Free and Cheap Resources

Web developers, especially those operating on a tight budget, often need material to include on their sites and software to create their own media. This page is a list of where to get those things for little or no money.

Many free things are supported by donations. I encourage you, if you use something where payment is optional, to consider donating, especially after you’ve been using it and decided it’s a keeper.

Icons & Other Graphics

Photographs and line art

Sources for free stock and other photos:

"A snare of vintage." - Aubrey Beardsley
  • Wikimedia commons has tons of contributed images, some free, some free with attribution.
  • Library of Congress has public domain photos.
  • Any image captured by a government employee on duty is public domain. One good place to find these is the usa.gov image search.
  • Flickr “creative commons” images also includes a search for government images as well as being able to limit to other license types. Some flickr images are public domain, some free for certain types of projects or with attribution. It matters whether it’s a commercial or personal use. If you’re making money from their work, people generally expect (and deserve!) to be paid.
  • Google image search has a filter by license option. Don’t rely just on this, but read what it says about the image on the site where it was found. Especially, remember the filter you specify doesn’t apply to “related images”.
  • Here are some free fabulous old book illustrations in the public domain.
  • Another excellent source for public domain book illustrations, is a Google image site search of Gutenberg.org.

Icons and Clipart

  • Images from The Noun Project are generally free with attribution or you can buy rights for a couple bucks. They have a lot of fine icons. It can be a challenge to find the entire icon set you want in a consistent style, but that’s a problem everywhere. I often find a few I like that match, and others that don’t exactly match, but serve as inspiration for creating my own icons. They also have photos, but the selection isn’t great.
  • Font Awesome has over 1600 free icons which are largely consistent in style, line weight, etc, and if you find one that’s close to what you want, you can get a vector version to edit in Inkscape (see below). Setting up to use these on your site as a font (as opposed to uploading an image) isn’t 100% straightforward but you can find plugins to help.

Fonts

  • Google Fonts for free fonts. There are plugins to incorporate these fonts into your website (you can’t rely on visitors having them already installed on their computer so you need the website to be able to supply them automatically).
  • A blog entry on websiteplanet with a list of fonts that are free for commercial use.
  • Blambot has a collection of fonts useful for comics creators. Some are free for non-profit projects, independent and small press publishing.

Software

There are free alternatives to most commercial packages. Here are a few relevant to website development.

Instead ofuse the free alternative
Microsoft OfficeOpenOffice. For word processing, spreadsheets, presentations.
LibreOffice is very similar but there are fewer developers working on it to fix bugs, create ports to other platforms, etc.
Adobe PhotoshopGIMP — the GNU Image Manipulation Program — is the best free choice for photo manipulation and other bitmap graphics. It stores images in “XCF” format which is specific to GIMP, preserving the “layers” of your image for re-editing, but can export to “flat” formats like JPEG and PDF. You can also use it to create animated GIFs.
Adobe IllustratorInkscape is your best option for vector graphics, which it stores in standard SVG format. As opposed to bitmaps, vector images can be resized, rotated, and otherwise manipulated without getting fuzzy or gaining edge effects. This is because vector images aren’t collections of colored pixels, but graphic entities like circles, rectangles, bezier curves, etc.
SVG files can be displayed directly in a browser, or exported to bitmap formats in any size. Inkscape only exports to PNG format, but that’s the #1 best bitmap format which you can use for anything.
NotepadNotepad++ is a free text file editor that’s massively superior to the program that comes with Windows. It will keep multiple files open in tabs, it has syntax highlighting, advanced search functions, and when you start it up it remembers what you had open and the contents of files you created but never saved. I use it for general note-taking and to-do list tracking so I can just shut it down without having to worry I’m losing anything.
OneNote, etcEvernote synchronizes to multiple devices (two with the free account). You can create shared note collections. Access from a web browser means the information is always available. All sorts of media are supported. Character recognition lets you search the text of images. Supported on multiple platforms.
“Print Screen” keyLightshot for Mac and Windows takes over the “Print Screen” key (and other key combinations) to give you of options to capture parts of the screen and easily annotate, save to files, or copy. You can choose whether to include the cursor in your capture.
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