Make an impact on your learning materials – use free photos and icons

Having worked with a large number of colleagues over the years who develop learning materials, it comes as no surprise they have difficulties sourcing good examples of photos or icons to use in their learning materials, whether it is for online resources in the VLE, within their PowerPoint presentations or leaflets/posters etc.


One approach to hunting for good graphics, is to use Google images to source the relevant images – with a simple click of the mouse and selecting “download image”, the file can be easily saved to your own computer. However, just because it is technically feasible and simple to do this, it doesn’t mean that you should as you will no doubt be infringing someone’s copyright.

Note: Photo is royalty free from Stock.Xchng

To be on the safe side and to show good practice to your colleagues and to students, you should use images:

  • which are you own
  • from a website where you have paid a licence to use
  • where you have the owner’s written permission to use
  • that are royalty/copyright free or creative commons

There are number of websites where you can source images that are royalty free, copyright free or creative commons. To make an impact on learning materials and to enhance your own content you can use:


The photo sharing website Flickr allows you to search for images that are free to use in their “The (creative) Commons” area.


This stock photo site has images that can be purchased for a little as a $1. However, Stock.Xchng has a large searchable database of royalty free photos that can be used free of charge. If you decide to register on the website, you have the advantage of storing images into “lightboxes” for future use and access to the full size and high resolution copy. Regardless, the preview size of any photos that you decide to download are really good for using in your introductory summary topic of your Moodle course.


Iconfinder is  a searchable online database of icons. These icons are useful for leaflets and especially for Moodle topic titles. Icons exists in iconsets and can be downloaded as a set or as individual icons. This database contains a number of free to use iconsets, but does contains some icons that can only be used for personal use only. Here is an example of some icons that can be used under a creative commons licence:

1371826747_preferences-system-time  1371826763_kcall  1371826807_preferences-desktop-wallpaper  1371827227_media-optical-audio  1371827239_kchart

Note: icons are from the Iconfinder Oxygen iconset and used under a Creative Commons (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic) licence

I tend to use icons from the same set in a Moodle course, as it provides a consistent theme throughout. PLUS, it means I only have to acknowledge a single iconset rather than a long list of individual icons.

If you decide to use any of the websites above, please familiar yourself with the licence agreements of the websites mentioned above and remember to acknowledge any images that you decide to use. Happy image hunting!

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3 Responses to Make an impact on your learning materials – use free photos and icons

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