15 Must Know Sources for Free Web Graphics

Knowing how and where to quickly find free design resources is a great asset to any designer. Today we’ll look at the top sources for icons, photos and vectors- and what makes them the best.

While there are plenty of sources for web graphics, it’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for, especially when you’re looking for free resources. Plus, many of the free sources out there are for personal use only, which severely limits their usefulness. Here I’ve collected 15 impressive sources for free icons, photos, textures and vectors.

Icons

Iconspedia

Iconspedia

What’s To Love:
Iconspedia has hundreds of icons in lots of different categories. They have great quality, and Iconspedia has done a nice job of making it easy to find what you’re looking for.

The Catch:
All icons on this site are roundups, not original releases, and the licenses vary. Many of them require attribution, which can be out of the question in some cases. One good part, though- the license is listed right next to every icon set, unlike some icon sources where you have to visit the author’s site or download the icons to view the license.

Icon Archive

Iconarchive

What’s To Love:
Icon Archive has way more icons than even Iconspedia, and is a great place to look if you’re searching for a free icon set. This site is regularly updated, so make sure to check back regularly!

The Catch:
Once again, not all icons are completely free, so licenses are listed indvidually. Additionally, the site isn’t quite as pleasant to use and Icon Archive is not at all shy about advertisements. Overall, though, definitely a great reference.

Dry Icons

Dry Icons

What’s To Love:
Dry icons is a personal favorite of mine- their icons are absolutely beautiful, and they aren’t stingy about what they release for free. Dry Icons has also released a lot of excellent free vectors.

The Catch:
Dry Icons does require attribution for their icons. Personally, I think this is a small price to pay for the superb quality of the icons, but if you don’t want a credit link on your site, don’t worry, a commercial license costs almost nothing and frees you to use the icons without a credit link.

Icon Shops (Icon Eden,Icon Dock, etc.)

icons shops

What’s To Love:
Icon shops are online businesses that sell icons. Places such as Icon Eden and Icon Dock often release free icon sets to draw traffic and show off their icon-making skills. These are definitely a valuable source of free materials.

The Catch:
Of course, these are promotional tools, so you can expect that they’ll try to sell you premium icons. That’s expected, though, and other than that icon shops are an excellent source for free icon sets.

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine

What’s To Love:
Smashing Magazine regularly posts marvelous icon roundups – an easy way to get the ‘cream’ of all these other sources. Plus, they often release their own wonderful icon sets, exclusive to their readers! If you aren’t watching Smashing Magazine for icons, you’re missing out.

The Catch:
There really isn’t a catch for this one- Smashing Mag is a top-notch, five-star resource for finding icons!

A Little More

Here are some more icon resources you might be interested in:

Textures and Stock Photos

Free Digital Photos

Free Digital Photos

What’s To Love:
Free Digital Photos has a wonderful collection of extremely professional, high-quality images. Their site is very easy to navigate as well.

The Catch:
Unfortunately, Free Digital Photos does requre attribution. That’s why this one got a three-star rank. Otherwise, an excellent resource, and  if you’re willing/able to have a credit on your work, or you just want photos for personal use this is a definite go-to.

Dreamstime

Dreamstime

What’s To Love:
Dreamstime is another great place to look for free stock photos. You might not always find what you’re looking for, but it’s definitely worth a quick search, which is very easy to do at Dreamstime.

The Catch:
Dreamstime is a premium stock photo operation, so they’re going to try to sell you their premium images. They’ll entice you with higher quality premium photos while you’re searching. Also, registration is required in order to download. Nevertheless, its a great place to reference when you’re looking for a photo!

Stock.Xchng

sxc.hu

What’s To Love:
Stock.Xchng is indisputably the leading free stock source. 400,000 high-res photos and textures await you over there. You can’t be a designer and not love SXC!

The Catch:
If there’s one catch about Stock.Xchng, it’s that registration is required. Not much, I’d say, for access to such an enormous repository.

CG Textures

CG Textures

What’s To Love:
CG’s thousands of absolutely free texture photos just can’t be beat. And although the interface is a bit out of date, the textures are very well organized and easy to sift through. This is a five star resource if I’ve ever seen one!

The Catch:
Registration for a free account is required, but that’s a small price to pay for having this kind of valuable resource at your fingertips.

Stock Vault

StockVault

What’s To Love:
The stock photo counterpart of CG Textures, Stock Vault has tons of beautiful, professional stock photos, free for download with no registration, attribution or anything like that.

The Catch:
No catch – that’s it! Once again, if you haven’t been using Stock Vault, you’ve been missing out.

A Little More

And here are a few more excellent texture/photo resources worth keeping in mind:

Vectors

Free-Vectors.com

FreeVectors.com

What’s To Love:
Free Vectors has quite a few packs, all of which are very realistic and useful. I like the fact they they have packs, rather than individual downloads, since it’s more efficient to download several relevant shapes at a time.

