No one likes to hear the dreaded phrase “clip art” when talking about professional design, but sometimes a piece of free vector art is exactly what you need. Maybe you’re looking for a basic shape to edit into something totally unique with Adobe Illustrator, or maybe you just need a placeholder graphic in the meantime. Creating something from scratch takes valuable time, and when you’ve got none to spare, free vector sites can be a lifesaver.
To boost your chances of finding the best vector art for your design, we suggest exploring multiple websites. That can sometimes feel like a shot in the dark, but don’t despair. We’ve assembled this guide to the best vector sites to help you out. Be sure to bookmark this post if you frequently find yourself in need of artwork.
A note about copyright, commercial use, and Creative Commons
Free vector sites typically make use of Creative Commons licenses, which grant you certain freedoms to use the artwork in certain ways. If you’re unfamiliar, you may want to brush up on the basic CC terms.
Be aware that the license attached to each piece of vector art can vary wildly, even when you’re browsing the same website. Although most of these sites make it clear whether or not you can use the artwork for commercial use (either in their terms of service or on the individual page for each vector), it might not be so obvious for some.
If you’re unsure if you have the proper permissions to use a particular vector graphic, you may want to contact the artist or website owner and ask.
Comprehensive Free Vector Sites
If you need a very particular vector object (such as a specific shape or color, or something relevant to a certain industry), these sites should be your first stop. Each site features a massive quantity of free vector files, many of them organized using helpful tags or categories (such as Animals or Business).
Edit: No longer available.
Selective Free Vector Sites
These include blogs and personal pages as well as smaller, often more discerning free vector art sites. Their selection and search capabilities may be more limited, but they also might feature some better artwork files than larger websites. They’re worth browsing for inspiration, but if you’re looking for very specific types of .EPS or Adobe Illustrator vectors, you’re probably better off using one of the more comprehensive sites above.
Free Logo Vector Sites
These sites specialize in free vector logos, including logos for well-known companies like Nike and McDonald’s. Although these vector files are free, remember that you’re still restricted by copyright law. Unless you’re actually representing the company, you probably won’t have the proper permissions to use their logo commercially. These vectors work great, however, for conceptual design mockups that you plan to show a potential client.
Note: Unlike the other sites in this category, Logo Open Stock features original logo artwork suitable for use as a template. It’s a good choice when you need a logo vector that isn’t related to an existing company.
It’s time to dispel some of the stigma surrounding so-called “clip art.” Taking advantage of vector art sites doesn’t make you lazy; in fact, it’s often the smartest move. With a little Adobe Illustrator editing and creativity, that free vector might just be the missing puzzle piece you’ve been looking for to complete your design.
Do you know of more great sites to find free vector graphics? Please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!