In this article, I've put together a list of websites that offer open-source, completely royalty-free vector illustrations that you can use for your next project - for both personal and commercial use.
Many of them are in SVG format (i.e. a vector image) and quite a few of them also have a "generator" or "builder" function that allows you to add your brand's colours. Some can combine multiple visuals into one that's completely unique for your project, while a few even allow you to export their designs to Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD and InVision.
What is a Vector Image?
In a nutshell, a vector image is a type of computer graphic image that can scale (grow and shrink) in size without any loss of image quality. This is achieved by using lines and curves to create images, as opposed to the more common raster graphics file formats such as JPG and PNG.
Common vector images file formats include SVG, EPS, PDF and AI. For web use, SVG is probably the most common file format.
Which is Better: SVG or PNG?
While PNGs are a versatile file format, they quickly become very large as the image becomes more complicated or needs to be visually larger. SVGs on the other hand, can grow and shrink without any change in file size, making it a far leaner way to add visuals without adding bulk.
Most of the vector illustrations and images below are available in SVG format, which makes it easy to add them to your next project. They're also open source, copyright-free and royalty-free.
What are Open-Source Images?
The concept of "open source" originates from software development, which is a type of computer software where the source code is free to be used, studied, modified and distributed by anyone, for anyone, for any purpose.
Open-source images are similar, in the sense that they can be used by anybody for any purpose - be it for a personal project or commercial use. They can also be edited, modified and combined with other images to create new designs.
What are Copyright-Free Images?
Copyright-free images are images that have been authorised by the creator to be used by others. The difference between copyright-free images and open-source images is that open-source images can be redistributed, modified and sold. Copyright-free images are usually not allowed to be resold, and in some cases, the original creator retains copyright (although permission has been given for them to be used elsewhere).
What are Royalty-Free Images?
Royalty-free images are typically a type of licensed stock image which has been purchased for a once-off fee. This license allows the purchasers to use the image in a pre-determined number of ways for a flat fee - that is, no commissions need to be paid on to the image's creator if the project is commercially successful and makes money.
What is Creative Commons and How Does It Work??
Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit international organisation that provides free licences for creators to protect their work. This is usually for creative projects and assets that are available to the public, and often requires the end user to "give credit" (i.e. attribution) back to the creator. These licences help creators to define how their creative work can be used by others in the public domain.
There are 7 main types of licenses, most of which require attribution. Wikipedia has a helpful table to explain this.
All (or most) of the free vector illustrations below have the "CC0" license, also known as "public domain" which allows anybody to use the creative work without attribution, and for both personal and commercial purposes.
Customisable Vector Illustration Generators
Hot tip: many of the free vector illustrations below include a "generator", which allows you to modify the base colours to match your branding. Be sure to look around the website to find this option!
List of Where to Get Free Vector Illustrations
Here are 41 websites to get free vector illustrations:
A few of these overlap in style, but I thought it would be helpful to include all of the vector illustration options available. Pick and choose the ones that you think suit your project best!
On a related note: if you're looking for a more comprehensive resource for design assets, check out Envato Elements - probably the most comprehensive and best value design resource around at the moment.
Have I missed any free vector illustration websites?
Leave a comment and I might add it to the list. Happy designing!