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I'm working on a series of NPC cards but I'm having trouble finding good pictures. Is there a good source for public domain/creative commons fantasy-themed art out there? Is there another good way to get art other than Google Images?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

You can do a search on deviant art for creative commons art work. The quality will vary though.

EDIT: You could also search flickr. if you got o flickr then click search -> advanced search then in there type what ever you are looking for (elf in the example link below), rather you want photo's or drawn art and click the creative common's check box.

Example looking for elf, photo's only, Illustration/Art / Animation/CGI, and creative commons only.

Google's Image search also works really well, I searched for creative commons fantasy art and got back a large number of hits.

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Are there good ways to search on deviant art? Is it keyword driven? – anon186 Sep 20 '10 at 18:39
Search for creative commons <searchterm>. For example I searched for creative commons knight and creative commons wizard and a bunch of results were returned of varying quality/usefulness. – Shawn Campbell Sep 21 '10 at 14:53
CC licensed stuff is great, but if you're using it to publish you still have to do due diligence because of people who upload stuff belonging to others and mark it CC. For example, I'm dubious that this Jason Engle piece is actually CC-BY-ND licensed… – SevenSidedDie Sep 27 '10 at 22:09
And even then, BY-ND is questionable for use in a product, since you'd probably have to modify the image (making a derivative) to use it. – Kyle Willey May 21 '13 at 18:31

If you are willing to go for a certain feel, there is a huge body of illustration in the public domain.

When I laid out Love in the Time of Seið, which Matthijs Holter and I co-wrote, I found wonderful nordic fantasy illustrations using Google Books. I limited the time frame for results to pre-1910 and then scanned domestic American children's books for illustrations. In that case what I found was a pair of great books, so our illustrations are by Victor R. Lambdin and E. Boyd Smith, from Viking Tales by Jennie Hall (Rand McNally & Co, 1902) and In the Days of the Giants by Abbie Farwell-Brown (Houghton, Mifflin & Co, 1902) respectively. The .pdf versions were of high enough resolution that I could extract 300 dpi images.

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Are there some keyword/search criteria tricks you can share? – anon186 Sep 21 '10 at 14:27
Use advanced search: and control for appropriate date range, try subject-specific searches, you will have to scan some texts, so when you find likely sources, look for lists of illustrations, and also reduce page size so you can see many at once easily. Toggle "books only" and "full view only". – Jmstar Sep 21 '10 at 15:50

Generating 60 CC-licensed black-and-white character portraits was the goal of the Kickstarter project "60 Terrible Character Portraits For Creative Commons Release". The project ended with enough funding to commision 108 character portraits, and the high-resolution images are available for download.

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Just to help address the above, ,

Generally when searching looking for Public Domain or Royalty Free (as opposed to creative commons, which while certainly works, I find has a much smaller body of stuff in it due to it being a license as opposed to a state like Public Domain in which things fall after so much time).

I used Liam's from old books (the first link) quite a bit and it works well. Its hard to find specifically fantasy stuff on it, but there is a great deal of victorian and 1910's children illustrations that work fantasically i find.

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Dover Books has sold compilations of royalty-free art for decades. Very affordable books, no additional costs. Be sure to review the extensive list on the left side of:

Notable: Fantastic Ornament: 110 Designs and Motifs "Swirling with gargoyles, devils, dragons, griffins, and other images that haunt both dreams and nightmares..." (their blurb)

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Can I scan a page and use it as I choose? – anon186 Sep 22 '10 at 20:12
That's exactly what I do, typically at a high dpi. Most are plain black & white. I heard a rumor that Dover had some compilations in digital form, but haven't found any yet. :/ – ExTSR Sep 22 '10 at 20:38
Dover has explicit limits for commercial projects - I believe you can use a maximum of ten pieces per project, although that may vary by title. – Jmstar Sep 23 '10 at 11:42
A number of other publishers have collections on CD of royalty free art, as well. I've used several professionally. The terms of use vary by collection and publisher; I was doing work for a non-profit, but using personally owned collections, and was essentially free to make use of as much as I wanted provided I credited the source; for commercial for-profit releases, much more stringent restrictions applied. Many of the works are of limited application, but most of the collections have some that are suitable. It may often be less expensive to simply commission the right art, tho. – aramis Sep 24 '10 at 7:41

Take a look at a new book called "Fantasy Art Characters To Copy." It features original "conditional" copyright free fantasy characters. The conditions of use are very liberal.I have the book - it's incredible.

The images are high quality, they are not stock pics. They are on blank backgrounds and you can copy them for RPGs or use them in your own artwork or as-is. And it says you can use the images for profit (no comp to the artist) as long as they're not used via commercial retail distribution, then comp and permission is required. And there's supposed to be more books in the series coming to include more characters. Here's the link:

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Welcome to the site! Please take a look at the tour and the help; they're a useful introduction to the site. And once you have 20+ rep, feel free to join the chat! While not technically public domain, this still looks like a great resource. – Tridus Mar 26 '14 at 11:44

For NPCs there is our ePic Character Generator (for PC). It generates customized NPC images and map tokens. We have human, elf, orc and cat add-on packages available, and modern coming soon.

An example:
Square generated portrait of a human male

The section of the software license that controls re-use of the art reads:

1. The origin of the material generated by this software must not be misrepresented; you must not claim that you created the original artwork.

2. You can re-use any material generated by this program with or without any modification in your own products, but an acknowledgement of the pictures are generated by the "ePic Character Generator" in the product documentation is required if using the non-pro version.

3. You may not resell any material in any form without adding custom value.

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Are the images it generates in the Public Domain, or are they available under a Creative Commons license (that permits commercial use)? – OpaCitiZen Apr 14 '14 at 13:31
@OpaCitiZen I sandboxed the installer to find its license, and pasted in the relevant section. It appears to be CC-ish in the ways relevant to commercial re-use, although I don't believe it's CC-compatible. (Though, IIRC there are ways to use a CC license for text that is mixed with non-CC images.) – SevenSidedDie Apr 14 '14 at 15:30
"I'm working on a series of NPC cards " i thought not the license the important, but his demands fit. yes, they are not public domain, but CC license. – Rita Márföldi Apr 14 '14 at 17:30

protected by C. Ross Apr 14 '14 at 14:00

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