Image licensed via Adobe Stock / By Tashka2000
Following two years of pandemic-busting disruption, many of us will be feeling the pinch. If you're a graphic designer running your own business, then you'll want to save every penny you can over the next 12 months. To help, we've pulled together an essential guide to the best free resources for your next graphic design projects.
Written by: Katy Cowan
We're talking the highest quality, non-cheesy stock imagery and videos, illustration templates when you sadly can't afford anything bespoke, and millions of icons to serve just about any purpose. There's also free typography to polish off those designs and special tools to help you get there. We've even shared recommended free mockups to help you showcase your completed work.
And if that wasn't enough, we've taken the time to pull together some design inspiration resources, so if you ever get stuck and need to spark an idea, you'll have a whole list of decent platforms to visit and peruse. We'll update this essential list of free resources as and when we can. For now, here are our fresh suggestions to help you enjoy a budget-conscious but super creative 2022. Add this page to your bookmarks, so you can always have it ready.
As any graphic designer will tell you, some projects are not complete until there is some decent accompanying photography. Shots of people in various situations or city landscapes can add that extra something. Here are our favourite free stock image sites to browse and enjoy. But designers, ensure you keep a record of where you sourced each stock picture from for future reference.
Offering a mix of "beautiful photos of black and brown people, for free", Nappy was founded to address the traditional stock photo sites that were once lacking in diversity. An essential resource for any creative, all of Nappy's images are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero agreement, giving you peace of mind.
Promising stock photos by a "movie-scale crew", Moose brings you options of people, ethnicity, style, fashion and more. A handy category list and search box help you narrow down what you need. We especially like the background imagery – plenty to choose from.
One of the originals and still one of the best, StockSnap continues to expand its most excellent range of free stock imagery. It's always interesting to see what photographs are "trending". At the time of writing, it seems anything to do with beauty and nature is proving popular with the creative community.
A favourite stand-out resource of ours is Pexels, which offers free stock photos, royalty-free and shared by other creators. We love checking out the leaderboard to see which users have had the most views of their photos and videos in the last 30 days. This site has a real community behind it, so add it to your list today.
Another stock photo site powered by a friendly community of photographers, all uploading free stock pics for you to download and use. There are some really decent choices via Unsplash. This could be our favourite.
Royalty-free photographs by subject, photographer, or even camera – all completely free to download and use for either personal or commercial use.
A super resource courtesy of Shopify, Burst brings you free, high-resolution images for your projects. From categories such as fitness and beauty to business, sign language and nature, there are also textures and backgrounds available, so there is plenty to play with.
This does exactly what it says on the tin: vintage photos from the public archives, free of known copyright restrictions and with the aim of recapturing history. You never know when you might need a black and white 100-year-old cityscape or portraits from another era.
Another royalty-free CC0 resource with a particular focus on nature stock photos and videos. Created by Adrian Pelletier, a graphic designer and self-taught front-end developer. Bring us mountains, beaches and lakes galore!
Promising thousands of free and high-resolution stock images and videos, ISO is a one-stop-shop for all your visual needs. Have fun browsing the various sections, from people and food to travel and animals.
Nappy, free stock imagery
Sometimes you really need something to move. When a stock image just won't do, here are some wonderful suggestions for free video footage brought to you from other creative professionals, generous communities or big brands wishing to give back.
It's hard to believe that footage via Pond5 is free and ready to use on your website or for your next design project. There are plenty of clips to keep you occupied. And there's even a section on free audio, too.
Vimeo, yes, Vimeo, has free HD stock footage for you to download and use for whatever purpose you require. Created by Phil Fried, it's a resource that includes 258 videos generously donated by nearly 30,000 community members.
Free stock video footage courtesy of Coverr, one of the original sites in this category, to kindly give back to the creative community with its excellent selection of clips. It promises "videos for every need", and we've yet to discover otherwise.
The people behind Adobe are giving away a decent selection of free videos based on themes such as business, nature and people. It's just one of many areas of its Adobe Stock website where you can also find free stock assets, free motion graphic templates and more.
VFX, light leaks, overlays, backgrounds and more – these are all available to download from Cute Stock Footage, where there are over 4,000 clips to discover.
Coverr, free stock footage for designers
What about adding sound to a design project? We've got you covered. Here are our top picks for royalty-free music for your videos, as well as sound effects and essential sounds.
