Appearances aren’t everything. But if you’re making a website and want to stand out from the sea of sameness, you gotta consider how your website looks.
We get it – finding great visuals for your website can be difficult. Stock images suck for everyone and using copyrighted images can land you in trouble.
So, today, we’ll share some genuinely AWESOME image resources that most people have no idea exist. Best of all – they’re mostly free!
Places to Find Visual Resources for Your Website
Website Images 101
We’ve also included some useful tips and warnings at the end on how to apply images on your website professionally.
Let’s jump right into it!
Using tools such as a website builder might help you build the frame of your website, but they can’t do everything for you.
It’s up to you to fill the website details to make it eye-catching and memorable. That includes things like picking images, icons and logos.
Your first step is to visualise how you want your website to look. Unless you have a natural design eye, we recommend you browse other sites and pay special attention to their choice of visuals. Check out:
Take specific notes of what you like. How have they arranged their website layout? What types of images do they use: photos, illustrations, or 3D models? What emotions do the visuals evoke? Professional? Modern? Dreamy?
Of course, you don’t want your website to look the same as anyone else’s. The trick is to combine the elements you DO like, with your own twist. You can even create a rough mood board to help you consolidate your thoughts.
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for – it’s time to choose your images.
Here are some fantastic sites (some paid, some totally free) where you can find assets and images.
Open Doodles is a free set of quirky and open source illustrations.
Want to add a bit of quirkiness to your website? Bookmark this site.
Pablo Stanley is the artist behind Open Doodles. Many images are sketches lifted straight from his notebook that he doodled during conferences.
The site also includes ‘compositions’ that demonstrate how you can redraw or edit illustrations to cater to your own site. You can even use their generator to change the color scheme of images to suit your site, plus you’ll be able to download the entire collection as a .zip file.
Paaatterns is a fantastic free collection of patterns and shapes.
Cost: Free basic collection. You can purchase full access.
Paaatterns (whilst hard to spell) is a fantastic resource for bold and eye-catching vector patterns. You can download a free collection in a variety of vector formats, which you can easily customize and edit.
It’s perfect for adding a bold touch to your website – for example to fill up negative space, use as a background, or add accents to images.
Streamline is a site that provides icons, illustrations, emojis, and tools. The emoji sets are quite unique - they aren’t usually found on design resource sites.
Cost: Paid, with a 5-day trial.
Streamline has a wide range of visual assets that can be used on their website. Streamline’s team also developed their tools to more easily search, customize and use their assets.
Don’t have some sort of design software installed on your computer? No need to worry! You can install Streamline’s own tools to easily customize their illustrations or icons.
Humaaans is another free open source illustration from Pablo Stanley that lets you mix & match images of people.
Cost: Donation basis.
We love how customizable Humaaans is! Depending on the character you want, you can customize your humaaan’s skin color, hairstyle, clothes, position and background. This set of illustrations is available on Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD and Invision Studio.
Whilst technically ‘free’, this resource is actually on a donation basis. If you want to show some appreciation for this cool project, you can suggest a sum when you add the item to your cart.
Open Peeps is another free open source illustration. You can add facial expressions and even facial hair to characters.
Open Peeps is an ultra-cool collection of hand-drawn characters. They give out a comic vibe, and can add some real personality to your website.
If you want to create a one-of-a-kind character; say a monocle-clad, curly haired female with a prosthetic leg, Open Peeps can do the deal for you.
Draw Kit is a weekly-updated site that contains illustrations, animations and icons. Whilst it has fewer assets than other sites, it’s great for staying on top of the latest trends.
Animation is another underrated asset and is actually a brilliant way to bring your website to life. They can add interesting accents to the page, and make your site more dynamic.
People usually create animation by drawing frame by frame, but Draw Kit has some free animation packs to save you time.
They also have some illustration packs to help you communicate current events – from the COVID-19 pandemic, to Black Lives Matter.
Undraw is a free open source site with illustrations. For any color themes that you failed to find on other sites, you’ll probably find it here.
