reshot.com; 

Pics4learninghttp://www.pics4learning.com/ image library that is safe and free for education. Images cannot be used for commercial production without permission. 

Openclipart – https://openclipart.org/ some cliparts are not free

Free digital photos – http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/ 



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Written by 

ESOL teacher at Edinburgh College