The Pros and the Cons of Free Textures


This was first written for my former blog, which was a blog about textures in general. It may seem a little self-serving now that I sell textures to write this article, but I still feel this is important and was a major reason I chose to either buy or make my textures.

You can hardly throw a stone in Cyberspace without hitting a source for free textures. While this is great, let’s look at both the pros and cons of using free textures.

The Pros

I love the idea of artists sharing resources and creativity. There are a number of generous artists creating textures for share and groups dedicated to sharing textures. Free textures are a great way to get started using textures. As a beginner I was eager to get started and didn’t know how to make my own textures. Free textures allowed me to experiment with many different styles and colors of textures. Having access to so many textures allowed me to start to get a sense of how textures worked and what kind of textures I liked. There are many more creative and generous texture makers out there sharing their works.

The Cons

If you use Free Textures, be sure to play close attention to the Terms of Use and copyright text. Many texture sources have very specific restrictions or requirements. Some require that you place a link back to the source and that you credit them for the texture. Some will not allow you to use them for commercial use.

Before you download free textures, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I prepared to organize my textures in a way that ensures I know where I downloaded them, who to credit and what link address to use?
  2. If required, am I prepared to credit the source wherever I show an image?
  3. Will it be possible to always credit the source? Think of gallery shows, client work and published images. Will you be able to (or want to) provide credit?

We do need to take a few moments to consider the long term copyright issues of using free textures. While it may not seem like a big deal today for sharing an image on social media sites, what happens 5 years down the road when you can no longer remember where you downloaded a texture, or the link to flickr_alias_name may no longer exist? What if an image you created with restrictive use textures is chosen for a national ad or you want to license the image to Ikea as framed artwork, or your image is on the cover of a bestseller? Will someone pop out of the woodwork with a lawsuit? If it is client work are you willing to risk your professional reputation?

Note: Around a year after writing this article, I was contacted by an agency that wanted to license one of my early textured images that used a free texture that required credit. I had forgotten I still had it in one of my portfolios. It took me hours to try and re-create that image and I never completely succeeded in getting it exactly the way it was. This is a real-life example of how using a free texture with restrictions attached can come back to bite you in the you-know-what.

Another Con to using free textures is that they are often not as high in resolution as premium textures. Keep that in mind if high quality resolution is important to your work.

In Summary

It’s not my intention to be negative about using free textures. I do applaud the sharing and generosity found online, but there are also important issues to consider. For myself, I no longer use free textures that require credit or links. I usually do credit out of courtesy and appreciation, but I don’t want it to be a requirement. Before you use free textures, look carefully at the terms of use and your needs. It’s important to consider possible legal ramifications as well as hassle for using free textures.

4 Responses to The Pros and the Cons of Free Textures

  1. Edmund Schlarbaum September 27, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    You definitely ought to get a round of applause for your post and more particularly, your blog in general. Very high level of quality content.

  2. Fairy Romaniello September 27, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Appreciate you for taking the opportunity to approach this subject. I like your perspective on this matter.

  3. Chris October 14, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    Thanks for pointing out the pros and cons – it can be all too easy to get enthusiastic about accepting freeware without looking into any possible consequences. It’s great to get free textures etc. but I value the tutorials equally as much. Thanks for this texture.

    • Leslie Nicole October 14, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Chris. Enjoy the texture. No strings attached. 🙂

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