Public domain artwork

Philip_I_of_France In my opinion the biggest hurdle for any aspiring game designer is artwork. Especially if you plan to release a game for free you usually have no budget for paying artists. One solution are clipart collections. If you do a search on Google you’ll probably find a lot of clipart galleries, some of them even free. There are also a lot of artists which offer some of their works under Creative Commons, but in my opinion the easiest way is to rely on artwork in the public domain, if you need to illustrate your game/adventure/supplement.

While searching for artwork for my upcoming Gears roleplaying game I found the following sources of PD artwork:

And if these three sites aren’t enough, you can check out the Wikipedia Public domain image resources page. If you know any good sources for free artwork, please share the links in the comments below!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

6 thoughts on “Public domain artwork”

  1. Two good options for anyone with skill in GIMP or PhotoShop:

    1. Flickr has a very handy option under Advanced Search that will let you locate photographs that are made available under a Creative Commons license.

    2. Deviantart has a number of stock art resources available as well. (Some members of Deviantart also use the Creative Commons license, but I've never been able to find an easy way to search for that.) For those, you need to check the conditions for each artist, to make sure any use complies with their requirements. It is also possible to simply send a message to an artist asking permission, if you see something you would like to use but isn't in the "stock" category or Creative-ly Commons licensed.

    I also find the Web Gallery of Art ( useful. General web searches for "vintage" photographs is also useful — at least in the U.S., anything pre-1927 is generally a good bet to be out of copyright (but keep in mind that depending on the photo, you may have trademark issues).

    The Library of Congress has a lot of public domain images available here:

  2. You read my mind. I was just thinking of this very issue today. I'm a terrible artist yet I really would love to publish some high quality, free PDFs. Thanks for the resource links!

    (The name's Tim, BTW… typo in the name field)

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