5 Easy Steps to Access Free Images from Creative Commons

Have an upcoming assignment for class? A personal website with too much text? A fast approaching deadline to create artistic marketing materials? There are lots of reasons why someone could need access to images, but many images are protected by copyright law. Luckily, there’s a library, sourced by artist who are willing to share images that they’ve created, called Creative Commons. Get ready, because I’m going show you five easy steps to accessing and using those images with out spending a dime or going to prison.

1. Go to Search.CreativeCommons.org and Pick Your Image Search Source

Search is an exploration” by citirecruitment is licensed under CC BY 2.0

While selecting your search engine is the first step, you can revisit this step multiple times. If you don’t find the image you like, you can always return and try another search engine. Flickr is a great place to search for photos and digital art. Open Clip Art Library is a great place to find simple illustrations. Google Images Search and Pixabay are both great places to look for any kind of image. Check the box of the search engine you want to use first.

Screen capture of search.creativecommons.org for instructional purposes.

2. Declare Your Purpose

“Shout” By Aidan Jones is licensed under CC BY-SA

Under the search bar there are two check boxes. One says “use for commercial use”. If you are using images for a business or a website that is monetized in anyway you should check this box. The second box is “modify, adapt, or build upon” check this box if you are going to change the image in anyway. Seeing as you are probably fans of free materials, you should also check out free image modifying programs like GIMP and INKSCAPE.

Screen capture of search.creativecommons.org for instructional purposes.

3. Search Using Good Search Terms

“Detective-Searching-Man-Search” By GraphicMama-team under license by CC BY 2.0

If you are having trouble finding the images you are looking for start by editing your search terms. Try different iterations of the same word like “investigating”, “investigator”, and“investigation”. If that doesn’t work try searching synonyms like “detective” “search” or “discover”. Also use Google Search Operators to help narrow your search.

4. Copy or Download the Image

“Illustration of a green download button” by molumen is licensed by Public Domain.

Either Copy the Image by right clicking and selecting “Copy” from the drop down or save the image by selecting “Save Image As” from the drop down. Many of the images you select from Creative Commons will also have a link to make the download from.

5. Citing your Image

Look at Creative Common’s Best Practices for Attribution page for details on how to cite your images well. The typical format is begin by using the name of the image in quotes. Next attribute the creator and lastly attribute the license type. You can see several examples in this blog post.