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!

18 Comments

  1. Grungehouse October 2, 2009
  2. Nastia October 4, 2009
  3. DaveK October 5, 2009
  4. Johnluffa October 5, 2009
  5. Scott Pelland October 5, 2009
  6. Nick Parsons October 6, 2009
  7. Cosmin October 19, 2009
  8. Laura June 15, 2010
  9. Icons September 8, 2010
  10. canada-rx-Speman October 15, 2010
  11. nitGreen December 23, 2010
  12. vectors June 12, 2011
  13. zeeshan September 13, 2011
  14. Object Synergy October 17, 2011
  15. Diet pills November 18, 2011
  16. Usman Azad January 18, 2012
  17. VPS Hosting Queensland August 9, 2012

Leave a Reply