I have been sourcing the web for brushes, fonts, reference images and textures to use in my art since 2010, and then using digital programs like Photos and Illustrator to create my work. It’s safe to say that I’ve always thrived in the digital world—but it hasn’t always been available to me.
It’s in my personality to edit, to adapt with speed, and to shape-shift, and at times in my life, I haven’t allowed myself the freedom to create this way simply because of tradition and history and what we know. But I’ve always been more interested in new ways of creating and living, and listening to my voice instead of hushing it or having it hushed has only brought energy and excitement to my process.
For the first two years of art school, we were not allowed to use digital media in any way. We were taught to paint only using white, cyan, magenta, yellow and black paint, and drawings was with soft conte or willow charcoal on paper. And while I appreciate the purity and beauty of these traditional art forms, they’ve always felt slow and limiting to me. My personality simply says, “Why take five minutes to create magenta from scratch using these expensive tubes of paint when I can do it in 5 seconds in Photoshop, and then quickly move from there and make a new colour, and then a new shape. etc.!?” The cost of experimentation, literally and metaphorically, never made sense to me.
Later on in my training, we were allowed to work digitally and my world began to open up—just a crack. Not only was there an endless world of assets, images, textures and inspiration out there, along with a community of other makers selling fonts and assets, but there was limitless experimentation.
First, I learned how to paint, digitally, and how to manipulate brushes and then I’d experiment for hours without making a huge mess. It was amazing! And from there, my world only opened more to a variety of fonts and textures I could layer into my work and manipulate further to create whatever I wanted. And then I could take that portrait creation and expand the canvas to a horizontal piece. The possibilities that open up as you keep creating are endless! Unlike a traditional painting, working digitally meant I could save many version of the same file without fear of ruining something that once was. It’s offered the ability to create and modify and keep going without any fear or restriction. Digital meant I didn’t have to agonize over adding a final brush stroke to a piece or not. I could try 15 stabs at that final brush stroke, edit “undo”-ing and retrying forever.
To me, having more tools and assets available to me is inspiring and something I’ll always seek out. I love the freedom it offers and can never image a world where the images I make are not in some way influenced by, introduced to, or created in the digital space. So in celebration of this, today I’m sharing a decade of digital knowledge and insight with you guys in the form of a roundup of THE BEST free art prints and downloadable creative assets sites I use and reference all the time.
Pre-S: Before I go into my list, I have to share none of these assets or downloadable would be of any use without Adobe‘s suite of creative programs. I subscribe to Creative Cloud, and will never not be a subscriber! Not only do they offer the classics like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign (my 3 faves), they’re constantly churning out new programs, like their most recent, Dimension, which gives you the power to design in 3D without having to learn challenging 3D tasks or tools. It can be used to create photo-realistic, high-fidelity images for anything from product shots, to branding or packaging concepts! I just downloaded it and can’t wait to start playing. And as with all other Adobe products, it comes with it’s own library of downloadables from Adobe Stock.
You do not want to sleep on this one! Hands-down the site I visit and use most frequently, You Work For Them has been offering font and stock media licensing since 2001. A bunch of amazing independent design studios provide them with their collections, and every so often, a free font is available. Their fonts have opened me up to a whole other fun exploratory world of design!
There are 435 technical watercolour drawings in John James Audubon’s Birds of America, and they are all free to download and print. I have a Warbling Flycatcher print that I framed years ago, and it remains a staple piece of art in my studio ⤵
Flickr’s Creative Commons is a go-to of mine for drawing reference. I specifically hunt for the vintage crests, badges and book pages to use as textures in backgrounds for posters, like the one below. ⤵
Graphic Burger sells a lot of great products, but there is a wealth of free downloadable fonts, mockups, templates and logos as well. It’s not a steadfast staple for me because the turnout rate for new stuff is low, but it’s definitely one I’ve used forever! Have a peep ⤵
Death to Stock has been a game-changer in the stock photo business, which is why I still subscribe to receive their monthly pack of free photos. With over 4,500 photos available for unlimited download, their pay-what-you-want subscription supports independent artists across the globe. ⤵
Another fantastic stock photo site is UnSplash. I prefer it and use it more frequently than any other stock photo site for the ease of use. Everything is free and downloads without even having to give your email. Simply scroll and hit download when you see something you like! ⤵
Another amazing resource I use for everything from blog and website templates to specific downloadable assets often is Envato’s Marketplace. For every website I’ve ever designed, I’ve used their WordPress themes. ⤵
Humaaans let’s you mix and match free illustrations of people within their design library. ⤵
New Old Stock has plenty of vintage stock phots. ⤵
The Noun Project has over 2 million free icons from a global community of contributors. Super easy to search and use.
PSD Repo is sure to become a new fave. ⤵
Ouch has a large bank of free vector illustrations in a variety of styles. ⤵
Coverr has free stock video ready to download. ⤵
And of course, if you’re looking for graphic design, web design, illustration or creative services of any kind, get in touch with yours truly at email@example.com and check out my portfolio.
To close this post out, I wanted to include my most recent PLANT POWER print as a wallpaper background on your phone, just right click to save the image 🙂 And if you love it, here’s the link to buy it as a phone case!