Want to know one of my favorite design resources on the Internet: It’s free printable wall art.
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Printable wall art has been a huge trend in home decor, pretty much since the dawn of Etsy. It’s easy to see the appeal: It’s inexpensive, you can print whatever size you need, and you can get it on demand if you print at home, or within a few hours if you use a print shop.
While there are lots of sites that sell printable wall art … you really don’t need to buy it at all, as long as you know where to look.
I’ve found abstracts, Studio McGee-esque landscape prints, designer wallpaper patterns and more, all free. And all legal. I’m no thief.
So what’s the secret? I’m sharing it all, below.
The Secret to Free Wall Art
Nope, the secret is not a Google image scroll-hole, or printing free stock photos.
The secret to finding free printable wall art is open access images, also called public domain art. These are basically works of art that are now in the public domain, usually because of how old they are. In the U.S., copyright protection lasts the duration of an artist’s life, plus 70 years. Once that time expires, the images becomes open access, or public domain art.
“All works first published or released in the United States before January 1, 1928, have lost their copyright protection, effective January 1, 2023. In the same manner, works published in 1928 will all be in the public domain as of January 1, 2024, and this cycle will repeat until works published in 1977 all become public domain on January 1, 2073. From 2073 works by creators who died seven decades earlier will expire each year. For example, if a creator were to die in 2002, their works’ copyright would last throughout the end of 2072 and enter the public domain on January 1, 2073.” Source.
Other countries have similar policies, too, so you can find and use art from artists around the world.
Here’s the real secret though:
You can find entire libraries of public domain art neatly packaged and conveniently searchable on museum websites. Pretty much any major art museum has an online library of public domain art, and many allow you to search for and download the images for free.
Now, the images come in varying resolutions, so you many not be able to print a 36″ canvas of your favorite free art (though in some cases, you might!). But is it enough to fill a bunch of frames for a gallery wall or to set on your bookshelves? Absolutely.
I’ve curated a bunch of my favorite free printable wall art here, but if you want to do your own research or are looking for something specific to suit your decor, I’ve come up with a list of the best websites for free printable wall art, below.
Best places to find public domain art to print
- RawPixel: This is one of my favorites! Not only does the site have downloadable free artwork from greats like Monet and Cézanne but they have a ton of other unique images and patterns, too, including the pattern collection of William Morris, and collection of vintage Japanese floral drawings.
- The National Gallery of Art Archives: They’ve got thousands of images, drawings, paintings, etc. for download, and it’s super easy to find what you’re looking for thanks to search filters.
- Paris Musees Collections: I find this one a little trickier to use, but there are some lovely images here if you get a hang of the search tool.
- The Art Institute of Chicago
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Again, this is not an exhaustive list, just some of my favorites. And honestly it may be all you need since you’ll have tens of thousands of photos just form the above sources also. But, you can also check your favorite art museum to see if you can find additional open access sources!
Free Wall Art on Etsy
One thing I’ve noticed a lot on Etsy, is that people actually sell this free wall art. You’ll often see Etsy shops with a range of antique-looking prints for sale, and if the art is not original by the Etsy seller (sometimes it is!) the art is often just curated from Open Access collections. This is also legal and OK with Etsy, since the seller is doing the work of curating and packaging the images for you, which is a service. (And honestly it can be worth the $20 for an image collection if you don’t have a ton of time to research the images yourself).
But, it’s good to know that you can probably find a lot of these images for free on your own, too.
Again, I have a small collection of my favorite free printable wall art that you can download.