Free music for creators at Uppbeat with a solemn promise of "no copyright claims" with tracks from your favourite beatmakers. Save your favourites, see what's trending and enjoy listening to the website community's top picks.
Deemed as your number one resource for free to download and royalty-free music, FMA promises "not just free music, but good music".
From acoustic and folk to cinematic and urban groove, tracks from Bensound are free to use as long as you credit the website and don't use it for anything like audiobooks, podcasts or for making songs. Always read the small print.
With "free assets for your next video project", MixKit doesn't just have free stock music tracks and sound effects, it also stretches to stock video. It's a free library that is growing fast, with new content added every week from creators worldwide.
Whilst many of the sound effects via Videvo cost money, many are free. From police sirens and gunshots to rain falling and wind whistling, you'll have everything you need to bring your design projects to life.
Uppbeat, free stock music and audio
We all want to bring in bespoke support from our illustrator friends. But sometimes, client budgets just don't allow it. Here are some free options to tide you over until that glorious day when you can ask your freelance buddies to collaborate.
Mix and match illustrations of people with a design library. An amazing resource by Pablo Stanley that can be used with Blush to create your own compositions.
Illustrations of people in various scenarios to help add to your design project. What we especially love is the quick and easy ability to use a colour image generator to match the illustrations to your brand identity.
Updated weekly, DrawKit offers beautiful free illustrations, hand-drawn vectors and icons alike, perfect for your next project. Although there are many free options, you can also enjoy browsing the premium illustration packs, which start at $10, so it's hardly breaking the bank.
A free library of CAD drawings of people, brought to you by three recently graduated architecture students. "During our years of study, we created a considerable amount of vector scale models. Instead of letting them collect dust in the deepest and darkest corners of our external backup drives, we made a site to let them see the light of day and spread all over the world," they explain.
A hand-drawn illustration library, Open Peeps is another awesome resource by Pablo Stanley, allowing you to mix and match different characters with various elements to build your own unique illustrations. With creations for all occasions, the assets can be used in Blush, too.
Designers will find a nice selection of free illustrations via this website. From artworks on themes such as sneakers and transport to retro vectors and helpful icons, it's a curated web resource to add to your bookmarks.
Good old Lukasz Adam continues to generously give back to the creative community with his free SVG illustrations, available for both commercial and personal use under the CC0 license. No attribution is required.
We think Pixabay is worth a mention, not just for its gorgeous selection of free illustrations but also for its free stock photos, vectors, videos, music and sound effects. This website has grown enormously since its launch. Sign up and become a member to join in the fun.
Open Doodles is a set of free illustrations that you can copy, edit, remix, share, or redraw for any purpose without restriction under copyright or database law. And guess what, it's another classic resource courtesy of Pablo Stanley.
Absurd illustrations that make sense. That's the bold statement on the Absurd Design homepage. It is brought to you by Diana Valeanu, whose side project has grabbed the attention of the design community worldwide. Whether you need illustrations for apps, websites, landing pages, products, or articles, Diana's side project offers a selection for free with an option to upgrade and pay, should you need access to more.
Open Peeps, recommended free illustrations for designers
Icons might be the smaller of design elements, but that doesn't mean they're any less important. We've scoured the web to pick some of the best resources for free icons, no matter the theme in question.
Over 1,300 open-source icons, lovingly hand-crafted for use in web, iOS, Android, and desktop apps. Built by the Ionic Framework team, they're all free and open source.
Started by Dan Leech, Simple Icons features free SVG icons for popular brands available to download for free. To date, there are 2,141 free icons, making your life much easier as a designer.
Claiming to be the largest database of free icons on the web, Free Icons has everything you might need, and its treasure trove of goodies are available in PNG, SVG, EPS, PSD and BASE 64 formats. Perfect.
Get everything you need, free and available to download for commercial use, via Icons Icons. There are flat icons, and there are icon sets. Whatever your project's theme, this site will have you covered.
Download any number of free icons for commercial use, royalty-free and of seriously decent quality. We're talking arrows, device icons, transport graphics and more.
Over 2,400 royalty-free flat icons on various themes. There's even a flat icon maker where you can create your own icons with ease.
