Where to Find Images and Artwork for Ebooks?

Adding graphics and images to your ebook can help your ebook to come across as more professional and impress your readers.

But where can you get the graphics?

One way to add graphics is by using royalty free images & clip art.

It is important to realize that “Royalty Free” does not mean that the photos and clip art are free.

With Royalty Free (RF) images and artwork you purchase a license to use the photo or artwork.

It means they are free of royalties. If they were not free of royalties then you would need to pay the creator every time you use the image or artwork, and the fee would most likely be in proportion to the amount of exposure the piece gets.

With royalty free graphics you will not have exclusive rights to any image. Other people may be using it too.

Keep in mind that depending upon where you purchase royalty free images and art there may be differences in the licenses and how the images can be used.

We checked in 2010 with the following three providers of royalty free images and while there are small differences in their licenses all three allow the use of their royalty free graphics in ebooks under their standard license:

These providers all allow the images to be used in ebooks with a standard license, however if your ebook goes above a certain number of copies (e.g. 250,000 at Shuttestock and 500,000 with iStockPhoto) then you would need to purchase extended licenses. You may also not be allowed to use the royalty free images in ebooks that contain any offensive material.

So check the license terms carefully to make sure it suits your requirements and your situation. But for most ebook authors, these sites will be a good source of images and graphics.

About the Author: Gary McLaren

Gary McLaren is the author of 'The Indie Author's Guide to Publishing Ebooks'. He also manages several web sites for professional writers including Publish Your Own Ebooks and Worldwide Freelance.


  1. My thanks to the writer for clarifying what royalty-free actually means. I suggest that another way to get free graphics is to build your own collection of digital images using your own digital camera. That way the photos are original that no one else can use them without paying the owner.

  2. Thank you Gary for the information about where to find artwork for our ebook cover and for your excellent explanation of “royal-free.” I also appreciate Ebb’s suggestion to build up our arsenal of personal artwork.
    Esther Jno-Charles

  3. You can, of course, use images licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License, provided you fulfill the conditions (which in this case just means crediting the originator).

    flickr.com has a Creative Commons search facility.

  4. I’m a little surprised that you didn’t mentioned stock.xchng, at http://sxc.hu/. I’ve found the stock photography there to be of very high quality, and nearly everything there is not only royalty-free, but free of charge as well. (Some posters upload lower-resolution images and invite you to purchase the full-resolution versions from them.)

    Do be sure to notify & credit those posters who request it, and be aware that the integrated search results include images from iStockPhoto, which recently acquired stock.xchng, so not all of the search results you get come from stock.xchng itself.


  5. I second everything Lars said about stock.xchng

    When I used to source art for use with Greyhart Press eBooks, I used to look at stock.xchng first. Not ony did I credit the artist but with stock.xchng you can contact the artist too. They were thrilled to hear about how their work had been used to create something new (or else they were being very polite!).

  6. Dreamstime.com has very good deals and images too. I have bought several for ebooks at .50 cents. Now, I find that using generic images sort of cheapens my work if they are not partnered with a good design. I am working with a designer on a “sales percentage” basis, and for my BIG work (my novel) I commisioned a custom image which turned out to be WAY more beautiful than ANYTHING I dreamt of. Well worth the money.

  7. Many of iStockphoto’s prices have risen considerably over the past years, especially for print resolution images. I have to second Flickr, which allows you to narrow your search to Creative Commons licensed photos. Also, I frequent Morguefile.com. It doesn’t always have the quality of iStockphoto or even Flickr, but the photos are free and you can find some decent stuff–especially for blog posts.

  8. Thanks for that. Fotolia is especially interesting since not only does it allow you to buy images but you can also post your own images and get a percentage of sales.

  9. Thanks for the tip on searching for Creative Commons photos on Flickr. Really helpful.

  10. I have had great success with exploring Flickr and DeviantArt, finding some fitting artwork, and approaching the artist with an offer of $30-50.

  11. I can “third” sxc.hu, loads to choose from, free and permission granted for book use.

    You can even upload your own images for others to use. I uploaded a few as a way of storing them somewhere and have had a couple of ‘thankyous’ from downloaders. One pic ended up in Malaysian school text book!
    It’s at least worth a look at the free stuff first.

  12. Hi Gary,

    Great image tips both in your post and in the comments. Thanks everyone.

    I would also add Wikimedia Commons site(commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page)when you need images of well known destinations or public figures like Oprah or Marilyn Monroe. All of the media on there whether video, images, and audio are in the public domain and free to use. Sometimes you have to provide credit, but it’s always conveniently indicated.

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