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.
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.
Before you download free textures, ask yourself these questions:
- 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?
- If required, am I prepared to credit the source wherever I show an image?
- 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.