Co-founded by Sofya Polyakov, Edward Boatman and Scott Thomas, The Noun Project offers over two million curated icons created by a global community and available for use by designers for free.
This excellent resource has a range of high-resolution animated GIFs that you can customise. They are small in file size, compatible with all major browsers, emails, and smartphones and don't require any special plugins or libraries. Sorted.
Describing its selection of icons as "awesome", this nifty little site has a great range of assets for your next design project. There are also some 'Pro Only' options available to paying members.
There's nothing monstrous about this generous resource. Iconmonstr gives you free icons that can either be heavyweight or lightweight, depending on your design. You can even "vote for the icon to be made next", putting your idea to founder Alexander Kahlkopf, a senior designer from Germany with over 15 years of professional experience in icon design.
The Noun Project, free icons
Fonts can make or break a design. They can also be one of the most expensive aspects of any project. That's why this curated selection of free font libraries will help you avoid blowing the budget on some sexy slab serif.
A robust directory of open source web fonts for designers to use how they wish. All created to the high standards you'd expect from the world's largest search engine.
Click on this site, and you're promised a "free font utopia". Font Squirrel is another extensive archive of free fonts, all free for commercial use.
FontFabric is a comprehensive type foundry that creates retail fonts and custom typography for various brands. Rather generously, it also provides a selection of free fonts for anyone to download and use. We love Nexa and Mont Blanc, but there are lots more to browse and sample on its nicely designed website.
A personal selection of "beautiful, classy, punk, professional, incomplete, and weird typefaces", Use & Modify provides open-source fonts that are free to use and...you guessed it, modify.
Not the nicest designed website in the world, but who cares when 1001 Free Fonts gives you loads of free fonts to play with! Ok, so there's a slight catch. You can download and use any font for personal use, but if you need to go commercial, you can download 10,000 fonts for just $20 or thereabouts. Not bad when you see the quality of specimens such as Bodoni and Pine Tree.
Like most large type shops, MyFonts has a range of free fonts that you can download and use at no cost. You just have to do some sifting through to find what you need.
Font Zone has thousands of free fonts to enhance your websites, documents, greeting cards, and more. You can browse popular fonts by themes, name or style.
UrbanFonts features a decent collection of free fonts, premium fonts and free dingbats. With over 8,000 freeware fonts, there are many options to browse and use. Most fonts on this site are freeware. Some are shareware or linkware. Some fonts provided are trial versions of full versions and may not allow embedding unless a commercial license is purchased or may contain a limited character set. Make sure you review any files included with your download, which will usually include information on the usage and licenses of each font.
FontSpace has free downloads of legally licensed fonts for your next design projects. Founded in 2006, the site is a designer-centred typography website with fonts broken down into different styles. Just double-check the small print before you use anything for commercial purposes.
DaFont is an enormous archive of freely downloadable fonts. Browse by alphabetical listing, by style, by author or by popularity.
Google Fonts, free typography for designers
Not everyone can afford the big guns when it comes to design tools. That's why this particular list of recommendations will be welcome news for budget-conscious designers. There are some real gems here, so take your time to bookmark each site.
Describing itself as an "online graphic design tool", Figma has all the elements you might need to create logos, social media graphics, presentations and more. And yes, it's all free.
A free vector graphics editor that's simple and powerful, allowing you to design and edit vector graphics like a pro via its website and desktop cross-platform without any steep learning curve. We'll take that.
One we've recommended before, Inkscape is a powerful design tool that allows you to edit vector graphics for free. All Inkscape projects may be exported in formats friendly to web browsers or commercial printer rooms. It is cross-platform, which means it is easy to run on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux distributions.
Keep forgetting the exact dimensions of A1? PaperSizes is a comprehensive resource listing all international standards for paper sizes, dimensions and formats – all right there, online and free to use.
Another professional vector design app that you can access from anywhere on any machine. There's a free version to get started with 500MB of cloud storage, PDF export, and colour space. To access more features, simply upgrade to #37.49 per annum.
Crello is a free graphic design tool to help you create impressive content in minutes. Browse thousands of professional templates and edit them right away. Click to create a new font pairing, lock fonts that you want to keep, and choose a font manually. The text is editable, so try replacing it with your company name or other suitable copy.
Where has Font Joy been our whole lives? Finally, font pairing made simple thanks to this most excellent free resource. Match the fonts that will work beautifully together with an easy online tool that even allows you to add your own text to play with.
