Top reference image websites for your paintings

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 14:10:48 +0100


Do you use reference images when painting? If you do, you would agree with us that it is sometimes a great inspiration and makes not only a budding artist’s life much easier to have the right object proportions in front of the eyes.

Because there are times when you need to study some known or unknown objects, get in detail, to find inspiration, new art style, color palette or interesting composition. But finding a really good reference can be a problem. You need images. And you need the best images so that your art can be outstanding. But where to find them? Or better, where to download them for free? Don’t worry, we did the research for you! Below are the top reference image websites with great resources for your next art project. Most of them are free from copyright restrictions or licensed under Creative Commons 0 (CC0), which practically means you can use these photos for any personal or commercial use. Some of them, on the contrary, ask you for attribution when you use the photograph. We recommend taking a look at the license before you download and use the reference photo for your own use. 

Morgue Files

MorgueFiles is one of the oldest and largest free image resources on the internet with over 350,000 free images in their archive for your inspiration, reference and use in your creative work, be it commercial or not. MorgueFiles doesn’t use the standard CC0 license but has their own agreement which works very similarly. It is quite standard - you can use their photos for any purpose, including commercial as long as you change them.



Pexels collects the most beautiful pictures under one roof. It practically searches all reference images from various resources (like Unsplash, Gratisography, etc.) so all you need to do is enter a keyword or search through the displayed categories to find that perfect piece for your art. Pexels provides high quality and completely free stock photos licensed under the Creative Commons 0 license. All photos are nicely tagged and easily searchable through their discover pages. It can save you quite a lot of time which you can spend on your creativity. If you are a photographer, consider supporting Pexels by adding your own photos to be available for others. You can also show your appreciation by donating a few bucks to their Paypal account.


Paint My Photo

Paint My Photo (PMP) is a social networking site dedicated to sharing photos for artistic inspiration without fear of infringing copyright. In order to search and download photos you must create an account first.

image has recently relaunched with a new design and there are now 12 free photo galleries to choose from. Whether you want photos for personal or commercial use, have a look at the galleries to see if there’s something you want to use.



This website encourages you to use their photos as references for paintings. Photos on this site are completely free - no subscriptions, memberships or hidden fees. Just go to the free galleries, click on the images to download and you can start painting in seconds. Take a look inside the free galleries and you will find photos of landscapes, seascapes, boats, tractors, bridges, canals and all manner of similar subjects, taken from a variety of angles, all of which will enhance the design of your picture.

IM Free 

IM FREE is a great source to find photos or templates for almost anything you need. All of the photos are divided into categories for easy searching and are free for commercial use. Since the photos are curated from various sources, some photos may require attribution so be sure to read terms for each photograph you plan to use.


What about you? Do you use reference images during your creative process, or do you prefer to paint more intuitively? If you use references, what are your favorite image libraries? Share with us what works for you!

Happy painting!

Your Escape Motions Team

Photo credit: Josefa n Diaz |

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