5 Free Sites to Get Stunning Reference Photos Without Stealing

Unsure of what to paint, or need some reference photos to help you get the right colors and shapes? Finding reference photos for your painting projects can be a little tricky. It's tempting to do a quick google search and just browse through the images to find you inspiration, but this can get you in trouble quick. Many of the photos in the image results are actually copyrighted and if you use their likeness for your paintings you can be one post away from a cease and desist letter. So how do you find good reference photos without this risk? Thankfully it's easy. All you need to do is find sites that feature royalty free images or that come with an open license. There are a lot of stock image photos sites out there and many you need a login or to pay a monthly fee, but it's not necessary! There are may good resources out there in the creative community where you can use images for free or with just a quick credit!


Below are my 5 favorite sites to source reference photos for painting. All of these require no login and are free to use.

1. Unsplash


This is my favorite. There is a good selection and the photos are stunning!




It's also easy to find the reference photo you want with a simple search. Once you find the image you want it's easy to see the artist and the use license as well as easy to download. No login required!


2. Pexels




Pexels has a wide variety of images to choose from!


Simply search for the image you want and once you click on the reference image of choice you'll see how to easily download it and what type of license the image holds.


3. Pixabay


Pixabay is a great option for searching for reference images. They have a wide variety of images to choose from and searching is super easy!


One thing to make sure of like on most of these sites is that the top images are often sponsored or will require payment, so make sure you're looking in the right section to find free royalty free images to download.


4. Burst


Burst is owned by shopify and has a nice selection of photos to choose from. They also have a wide variety of ways to browse.


The one downfall of Burst is that searching is not as simple and you have to rely on the preset categories to find the image you want.


5. Stocksnap.io


Stocksnap has a good selection of images and easy searching to find the image you want.


One thing to be careful of with Stocksnap is that it's not quite as easy to determine which of the photos in your search results are premium and not free.



I love that all these image sites require no login to download because I can't manage anymore login information! I also love how easy it is to see the licensing rights so that you can stay out of trouble when finding reference photos!


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