The Vecteezy Editor is designed to allow anyone to customise the platform's own content before you download it or create beautiful vector designs from scratch directly in your browser.
Are you struggling to decide on which typography to use in your designs? Wordmark helps you choose those fonts. Simply type in a word or sentence to its preview search bar, and it'll show you a range of options on your screen.
Launched in 2013, Canva is an online design and publishing tool with a mission to empower everyone in the world to design anything and publish anywhere. Not everything is free, but 250,000 free templates might just be enough to get you started.
Wordmark helps you choose the right fonts for your designs
What about palettes? These recommended free tools will inspire some seriously gorgeous colour schemes and help you make something your clients will love.
Trending colour palettes, voted by the creative community, for you to browse, save, keep and borrow. No catch. No payment is required. It's just an amazing community of designers who share and generate their own inspiring palettes.
Need to get the essential colours from a website? This browser extension helps you generate comprehensive palettes—a must-have tool for designers and front-end developers with free colour scheme extraction.
Color Hunt is an open collection of beautiful colour palettes created by Gal Shir. What started as a small personal project soon became a platform to share trendy colour combinations between a group of designer friends. The collection scaled up and is now being used daily as a handy resource for thousands of people worldwide.
WebGradients is a free collection of 180 linear gradients that you can use as content backdrops in any part of your website. Created by Dima Braven.
Now, this we love: Color Lisa offers palette masterpieces from the world's greatest artists. For example, if you love The Starry Night by Van Gogh, then this wonderful tool gives you all of the colours the artist used in that particular piece. We're hooked.
Color Lisa is the ultimate palette inspiration tool
When Adobe's Photoshop isn't within reach, there are plenty of alternative tools available to help you edit images for free and via your web browser. Here are some of our top recommendations.
Fotor allows you to edit photos for free, that's whether you need to crop images, resize images, add text to photos, make photo collages, or create graphic designs easily.
Remove is a tool that lets you remove backgrounds in photographs 100% automatically and completely free. In five seconds with zero clicks, you've saved yourself hours of editing.
Sick of looking up the exact image dimensions for all the different social media platforms? SocialSizes is an amazing collection of free image and video sized templates for Sketch, Figma, XD, Photoshop and Illustrator. If that wasn't enough, there's also a free Image Maker where you can upload images and download the right-sized version for any social network.
This nifty photo editor and template designer lets you start editing your images at the click of a button. It's free with a premium option should you wish to upgrade and access more features.
Kapwing is a free collaborative online video editor that also includes a free tool for editing images. There's a free membership option with an option to upgrade to access more. However, the free version gives you plenty to get going.
Remove BG is a tool that lets you remove backgrounds for free
You've done all the hard work. Now you want to show it off. Mocking up your projects will really showcase what you're capable of, making your online portfolio sing and helping to convince new clients to hire you. The following free mockup tools will help you present your work beautifully.
Check out these gorgeous free avatars for design mockups via UI Faces. Acting as the perfect placeholders, this is a great resource to finalise your about pages, for example.
One of our favourite free tools, Shotsnapp, helps you craft beautiful device mockup images for your app or website design. Simply choose a device, add an image of your design or screenshot, make some changes to the appearance, then download and off you go.
Screely allows you to instantly turn a screenshot into a browser mockup. Drag and drop your files, paste from your clipboard or browse files and the mockup is made. You can also choose between different browser windows, edit your images, and customise your background.
A relatively new kid on the block, and not one we've seen before, Artboard Studio is a gorgeously-designed website that claims to be the "best online mockup generator". Design, animate and present your projects with an extensive library of mockups right inside the browser. As with most of these tools, there are free options, and there are professional upgrades. Take your pick.
Screenpeek captures any website within a high-quality mockup in seconds. Choose the iPhone template and type in the URL to get what you need for free. Upgrade to 'Pro' if you want access to more templates, such as the iPad, MacBook, and iMac.
House of Mockups was established as a fierce creative community founded by Anthony Wood—creative director and global MD of Shillington. Here, you'll find a selection of free and premium mockups that will "dazzle clients with photographic realism".
Browse hundreds of mockups for your next design project via YouWorkForThem. We're talking about everything from stickers and cassette taps to devices and billboards—some lovely assets to browse and download here.
