Where to find pictures, photographs and art-work for church use

This is a list of websites where you can find pictures, photographs and similar artworks that are suitable for church use - in slideshows, newsletters, worship aids, etc.

In particular, these websites let you find images that are low-cost, or can be used freely or for non-profit purposes, - though in some cases you must attribute the picture as requested.   This is important because copyright applies to images just the same way that it applies to lyrics and sheet music.  So if you want images to use, you need to either:
  • Get specific permission from the copyright holder (which usually involves paying for the right to use it), or
  • Use a picture that is in the public domain or from someone who has given permission on a general basis.

Christian web-sites and image libraries

Art in the Christian Tradition

This "is a freely available, regularly updated visual image internet resource. Designed for scholars, students, pastors, and religious educators, all of the images may be used for educational and/or religious non-profit purposes."   It can be searched by keyword, scriptural reference, persons, icon and various other ways.

Bible Illustrations by Sweet Media

This is a set of pictures by American illustrator Jim Padgett (1931–2009). They were originally published in the Read'n Grow Picture Bible, but have now been donated to Wikimedia Commons by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing as part of a cooperation project. Sweet Publishing released these images, which are taken from now-out-of-print Read'n Grow Picture Bible Illustrations (Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984.), under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0.

The are extensive, covering many scenes from the four Gospels and from many other books of both the Old and New Testaments.  Originally drawn for children, for teaching purposes, they are usually not fine works of high art.  But they do give a concrete representation of scenes from Scripture.

Pitts Theology Library

A digital library maintained by a Lutheran college in the USA. Has "more than 48,000 images of biblical illustrations, portraits of religious leaders, printers' devices, engravings of church buildings, and other theological topics. They are available for teaching, research, and other non-commercial purposes."

Hermano León Clipart

This Spanish language site has a wide variety of images organised by theme and also according to the Catholic liturgical calendar.  The layout is clear enough for non-Spanish speakers to follow most sections.   There is a statement on one page that "This clipart have been gathered. They are frequently used in parishes and Spanish religious communities. We don't know who are their authors." - so perhaps some images are subject to copyright.

Includes a range of black and white images that would be simple enough to be projected onto not-so-great screens.

Images for use in Liturgy Programmes

A Flickr image-stream from MusicaSacra - black and white traditional illustrations.

Radiant Light 

Colour images by Elizabeth Wang, organised by theme:   Many Catholic (Marian) themes are included.  Many of the pictures are delicate and have subtle colours - they may not be able to projected well.   The site's copyright policy allows use for "non-commercial purposes which are personal or educational or religious" provided some conditions are met.

Bible Illustrations by Gustave Dore

A collection of 250+ black and white detailed drawings of biblical scenes.   No search tool on the site - use the search function in your browser to find references.

The New Bible Symbols

250+ illustrated lessons, from a book published in 1922.   All line-drawings - set out so it is possible to take just part of a lesson by cropping a picture.

La Página de Cerezo Barredo

A collection of works from Maximino Cerezo Barredo, described as a "liberation painters" (cf liberation theologian) His drawings widely used in Latin American publications without copyrights or royalties, photocopying photocopies until they wear out "... as a true "property of the Latin American People". Not clear if they really are free-use or not but possibly they are.

Free Bible Images

Downloadable download free sets of Bible story images for teaching use in PowerPoint, PDF, Keynote or JPEG formats

Illustrations of Gospel Stories by Jerome Nadal, S.J

Woodcuts (black and white pictures) from Jerome Nadal's Evangelicae Historiae Imagines ("Illustrations of the Gospel Stories") 1593 and 1595 editions.

Christian Symbols drawn by Rudolf Koch (1876-1934)

Black and white line-drawings of various symbols. Not cross-referenced to scripture. This is a subset curated by Fr Felix Just, and includes a link to a German-language website with the complete collection.

Art and the Bible

On on-line version of the King James Bible, with illustrations. The works of many artists have been included - you may need to check the copyright status of individual ones.

Symbols in Christian Art and Architecture

A collection of symbols and patters. Use the Index function to search for specific words. Low resolution line drawings or clip-art can be taken from the site or email for access to high quality EPS files.

The Bible Revival

A collection of images from many sources, some from the 1800's and thus now public-domain.   No index, you need to work through the collections manually to find pictures for specific topics.

Church Galleries

A collection of low-cost (from $2) high-quality colour images, with a search function.

General purpose web-sites and image libraries

Google Image Search

Use the advanced option of Google Image Search. Select the correct option under “Usage Rights.”


This is a graphic design tool, which has recently releases a tool to search its free-use stock photographs.   The site has a big focus on beauty, and was originally a tool to create great images for social media (it's still great at that, if you don't have other tools available).   There aren't many of explicitly religious photographs - but there are a good number which can be used to support concepts.   There are also some useful tools for general graphic design work, eg colour-combination suggestions, design tips, etc.

The Met

350000 pictures from the collection of the Metropolitan Art Gallery New York .  English-language search engine.


The search feature of this photo-sharing site lets you choose which license type to look for:  eg  "No known copyright restrictions"

After searching, you see small versions of the results.  Hover the mouse over each one to bring up a small speech-bubble in the lower right corner.   Click it to open the summary screen:  if this says "All Right Reserved" then you aren't allowed to use the photo without getting permission.   But if it says "Some rights reserved", you can click the link to find out what restrictions apply - often you can use picture provided you include a line saying where it came from.

Wikimedia Commons

A library of images and other media files (eg sound)  These are all in the public domain, so can be used without worrying about permissions.

Creative Commons Search

This is a meta-search tool which acts as a front-door to Creative-commons licensd content in various other collections.

Other special-purpose image-search sites which may have useful content

Indexing and search-tools in these sites is likely to be less useful for finding images for church-use, unless you have some very specific purposes in mind  (eg illustrating creation with space photos).

NASA Images

This library of space and astronomy images is free to use provided you:
  • don't imply that NASA endorses a particular product, and
  • include a credit-line of “NASA/courtesy nasaimages.org.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A library of nature-related digital media.  All items can be used free-of-charge, but must be attributed.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A library of photos, mostly scientific / nature themed, all available for free with a few restrictions about attribution.

A listing of other US government sites 

with copyright-free images.


A commercial image library:  results include both free and premium (paid) photographs.


A smaller library of photographs, all of which may be freely used.  (The strange name is borrowed from the newspaper industry, and is about past project.)


A search engine for free photos - however photos come from many sources and some are licensed.  After searching, select a photo and you can click on the license or attributions link to see details.

Freerange Stock

A library of high-resolution free-use photographs and vector-based clip-art.  You must register to download, but all images are public domain.


An image placement and sourcin soltuion.

Using work by members and friends

Some churches use photographs and art-work created by members or friends:  even with these, it would be wise to document the permission that has been given.  This is particularly important if they are professional artists/photographers who make their living from sales or commissions.

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