5 Incredible Websites with Free Images to Paint

A photo of two pink roses with a pink rose bud, titled "5 Incredible Websites with Free Images to Paint

Step-by-step painting tutorials are awesome when you want to relax and have fun but where do you start when you want to challenge yourself or are wanting to paint something specific without the help of a tutorial? Today, I’m going to show you some really cool websites that have free images to paint!

You may not know this but, you really shouldn’t just take any ol’ image from Google and paint it. The majority of images that’ll you see on the internet belong to someone and, therefore, fall under copyright laws. You may not be intending to sell your artwork but it’s much better to be safe than sorry and to respect someone’s property.

Luckily, there are a ton of websites with free images that you can paint. This article would be way too long to list them all so, instead, I’m going to share my favorites. Heads up, you’re gonna want to bookmark this page for future reference! Let’s get to it!


A bright pink, yellow, and orange, dusty purple, and pale blue summer sunset over the ocean just before dusk. Titled "Free Reference Photos!"

Website #1:

Beautiful turquoise crashing wave against a  pastel sunset sky with the title "Pixabay", the first website for free images to paint.
Image by Ruben Eduardo Ortiz Morales on Pixabay

Pixabay is my #1 go-to for free images to paint. It claims to have almost 2 million stock images but I’ve never sat down and tested this claim because, you know, life and stuff. The Pixabay license is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. If you want to read through it, you can go to their license page here.

You don’t need to give any credit to the creator of the photo or to Pixabay but it is appreciated if you do feel so inclined. You can also, buy the creator a “coffee”, which is a way to give the photographer a donation, as a thank you for being able to use their image.

It’s pretty easy to download the free reference photos to paint. Once you click on the image you’re interested in, you’ll be taken to the download page. From there, just look for the download button and away you go!

Pixabay is a fantastic resource where you can find free images to paint but it’s also interactive. After you’ve been using it for a while, you’ll find that there are certain photographers that you’re more drawn to. You can show your appreciation by donating to them, but if you can’t afford a donation, you can “like” an image, you can comment on their image page, “follow” them, share the image to social media, and even save the image to a collection on the Pixabay platform.

Website #2:

Two bright blue birds, one sitting on top of a weathered wooden birdhouse and the other flying toward the birdhouse with fully opened wings and dried grass in its beak. Shown as an example of a free image to paint on the Pexels website.
Image by Kevin Blanzy on Pexels

Pexels is another awesome place to find free images to paint. Since Pexels and Pixabay are owned by the same company, it makes sense that they are very similar to each other. I list them as two separate websites because they haven’t been combined into a ginormous image site and you can find some images on one that you won’t find on the other. The licensing agreement is pretty much the same but feel free to check out Pexels licensing here.

The main difference between Pexels and Pixabay is that Pexels doesn’t have the option to search for vector graphics or illustrations but it does allow you to download straight from the search results page. Pexels doesn’t have a comment section on each image page but there is still a way to donate, like, share, and follow.

If you go to the image page, the process for downloading is the same as Pixabay, easy and straightforward.

Website #3:

A bright red poppy field with mountains and a blue sky in the distance. This photo is an example of the type of images you can find on the Unsplash website when looking for free images to paint.
Image by Alexandr Hovhannisyan on Unsplash

When you’re looking for free images to paint, you really can’t have enough resources. Unsplash is pretty darn amazing with over 2 million free high-resolution images. Their license is similar to both Pixabay and Pexels and might even be a bit less restrictive but you can read the full Unsplash license here.

Just like Pexels, you can download an image straight from the search results but you can also give the image some love, with a heart, and add it to a personal collection that you can curate straight on the site with a free account.

If you click on the photo, you’ll be redirected to the image page where you can do all of the things mentioned above as well as share.

What I love about this website is that you can find free images to paint that have been photographed in interesting ways which make for unique compositions.

Website #4:

An orange, black, and white butterfly sitting on the petals of a bright red gerbera daisy. This is an example of the kind of images you can find on the StockSnap website.
Image by Tung Minh on StockSnap

When I decided to share these websites with free images you can paint, I wanted to make sure that there was tons of variety so that you could easily find something that inspired you to get creative.

To compare the different websites, I used “Beach” as the search term. The first thing I noticed about StockSnap.io is that they had more than just the ever-popular white sand beach/turquoise water/palm tree photos. I mean, yeah, there were lots of tropical beach images but right from the first page, I found beaches at sunset, birds on the beach, beaches with dramatic stormy skies, crashing waves, and even just beach rocks on the sand! For the diversity alone, StockSnap.io is worth looking at.

They have the same rules as the other websites when it comes to copyright but they also include a link to a more in-depth license description, if reading that type of thing doesn’t blow your mind to smithereens. You can read the simplified license for StockSnap.io here.

When you find free images to paint on StockSnap.io, you can download, “add to favorites”, and follow a link to visit the photographer’s profile.

As with the other websites, the download process is the same. Easy peasy, mac n cheesy!

Website #5:

A close up of bright red and orange fall leaves with the title "Paint my Photo", which is the name of a social networking site.
Just one of my own random photos but there are tons of fall leaf images out there!

Out of all of the websites I’ve shared, this one is the most unique. Paint My Photo is a social networking platform, with a forum, groups, and profiles, specifically created to give artists free images to paint.

It’s basically a free community, of over 20,000 members, where artists and photographers can connect. You can choose a photographer’s image, paint it, and then upload it for all the community to see! They also have challenges to participate in.

Paint My Photo is a fun way to connect with fellow creatives while finding lots of beautiful free images you can paint.

Helpful Tips:

  • Sites like these are great when you are having artist block. You can create collections of your favorite images and organize them in folders to use when the painting bug hits you again
  • Take some time and really browse through each website. With the number of free images to paint on each site, it’ll take some time to find your personal aesthetic

There are so many free images to paint out there on the internet but it can be time-consuming to find them. The websites listed above will give you enough options that you’ll be able to paint, without any copyright issues, for years to come! Do you know of any other websites that offer free images to paint? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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