Using Public Domain Images


January 9, 2016 by Mod

Recently the New York Public Library  launched a website where you can download from nearly 200,000 public domain images.

Believe it or not there is no permission required and no restrictions on use.

But can these images be turned into book covers? Sure! Here are a few covers I’ve done using public domain images:

Note that public domain imagery can form the major element of the cover such as with See Change, above, or it can be part of the cover made up of several elements, such as the red cover – the Rhino is a public domain woodcut!

And public domain should be distinguished from “Creative Commons”. Creative Commons is where the artist or photographer has voluntarily relinquished some or all of their rights during their lifetime. Public domain usually concerns material wherein the artist has been dead for more than a given period (usually about 70 years, depending on the country). There are some cases, such as the case of material created by the US government, wherein they are immediately public domain. This is the reason many NASA images and some military images are in the public domain.

What are some ideas for using public domain images? Except in the case of NASA space images (which are suitable for sci-fi) they lend themselves to historical fiction and non-fiction. If you were writing a historical novel about the military in the 18th C you might use this marvelous fellow or these wonderful embellishments. Let’s give them a whirl and see what we come up with:

So you see how a very old image can be brought into the 21st century to reflect current tastes in design and in literature. I encourage authors to browse the NYPL site and consult me on any images they might like to use.


One thought on “Using Public Domain Images

  1. Suzi Love says:

    Reblogged this on Suzi Love's Weblog and commented:
    Public Domain Images on book covers.

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