Smartmockups lets you craft stunning product mockups easily and online. Yes, there are lots of free options to choose from. And you'll certainly enjoy seeing the tool do all the hard work for you. But should you need access to more, the site allows you to upgrade.
A seriously stunning resource for any discerning graphic designer, The Templates brings you high-quality mockups from the talented folk behind The Brand Identity.
Cheerful and with loads of variety, Graphic Burger might be one of the more established mockup resource sites on the web, but its content remains fresh and interesting.
Artboard offers free mockups to showcase your designs
You've got your mockups. You're prepping your case studies for your portfolio, ready to send to the design press. But what about those all-important screenshots and assets. Sure, you can manually capture what you need, but some tools just do the job better. Here are our favourites.
Collabshot is a free web and desktop application that enables quick screengrabs, easy URL-based sharing, and live, multi-person drawing and sketching. All you have to do is download the free desktop app to get started.
Need to create gifs on your Mac? Giphy Capture is simple, powerful, free, and easy enough for pretty much anyone to master.
Snappy lets you take snapshots of screens as well as clip stuff ready for future reference.
GoFullPage is the best browser extension for taking a screenshot of an entire webpage. Add it to Chrome and start capturing what you need.
EasyScreen is a powerful screen capture software for creating screenshots and screencasts. Capture your computer screen, add your voice and webcam for narration. Ideal for games, demos, video tutorials and more. Record Screencasts fast and free! With GIF Support
ScreenRec is a free screen recorder with no watermark that lets you capture your desktop in one click and share instantly.
Markup Hero is the screenshot and annotation tool made for the web. Works on Mac, Windows, Linux and Chrome and lets you start annotating in seconds.
EasyScreen is a powerful screen capture software for creating screenshots and screencasts. Capture your computer screen, add your voice and webcam for narration. Ideal for games, demos, video tutorials and more! Record Screencasts fast and free.
Use ScreenToGif to record your screen, your webcam feed or sketch board drawings. There is plenty to play with here, especially when you need to create some seriously nice gifs that will showcase your work.
Collabshot is a free screengrab tool
We all have those days when we get stuck, and projects feel stagnant and unmoving. That's when a good hour of browsing the web can get the creative juices flowing again with a whole host of online magazines, blogs, and resources dedicated to inspiring graphic designers around the globe.
With designers making up a huge chunk of our audience at Creative Boom, our dedicated graphic design section is perfect for daily inspiration. Here, we share the latest brand identities, the latest industry news, and relevant books and magazines.
Mirador is the image hunting work of Say What Studio, a graphic design duo based in Paris. Enjoy looking through the curated guide of the most inspirational works out there.
Wix, the cloud-based development platform, has its own blog where it shares tips and advice on designing your online portfolio while sharing some of the most inspiring web designs in the world. Bookmark and stay updated for regular inspiration.
Launched in 2011, Inspiration Grid is an online magazine celebrating creative talent from around the world. It promises to be a daily fix of design, art, illustration, typography, photography, architecture, fashion and more.
Adobe's portfolio tool for creatives, Behance, also acts as a showcase of the latest design projects from creative pros worldwide. Search and filter by creative field, colour, location, or tools to really get under the bonnet of what's happening out there.
Dribbble is a great source of inspiration when you need an uplift. Being a community where its members share creative work via the platform, you can enjoy browsing some of their latest projects whenever you like.
Httpster is an inspiration resource showcasing "totally rocking websites made by people from all over the world", as it puts it. Enough said.
It's Nice That is a fond favourite amongst graphic designers with a finger-on-the-pulse attitude and a unique eye on creativity and where it's heading. Follow its graphic design section to enjoy typography, logos, rebrands, and more.
From new work to in-depth coverage, reviews and opinion, Creative Review's dedicated section on graphic design will keep you abreast of what's happening across the UK.
Founded, designed, and curated by Ruby Bacanovic, a Croatian designer based in Los Angeles, The Design Blog brings you carefully curated design inspiration, featuring works of designers and design studios from all over the world, with the main focus on emerging talent.
Identity Designed is a website and book devoted to the design of visual identities. The website launched as a side project in 2010 and has since become one of the best sources of inspiration out there. It was founded by David Airey, an independent graphic designer based in Northern Ireland.
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