I often spend hours scouring the internet for free items that I can use for work or for my personal projects and in talking to a few of my fellow designers I realized that perhaps not everyone knows about these great places on the Internet that you can download items for free or for cheap.
First let's talk stock photos - everybody uses them and everybody needs them right? Yeah! Absolutely, but often the cost of getting photos is well out of the range of the client especially if it's for a Church or your Sister-in-law... ahem. Anyway here's a list of Free Stock Houses and Very Cheap Stock houses.
The Stock Exchange - perhaps one of the end-all-be-all places for free stock photos. I have found a plethora of photography that I've used in ads, banners, print pieces etc. Just be sure that you read the rights and agreements. Most of the images are free to use in whatever you create although depending on the Photographer - you might need to ask permission..
MorgueFile - This I bumped into a few years ago, I'm not even sure what led me to the site. All I know is that it has TONS of photos that you can download at will. I cannot tell you how many times this has saved my bacon or helped me create that special look just when I needed it.
Again there are limitations on the way you use the photos (pretty much you can use them for personal, school and commercial but you cannot redistribute the images unless you change it quite a bit), but it is free and free is good! They accept donations - so if you have a few extra dollars please donate to keep this site afloat.
CG Textures - This site is absolutely awesome. Granted there is a limit as to how many images you can download if you have the "Free" account, but still they're giving away gorgeous texture photos and images for free. The best part of this site is that most of the images are very utilitarian and are for use as reference or as textures or even as scenes. Need a dirty old building? It's there... Need a lion? It's there too. Check them out when you get a chance.
TextureKing - Speaking of Textures, you just gotta check out TextureKing. A great site that has so many textures of different elements. Like CG Textures these are more utilitarian than anything and really meant for 3D or compositing... But wait - isn't what what most designers do? Composite images together... yeah, I thought so.
Deviant Art - well now, for those of you who aren't Deviants... I have to ask why not? Deviant Art has been around for a hell of a long time in terms of Internet Age and if you just peruse through the Stock Photos section you could get what you need for whatever you're working on. I have found some really great resources this way. Often it's hard to find gorey pics, or certain elements - even on the higher end stock sites. Deviant Art has them! Although it's important to read each of the EULA's for the different people providing the art. Some are free others aren't unless you only plan on using the art for non-commercial purposes. Please make sure you read those agreements! Check it out here:
Dreamstime - I love Dreamstime, not only do they provide an excellent service but the library is absolutely enormous. Its a great asset to have if you need just the right image but you are strapped for cash. What I like about using them is that you needent worry about model releases or rights - those are part of the deal. Unlike the Freebie sites this one has the documentation to go with the photos so you are clear on what you can use... no matter what.
IStockphoto - Getty Images little brother (or sister), like Dreamstime they offer thousands of images (and vector items) at a very low cost. This site has been around for a while and if you weren't aware of them you must have been locked in a closet somewhere. Istock also offers low-cost stock footage as well as audio and flash items. Great place to procure lots of great images for your site, ad or whatever you're making.
Theme Forest - While these guys aren't my favorite, I have to admit the entire network has become very appealing. Whether you're looking for an image, a PSD brush or if you need an After Effects project file - this is the site for you. The prices aren't horrible so almost anyone can afford the cost.
Photoshop Stuff. Now I'm talking the crap that you don't normally find on a stock site (brushes, scripts, actions, styles, gradients, shapes etc) . I wonder why sometimes - although some sites are starting to catch on (Envato marketplace, Deviant Art etc). But the bigger sites still have yet to offer Photoshop resources for artists... Perhaps that's because there are SOOOO many free items there's no point? IDK, but onto the list of goodies:
The Exchange - originally this site was started by some undergrad at MIT. I went there just about everyday in the early 2000's, eventually the site got so popular that Adobe bought him out and it now is part of the Adobe site. You can find just about anything you want/need for any of the Adobe Products but Photoshop probably takes the lions share as far as breadth and content. One caveat is that several entrepreneurs have taken to listing their items on the site, not a bad thing necessarily but it does make for a lengthy search if you just wanted a free PSD brush of fingerprints and then have to wade through several pages of crap to get there. Well we all know NOTHING is absolutely free.. or is it?
Brusheezy - AWESOME SITE! A absolute must as far as a designer's resource and bookmark library. Almost every brush eventually ends up here... At least the free ones do. I suggest that if you haven't visited the site, get up off of your bum (so to speak) and do so. They do have a sister site called vecteezy that contains several hundreds (perhaps thousands) of vectors, so do please check them both out.
Ok... now it's getting crazy for me so I'm going to JUST list all of the exciting and wonderful sites dedicated to JUST Photoshop...
Blogs... Oh yeah the blogs. There are so many great blogs to go to that contain freebies, downloads, links etc. That you could literally spend hours, days, weeks just jumping from link to link to link and grabbing all the free stuff. (Too bad money isn't given out like this. If I had a nickel for all the free stuff I've gotten - well I'd have about $1,000.)
I could go on and on and on. But I think for now this should keep you busy and relatively well stocked (get it? Stocked... lol). Anyway, I'll post another article on Free Vector sites, 3D and stock footage. Yeah - I know, you can't wait at all can you?