Monday, September 21, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Image Libraries

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

Image Libraries

One set of tools that has been incredibly useful to me as I have been creating my incredibly light pamphlet adventures... and this blog, has been knowing where to find images that it is free and legal to use. I wanted to share a few of my favourite resources here:


Pixabay has more dragons than you can
shake a vorpal sword at, like
this one from OpenClipart-vectors 

Pixabay is a massive library of free, royalty-free stock images. It's terms are incredibly simple: don't sell unaltered images, don't just reupload images to other libraries, don't use the images to portray identifiable people in them in an offensive way, don't use images of branded products to create misleading association or claims about that product. Otherwise, it is use as you like for commercial or non-commercial use. No attribution required (But I try to when I can). No fees (But some contributors have tip jars).

Pixabay is huge. And it is a perfect resource if you are producing material with zero budget like I am. Its only downside is ir can take forever to sort through unless your search engine skills are top notch.

It doesn't lack for NSFW images, however, do be prepared for artistic (But not always tasteful) nudity,  especially if you search for "fantasy."

I would also be wary of the fact that pixabay often includes images of trademark characters. I have difficulty exactly working out how the legal complexities of using those images would be. I tend to avoid them on principle.


Photo by Naman Porwal on Unsplash
Unsplash uses a  very similarlicense to Pixabay homemade exclusively features photographic work. While photographic work is not to my personal taste when creating or buying role-playing games, I can't deny there are some truly amazing images there. Many of which I use as models when I paint with Photoshop or GIMP

Photos of things such as sculptures, Miniatures, and other media such as paintings means that there is quite a bit of content you can use on unsplash if you are willing to take the time to search for it.

Free Vector

Similar to Pixabay in scope, Free Vector is mostly vector images that are free for use for private, non-commercial application... so a great resource for your home game. It also includes some creative commons offerings you can use in accordance with the license.

Rijks Museum 

Rijks Studio - Rijks Museum is a site that has a curated collection of classic artwork in the public domain, free for use and download. Is dedicated to ensuring that works of art from across the world are available to be appreciated by the public online.

Public Domain Review

A Flickr-based gallery, Public Domain Review is a curated collection of public domain images, ranging from medieval illuminations, to scientific drawings, to renaissance  artwork, to magazine ads and pop culture material that has fallen into the public domain. Everything on the site exists entirely within the public domain and can be downloaded been used by anyone. The site is curated by a not-for-profit group, and is well categorized and easy to explore.

The sheer amount of fodder for fantasy role-playing is stunning. Collections of creatures, demons from medieval manuscripts, and illustrations of exotic animals, not to mention surreal and psychedelic works of the early 20th century made for an excellent selection for a would-be RPG writer.

Alan Mays

A privately curated collection on Flickr, Allen May's gallery include public domain material from across the world and all over history. It is neatly categorized, and is growing rapidly.  the thousands of images year are intuitively organized and very enjoyable to browse. I find something that inspires me every time I visit this collection.

Raw Pixel

"Sato Norikiyo defend himself"
by Kuniyoshi Utawgawa

Raw Pixel maintains a large and slowly public domain library categorized by artist or source. Among other things, Raw Pixel keeps a great number of naturalists' diagrams, Japanese Ukiyo-e art from some of my favourites, and a great deal of ancient Egyptian art.


The vast majority of the art and photography used by Wikipedia in its articles is public domain or Creative Commons artwork.  clicking on an image in Wikipedia will take you to a Details page that includes the copyright information or easy research.

The Smithsonian Institute

The Smithsonian Institute maintains numerous online art galleries and collections. While some of their galleries online showcase modern artworks that are protected by copyright, they have extensive collections of artworks that remain in the public domain. Their vast collections from around the world and across history can be visited online. The Smithsonian has gone to great efforts to make their website more accessible and easier to navigate in the past year. Man being extremely helpful as I have researched traditional Ukiyo-e art for my upcoming House of Amber Lanterns module.

Gratuitous Shout Out to Guilherme Gontijo

 I became aware of at least three of these sources through Guilherme Gontijo, a Brazilian RPG designer whose work I've featured a couple of other times on this site. Guilherme runs a patreon program where he curates 30 public domain images a month that would be useful to role-playing game designers.

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