Undraw is perfect for anyone who just wants to browse and choose. There are no categories that organise the illustrations. You either scroll or search by keyword to get the creatives you need. You can go wild with your keyword searches: from ‘bitcoin’ to ‘unicorn’.
Looka is a logo maker and provides an extensive package of visuals (brand kits) to cater to all your needs - such as websites, social media posts, and banners.
Cost: Monthly subscription.
Looka is an AI-powered platform that can help design some awesome logos for your website.
To use it, just add in some basic information about your site, such as your brand name and a short tagline (if you have one). You can then choose from ready-made logos or customize them to your liking.
Prices range from $4.99/ month (one logo file for testing the water) to $15.99/ month (everything on the premium+ website).
Lukasz Adam Illustration is another free open source resource and is the least stock-image looking resource.
This site is full of great icons and illustrations you can use on your site. There’s strong personality in Lukasz Adam’s drawings. If you are looking for an image for ‘error 404’, check out his Pennywise version of the ‘error 404’ image.
Freepik is a site that contains illustrations, icons and photos. As long as you credit the author, you can use their creatives for free.
Cost: Free, with attribution.
The user experience on Freepik is fantastic. They have a filter that sticks to the page and helps you navigate while searching for the right images.
If you run out of research ideas, you can browse the ‘popular’ assets. This can help you stay aware of trends as well as spark design ideas.
Shapefest is an enormous library of free 3D shapes and textures - from clay & plastic, to glass and ceramic.
3D elements can be a little more unusual on websites, but they can add a very modern and contemporary feel.
For example, Shapefest has awesome looking black acrylic and black leather textures that can be applied to text. Their textures are incredibly detailed and can elevate your website to the next level.
Shutterstock is one of the most reputable sites for stock images, and widely used by people to find creative assets. It provides most types of assets - including 3D models.
Cost: $29 a month for subscription (with first month free).
Chances are, you’ve heard of Shutterstock before. They offer a huge range of photos, illustrations, vectors and 3D models that you can apply to your website.
They have a monthly subscription that includes 10 images a month, which is pretty reasonable. You’ll also have access to tools such as file converter, image resizer, color schemes, and more.
Getty Images is a platform that contains the world’s best creatives (photos, videos, music). They also provide image rights and clearance service if you want to trademark your desired work of art from their site.
Cost: Pay per image or image pack (starting from $175 per image).
Getty Images is a classic place to find extremely high-quality visuals. They often partner with many top companies, like Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures.
However, be prepared to pay! Prices start from $150 per download (10 pack) to mix and match royalty-free images, videos and more.
We’ve covered a lot of resources!
Here are 2 things you should always keep in mind when choosing your images:
Most online images are copyrighted, meaning they’re owned by a creator. Unless that creator has expressly stated that anyone can edit, copy or rework an image, you shouldn’t use it without crediting the artist (and in some cases, crediting may not be enough).
If a creator has given permission for image use, also be very aware of the type of permission granted. For example, an image may be available to use for personal projects, but not ‘commercial’ use. So read the fine print.
Whilst ‘royalty-free’ might contain the word ‘free’, don’t get confused! It doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need to pay. Often, you’ll need to pay once to get the asset you want.
To finish off, here are 2 top tips that will help you apply the images you found, in a professional way.
Avoid crowding too many strong images on one page. This can look chaotic and distract the user from important actions you want them to take on your website.
You should also make sure your images are consistent, or complementary with your color scheme (we’ve written a whole article on that topic here.)
Make sure that the dominant colors in your images match your scheme, or use image editing software to fine-tune the image. For example:
Small tweaks like this can help make your website look more cohesive.
Free stock photos are definitely convenient, but remember other people use them too!
Try to use a range of the resources above mentioned and tweak them to your personality.
If you still want to use stock images – try not to just use the most generic ones. Dig deeper into galleries and make sure to use images that can really resonate with your audience.
The right combination of words, images and logos can transform how a website looks and feels.
And as they say – a good visual can replace a thousand words. Combine whatever you learn here and let your ideas run wild.
With these resources, you’ll be able to breathe life into your website!