3 Ways I use to get reference images

printed photos scattered on wooden table
Photo by George Milton on Pexels.com

In the past I have suffered so many times with the dreaded artist block and not knowing where to get my reference images.

Has this ever happened to you?

Nowadays, I don’t suffer as much from artist block because I have created a library of reference images for myself. Here are the 3 ways that I have found useful for me:

Personal photos

When out and about, I always have my mobile phone handy and ready to snap some interesting reference images. (Not people though, that would be rude).

When I get home, I transfer all my photos to a USB stick and place them into individual folders. For example I have folders for hair, animals, flowers, buildings etc.

I have amassed hundreds of great photos this way and I constantly scroll through them for inspiration and ideas.


I am always flicking through magazines that I have either bought or was given by family and friends. An article could give me inspiration of a title could spark an idea. Mainly it is for the reference images that I cut out and keep in a box. Every now and again I will take the box down from its shelf and have a sift through it for ideas.

Copyright free image sites

I love the royalty/copyright free sites. The ones that I use the most are (because there are so many out there): PXhere, Pexels, Pixabay and unsplash.

  • PXhere is a great little site. It is the most basic one out of all the sites I use but has some great images to choose from. It allows you to save you chosen images to what most of these sites call collections. You can have as many collections as you want and give them specific titles like: Animal images, my faces collections or travel collection.
  • Pexels Just like PXhere, you can group photos and create collections and it has an app you can download to your mobile phone. I have used this site quite a lot and have loads of collections saved ready to use someday.
  • Pixabay Another fantastic site and thousand of beautiful images. So easy to use and search for that perfect photo reference. Personally, I like this one as it looks more professional than the others I have mentioned above. But that is just my preference.
  • Unsplash My all-time favourite site. I always find what I am looking for here. I have found some awesome images and created some great art with them.

All the above mentioned photo sites are completely free to join and some of them can be upgraded to a paid version. Just find a few that are suitable for your needs. I hope that you have as much fun with them as I do.

So there you have my 3 ways to get reference images. Don’t suffer with art block. Instead, start creating your very own library of images and you will have tonnes of inspiration and ideas all of the time.

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