Can You Use Royalty-Free Images for Your Book?

Congratulations on completing your book! Since the hard graft of finding the perfect words is completed, now all that’s left for you to do is find the illustrations. You want the very best quality images. The best bet is to look for royalty-free images, but are you allowed to use them for your book?

Royalty-free images have different terms of usage depending on the license you have purchased. Always check the license requirements before using royalty-free images. Below are the different royalty-free licenses one can purchase:

Editorial Use OnlyAllows for image use in online and offline publications but has limited copies of print runs
Commercial UseAllows for commercial image use within specific limits stipulated by the host platform
Extended LicenseAllows for commercial image use, and the image can be resold and the licensor extensive distribution right within reason but the original cannot be sold

So now that we know that we can use royalty-free images for your book, depending on the type of license you have, keep reading to find out where to find royalty-free pictures and what their requirements are in terms of usage.

Where Can You Get Royalty-Free Images?

If you haven’t gone further than googling royalty-free pictures and pressed the “images” icon, you’re missing out on a world of opportunities for incredible royalty-free images.

There are many different websites that you can access to get some high-quality, royalty-free images; much better than what you’ll find just on google images. Here are some excellent websites where you can source your royalty-free images.


This website has an incredible range of high-quality images to choose from. The price for their royalty-free license is one of the most affordable on the market, so it’s a great contender for finding images for your book. With over 11 million different images to search through, they blew my mind with their options.


If there’s an image on Google with a watermark, it’s usually Shutterstock. Shutterstock is one of the biggest and most popular websites that you can get royalty-free images from. With over 415 million images on their site, you now know why they are so popular.


This photo gallery is owned by Getty images and boasts a huge range of different royalty-free images that you can use for your book. It really isn’t complicated to use, all you have to do is go onto the website and use the search tool to find your ideal royalty-free image.


This website is owned by the ingenious creative company Canva, and it was quite a brilliant buy. Why? Because of the amount of amazing quality footage that Pexels has. You can create amazing art with access to some of the finest stock images online all wrapped into one neat subscription.

However, if you only want royalty-free images you can still just go to the Pexels website where there are still tons of amazing images to choose from.


Another awesome company that is also owned by Canva is Pixabay. You can find tons of royalty-free images on this site to make your book the must-have item for everyone. Pixabay boasts over 2.7 million images on its site. Yes, it’s not as many as Shutterstock but it’s an excellent competitor in the royalty-free stock game.

Google Advanced Image Search

Of course, you can use our beloved Google search engine to find loads of different images. The only difference is this time you will be using the advanced option. The difference between using the default and Advanced search, is that you will be able to filter the results according to the license you’re looking for.

Can You Use Royalty-Free Images for Your Book Cover?

You can use royalty-free images for your book cover, but because your book cover is ultimately the biggest aspect of catching a potential reader’s eye, this can be quite a sensitive area in how you source the image for your cover.

You always need to make sure that you have the correct license details to be able to use certain images for covers. Because covers draw attention, as opposed to the other images in a book, the owner of that image might have specific terms about how and when you can use that picture.

So the moral of the story is; always check the license details or you might find yourself with a heavy fee or even worse, a bad reputation.

Are Royalty-Free and Creative Commons the Same?

Royalty-free and Creative Commons are similar, and you can find most of them on the same websites, but they are not the same thing.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization with varying rules from loose to strict when it comes to licensing. The loosest license you’ll find is called the Attribution license. This will allow you to use or alter the image for your book for free; as long as you give credit to the creator for the original work.


Royalty-free has three main licenses and requires you to pay once for the specific license to meet your needs and be able to use the images you choose forever. The biggest difference between royalty-free and creative commons is that royalty-free is that you will have to pay for royalty-free images.

Final Thoughts

So yes, you can use royalty-free images in your book to bring the pages to life, or as accurately as you can through the royalty-free images, you can find. So go ahead and use the pictures to your heart’s content, but always check the terms of the license you have purchased.