The Catch:
Really, the only thing to mention here is that Free-Vectors.com goes for quality, not quantity, so they don’t have a whole lot to chose from. What they do have, however, is very good.

QVectors

QVectors

What’s To Love:
Q stands for quality, and QVectors has done an excellent job amassing a quality collection of free artwork. I’m sure you’ll appreciate their attention to detail, browse-by-tags feature, and relevant selections.

The Catch:
Some of these do require attribution, so check the license on each one. Other than that, QVectors has it made!

Vecteezy

Vecteezy

What’s To Love:
Once again, Vecteezy has some incredible quality -they’re very selective in what they post. Perhaps the best thing about Vecteezy is their simple yet effective advanced search, which allows users to filter vectors based on filetype, license, and category, as several custom ordering options.

The Catch:
Vecteezy also posts some vectors with attribution licenses. Their search, however, makes it easy to filter out items with an unsuitable license.

Design Blogs:
Outlaw Design, Bittbox, SmashingMag, Vector Tuts+, GoMediaZine
design blogs

What’s To Love:
Design blogs like these are a terrific source for free vectors for three reasons:

  1. First, because they’re blogs you’ll be getting the freshest, hottest vectors out there.
  2. Second, you always know that vectors released on blogs are free (unless they’ve been stolen, in which case I wouldn’t keep supporting the blog).
  3. Third, you probably already read a lot of these blogs, so it doesn’t require a lot of extra effort to keep an eye on them for freebies.

The Catch:
It can take a bit more sifting to find free vectors in these places, where other vector sites are one stop shops. I wouldn’t let that scare me away, though, given the benefits of blog freebies.

FreeVectors.org

FreevVectors.org

What’s To Love:
This place has a marvelous selection. They also have better categorization than a lot of other vector sites. Best of all, everything is completely free for personal or commercial use and does not require attribution.

The Catch:
This site requires registration, and they do have premium vectors. In general, though, FreeVectors.org is a remarkable resource.

A Little More

And some more terrific references I found while searching for free vectors:

Wrapping Up

Being able to put your hands on a neccesary graphic quickly can really speed up your work. Plus, it’s fun an inspirational to look through and see what others have come up with. My hope is that these resources will help you as much as they’ve helped me.

So now it’s your turn: what do you think of these sources? These are my personal favorites, but I’d welcome suggestions on other resources that you would put on of these “Top 5″ lists. Thanks for reading!

Written By Nick Parsons

Nick is the editor of Webitect and a developer + designer from Houston TX.

18 Comments

  1. Grungehouse

    October 2nd, 2009 at 09:52 am

    Excellent resource. Thank you.

  2. Nastia

    October 4th, 2009 at 05:39 am

    It’s good collection but to see these sites I need to clean its links to see it. Otherwise it shows “We’re sorry, we lost this page.”

    Here is the link for example http://webitect.net/design/15-must-know-sources-for-free-web-graphics/\\”http://freevectors.org/\\”

  3. DaveK

    October 5th, 2009 at 01:27 am

    Great collection thanks, Its my first time on this site, but is now all bookmarked up. :-)

  4. Johnluffa

    October 5th, 2009 at 02:38 pm

    These are great resources – Many thanks sharing

  5. Scott Pelland

    October 5th, 2009 at 05:55 pm

    Super post! Thanks. I wanted to mention one other site that I use: it’s morguefile.com. There is no attribution requirement and the collection is fairly extensive. One thing I really appreciate about morguefile is that they really encourage creative use of the images–it’s a Photochopper’s heaven!

  6. Nick Parsons

    October 6th, 2009 at 11:14 am

    @Scott Pelland
    Glad you enjoyed reading, and thanks for mentioning Morguefile, I had forgot about that one!

  7. Cosmin

    October 19th, 2009 at 02:44 am

    Hey Nick, thanks for the round up.

    I want to add to the Icons list: http://www.iconfinder.net/

    Check it out, it’s a really useful icons resource ;)

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  9. Laura

    June 15th, 2010 at 10:04 am

    These are excellent resources. I use some of my photography in graphics for my designs. Many are available for free to anyone, with attribution link.

  10. Icons

    September 8th, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Thanks, I will share it on our free icons website

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  12. nitGreen

    December 23rd, 2010 at 01:56 am

    Nice vectors collection,

    Thanks for helping. I found this very useful.

  13. vectors

    June 12th, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Excellent list, some of my favorites are there,..and some :o )

    I’d like to suggest my website http://www.vector-finder.com for free vector graphics

  14. zeeshan

    September 13th, 2011 at 06:07 am

    Very well written. Very unique, impressive, and helpful information. Thank you for sparing your time to write all this in detail

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    October 17th, 2011 at 08:42 am

    Now that’s what I call a great online resource. I am going to share it with my friends.

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