The Ultimate Guide to Finding Free Open Access Art Online
I've written about finding free art online quite a bit (like here and here), but I wanted to create a one stop resource for all of the places that exist (or at least as many as I could find) online that you can find free art. Otherwise known as public domain, free license, or open access art. I've used this type of art all over my house and all it takes is a little bit of time to hunt down some pieces worthy of hanging in your home!
As a lover of art I always recommend buying from local artists when you can, but sometimes it's nice to have a quick and free option when you're saving up for a bigger project. I wanted to create a resource for you to come and have direct links into the pages that take you exactly where you can start searching for free art that you can print right at home!
A few tips before you start:
- Most of these links will take you directly to the search page where you can begin looking. Some of these websites only contain public access art, but some contain pieces that are not. So be on the lookout for a checkbox to make sure you limit your search to only open access art before you start searching.
- Start by setting some search parameters. Several websites allow you to limit your search by only viewing paintings, drawings, or digital photographs and I highly recommend checking those boxes to eliminate pictures of sculptures or historical artifacts (unless that's your cup of tea).
- Most of these databases have thousands of images to search through and it can feel overwhelming trying to find art that fits the aesthetic you're going for. I like to search for simple terms like "floral" or "landscape" to start narrowing things down. Think about the kind of art you like and try to think of how it might be classified at a museum (try searching "abstract" if you're into more modern art). Even searching terms like "oil painting" can help hone in to some awesome still life work.
Let's start with my favorite sites to search through!
Art Institute of Chicago- Here I found that searching artists names was a quick way to find some beautiful options, think classic artists like Monet, Van Gogh, etc.
Belvedere- This website is not in English so it can be a little tricky to search. Make sure you check that open access box on the left hand side of the screen right off the bat, but after you do some great options pop up immediately!
The Cleveland Museum of Art- Not the most search friendly site I'm sharing here, but you can search and set types of artwork parameters so with a little elbow grease you can find gems like this...
Harvard Art Museum- The classification tab is going to be your best friend when searching here, click on terms like "drawings" or "paintings" to weed things out you don't want and there are some really cool modern art pieces in here!
Mauritshuis- This site is awesome! It almost feels like the images were already curated (if you're into vintage and antique florals and still life like me :) This site is a gem!
Minneapolis Institute of Art- Here I've pre-loaded the search term "public domain" for you and from here you're going to want to click "advanced search", then try clicking around in the filters. It's a little clunky, but there are some beauties to be found.
Yale University- Under the classification tab on the right side look under paintings, or drawings and watercolors to limit your search. I wish more search results could be seen per page, but after a little bit of time I found some cool art here.
Welcome Collections- Do yourself a favor and set the filter to "digital images" before you start searching here to weed out the thousands of other types of free media. From here if you search a simple term like "floral" prepare to get excited! So many great options!
Smithsonian- Lots to look through here and those filters are going to be your best friend!
Here are some more websites, but I wouldn't call them my favorites...
Basically, the search functions are terrible here. There's definitely more art to be found, but it's kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack. Searcher be warned...
The New York Public Library- Definitely not my favorite search platform and you have to make sure you are constantly checking the "show only public domain" box (every.single.time), but there are 300,000 works here to sort through.
National Gallery of Art- Definitely not a very search friendly website, there are over 50,000 works of art here, but no search bar (the only search bar here is for the entire website).
Getty Museum- More than 100,000 images can be found here.
Library of Congress- Millions of images from the national archive can he found here.
Museum of New Zealand- There are around 30,000 images from New Zealand's state collections.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art- Make sure to check the box "show public domain images only" before you start and then continuously as you search because it will reset every time!
And I couldn't leave you without also sharing some additional resources about printing and framing all the free art you find!
How to print
- you can print anything 8 x 10 or smaller on your home computer!
- Anything larger can be printed at Costco, Walgreens, and Staples. Or you can do it online at Shutterfly or Vistaprint.
- My favorite way to frame these free prints is Level Frames, just upload the download to their site, select from their custom framing options, and it will be delivered a few days later! It's that easy! Click here for $15 off your order!
- I also love finding frames at thrift stores, just remove the tacky dated art and pop in your new art!
- There's not a perfect answer to this, most of these images are pretty large, but if you're unsure here is a handy guide that will help you. Keep in mind if what you're printing is an organic hand painted landscape a little loss of quality or fuzziness probably won't be a deal-breaker printed at a massive size. If it's a more modern piece with a lot of sharpness then using this guide will be helpful to ensure no quality is lost!
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