When painting or drawing from photos, we need to make sure we have permission to use a photo before we get carried away. Not every photographer will be pleased that you copied their image. But! There are loads of places online with photos specifically for artists to use! Isn’t that cool?? 😀

Thank you generous photographers!

Whether you’re starting out as an artist or you’re a professional looking for just the right photo reference for your next artwork, these sites might be of interest to you. 🙂

The first three allow personal and commercial use for their images, and no attribution is necessary (that means you don’t have to give them credit for the photo reference).

Morgue File: http://www.morguefile.com/archive
From their website: “Morguefile, where photo reference lives. This morgue file contains free high resolution digital stock photographs and reference images for either corporate or public use. The purpose of this site is to provide free image reference material for illustrators, comic book artist, designers, teachers and all creative pursuits.”

Pixabay: https://pixabay.com
From their website: “Free images and videos you can use anywhere. All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty-free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required.”

Unsplash: https://unsplash.com
From their website: “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos. 10 new photos every 10 days.”

The next two are Facebook Groups. Both have a wonderful supply of photos and they are pretty active communities. There are rules for each group so make sure you read them thoroughly before using any photos.

Free artists’ reference photos: https://www.facebook.com/groups/329155370527589

***NEW SITE***Reference Photos For Artists – 2: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1417173658571014
The reference for my Peacock was from this group. I adjusted the reference quite a bit in Photoshop to get the colours I wanted for my drawing, along with cropping it to a suitable shape. I then made up my own background to match the brighter colour scheme. 🙂

Photo Reference Sites for Artists

I’ve left this one until the end because Paint My Photo (PMP), only allow traditional artists to use their photos and you must become a member before you can even browse their galleries. But it doesn’t cost a thing! It really is a lovely community over there and there are so many wonderful photos to choose from, so go check them out if you use traditional media! 😀

Paint My Photo: http://pmp-art.com
From their website: “Paint My Photo (PMP) is a social networking site dedicated to sharing photos for artistic inspiration without fear of infringing copyright.”

There are more, but these are my main go-to websites for free references, and I can honestly say they have helped me a lot. I hope they help you too! 😀


Hi, I’m Kat! An Australian artist who loves painting fantasy characters and illustrations.


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