Where images come from

Where are we?

You know what images are for (information, interface, or structure), that they’re made of pixels and color codes, and that they’re stored in one of the Big Three image formats.

But where do you get images?

This lesson’s goals

Images come from two sources. You make them, or someone else does. By the end of this lesson, you should:

  • Know how to find images other people have created.
  • Know about different image licenses.

Using other people’s images

There are millions of images you can use freely on your Web sites. But before you use an image, make sure you understand its license. A license is a legal document telling you what you can do with the image.

There are many different licenses. In fact, image owners can make up any license they like. For example, a photographer might say that you can only use her images for free on alternate Tuesdays.

Some licenses are more common than others. Here are some samples.

  • “Public domain” means that the image is free for any use, including commercial use.
  • An attribution license means that you can use the image, as long as you say where the image came from.
  • Free non-commercial use means that you can use the image for free on personal and non-profit sites. You may need to pay for commercial use.
  • Paid royalty-free non-exclusive license means that you pay once to use the image on a site, no matter how many people view your site. The “non-exclusive” part means that other people can buy a license for their sites as well.

Note that I am not a legal expert. I don’t guarantee anything about this. YMMV.

When in doubt, check. For example, take the paw prints in the header image at the top of this lesson. I got the image from Dog Paw Print. I didn’t want to follow the exact image terms on the site, so I emailed the site’s owner, asking permission to do something a little different. She wrote back immediately, giving permission.

Let’s look at some image sources.


You can get photos from many places. Here are a few.


BurningWell is a collection of public domain photos. The collection is not as large as some others, but there’s still a lot of stuff there, and all for free.


morgueFile is one of the better known free photo sites. The images can be used for commercial purposes. The photos are categorized and searchable.

US government photos

Links to various government sites. Most images are in the public domain, but not all.


This service lets you license images from photographers around the world. Image licenses start from around under $1 per image. You’ll find photos of just about anything here. They have over 4.5 million images at the time of writing.


You can buy images to use on your Web site from $1 each. There’s some great stuff here.

Stock.XCHNG is part of this family of Web sites. Images can be used for free, with some restrictions. Check the license.


Like stockxpert. Same parent company, in fact.

Exercise: Get some dog photos

Find a few dog photos we can use later in this lesson. Make sure they're public domain, or you can use them for free on personal sites.

Put the URLs of the images below. To find the URL of an image, right-click on it in Firefox, and select "View image info." The command may be different in other browsers.

(Log in to enter your solution to this exercise.)

Can't find the 'comment' module! Was it selected?

Interface and structural

These are images for buttons, dividers, and so on. Look for images that come in sets, that is, a collection of buttons, dividers, and other elements that have the same look.

Open Source Web Design

Many complete site layouts, including image sets. The CoreDogs theme started with an OSWD design.

FullMoon Graphics

Some creative image sets.

Chibi Creations

Neat stuff, if you like chibies.

Google Directory

List of Web sets. Lots o’ stuff here.

Creating your own images

Digital camera

Every Weber should have a digital camera, even if it’s just in a cell phone. You never know when you’ll get an opportunity to take a cool photo. And maybe one of your photos will show up on FAIL Blog!

When you buy a cell phone with a camera, make sure there’s an easy way to move images to your computer.

Drawing software

Every Weber should be able to make simple drawings. We’ll talk about that on the next lesson.

Draw and scan

Robot dog
By zombiecatfire13

Zombiecatfire13 drew the robot dog, and said I could add it to CoreDogs. I scanned it in.

If you have a dog drawing you did, send it to kieran@coredogs.com. I’ll find a place for it. I’ll link your image to somewhere, if you want. Give me the URL.


There are many sources for free and low-cost images. Make sure you follow license terms. When in doubt, ask.

What now?

Let’s cover some of the tools that should be in your image toolkit.