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Often when I find a cool piece of artwork online, I build some scene in my upcoming adventure around it and then show the image to the players during the session. The more cool artwork I have access to, the more choice I have when planning my adventures.

How do I find good online collections of artwork for use in my games?

Some notes:

  • Any genre is fine, whether fantasy, science fiction, or modern-day.
  • Copyright and license restrictions don't matter, since I will only use the images privately.
  • Specific sites may change over time; tips on how to find appropriate imagery in general are more appropriate. Please don't just toss out one site as an answer, that's not a very good solution over the long run.
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put on hold as too broad by Joshua Aslan Smith, Phil, GMJoe, Jonathan Hobbs, wraith808 Apr 15 at 15:45

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6 Answers

here's a brief list of some of the most well known art sites. guess browsing these should keep you engaged for a few years (;D) if you haven't seen'em yet. have fun! :)

pls note that all of these sites have artist portfolios (you find a great image, check the artist's other works too, in their gallery. you'll find the link to it if you have basic web skills, and I'm sure you do. :))

also note that many of these sites have images that are nsfw. checking these out usually requires (free) registration, for obvious reasons... but be warned, you might encounter stuff that's not protected and still nsfw, so viewer discretion is advised.

Update 14.04.2014: Now that cghub has closed its doors, Concept Art World has collected, in a post, a number of new / established art sites to watch. Follow the link to see their list - I think it's worth it.

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I usually get good results simply by doing Google Image searches, often with a site:paizo.com or site:wizards.com if I'm looking for D&D type images, or similar scope limiter. If your initial search is mixing in something less useful you can often exclude, like if you want pirate pics but without lame Halloween costumes, search pirate -costume. I make a lot of visual props to clip to my screen, and try to do it for every major NPC, and that's my go-to technique.

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Epilogue.net is my first port of call for fantasy/sci-fi pictures and landscapes, the search is very helpful and there's a lot there to see.

Digital Blasphemy is a bit more obscure, but has some fantastic digital artwork backgrounds that I've found very inspiring; mostly for sci-fi but there are some wonderful woodland scenes as well.

Elfwood is an excellent source for character pictures that I've found very useful.

Claudio Pozas has a fantastic character archive, sorted by race, class, monster and so on, very worth looking at.

Obsidian Portal has a campaign that contains a few drop-in characters, each with their own artwork, good for an emergency NPC picture!

Also: Games! Games can give you some very versatile character pictures, here are three I've found good:

Dragon Age visuals are quite impressive (less so the sequel) and I am intending to generate quite a few character pictures using screenshots and pictures from the character generator!

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim also allows quite a considerable amount of customisation of appearance, not quite as good as Dragon Age though.

However, for a more sci-fi look, Eve Online has an excellent character portrait generator.

Aside from that, as many have said already, I use Deviant Art as it's very searchable.

Google of course provides numerous pictures from their image search!

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This is good. The editorial notes make this much more useful than a bare list. –  SevenSidedDie Jun 12 '12 at 16:15
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I think what you might be looking for is http://www.deviantart.com/ It's a website with thousands and thousands of pieces of original artwork in just about every category.

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I've gotten a lot of great material for my Apocalypse World game from Subterranean Design - I've seen some good fantasy stuff on there too, if you're into old ruins and the like.

Finding a good tumblr page to follow can give you some great images.

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Photo.net has a different sections (architecture, landscapes, and digital alteration come to mind) that would be great sources of inspiration. The portrait section is a mine of character portraits. Note that there is a nude section so if you are either easily offended or a prude, do not look at it.

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It is generally polite to leave a reason for a down vote so you can improve the answer. –  Sardathrion Apr 15 at 6:49
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