Check out these Sources of Free Vintage Images
The internet is a beautiful thing. Not only can you watch as many funny cat videos as you want, any time day or night, but there is a wealth of royalty-free content out there begging for you to do something with it. The following websites are ones that I have used in the past when I am looking for historical photos or vintage illustrations. Whether or not you want to actually use the image itself in a piece of art, what you find can inspire you to create something new.
The British Library – Images Online
You can go to this massive repository and find tons of photos. Make sure to try a few different search terms for the same things, you never know who put in the keyword tags.
New York City Public Library – Digital Collections
NYC recently made over 600,000 images available, including vintage fashion plates. Many of the pictures are in the public domain. You can also get prints of your favorite ones.
The Graphics Fairy
This is a lovely site that is just brimming with clipart of vintage illustrations. The author also provides some tutorials for things like making a transfer from a computer print out, as well as a forum for people to post the work that they do every Monday on “Brag Monday.” If you sign up for the weekly e-mails you can also get exclusive images sent right to you, but you don’t have to sign up for anything to browse and download.
The Old Design Shop – Vintage Image Repository
I have mentioned this one before, and it is still a great resource. In addition to digitizing material such as vintage postcards and advertising, the creators at this blog also isolate images and put them on a white background so you don’t have to go into Illustrator and mess with it yourself.