How To Find Legal Images To Use In Your Art aka Record Cover Shopping

When I was a teen I loved looking through record bins. I still do.

record store 2

Photo by Sean Ziebarth

Yesterday’s albums were big, so the record cover made a big impact..Today we are going to create album cover art for your blog post ideas. The artwork should be:

Joy Division Images

Iconic cover image from Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album

Album covers serve as a quick thematic statement. You should get a sense of your future experience (in listening to the album) from what you see on the cover. The images that you use in your writing should do the same. They should address important points, ideas, or themes.  Your audience can infer your writing style  from the art you select.

Problem: Far too often I see students using images that are trite, cliche, overused, most likely from the first page of a Google image search. They are images that I see again and again online so they become overused. I also see students using images that aren’t legal for reuse and I’m worried about shutting down your site or you being sued.

Solution and  Activity: Create a collage of four images. You can use PicMonkey or any collage tool. The images should form a square or rectangle. Each image should reference an idea or a theme from two of these novels/plays/short stories and  from two of the list of moods. So two moods, two books = four images. I will grade you on whether or not you found unique and novel images to use to represent the ideas and moods below.

Middle School 9th Grade 10th Grade

The Outsiders

Anne Frank

The Odyssey

To Kill A Mockingbird

Romeo and Juliet

The Most Dangerous Game

The Sniper

The Scarlet Ibis

Fahrenheit 451

Sophocles Plays

Any Myth


All Quiet On The Western Front









Infatuated: Crush




Zoning Out

Look through this slide deck of famous Album Covers for ideas and strategies for using images to represent a theme or idea.  (If you use some of the Album Cover strategies, I will give you extra credit for the assignment) (I showed this in class)

Use one of the following sites or techniques to find your image. Use a different site for each image.

  1. Follow friends on Instagram and Twitter who take great or good photos and save those photos to a Google+ folder, Tumblr, or Flickr account with their name on the photo, a few hashtags showing what topic the photo might be good for, and a link back to them. Then when you need to use one of their photos you’ll be able to quickly find the photo and contact the artist for permission. I might use Nicole Dalesio’s photography.
  2. I also like to use artwork from earlier than 1920 so that I don’t have to worry about copyright. Just use a Google Advanced Image search and type in an art school or type of art along with any keywords or ideas.
  3. Using Google’s advanced search, search for photos using the .gov domain. All photos taken by the government are available for non-commercial use.
  4. Screen caps from movies.
  5. You can search many sites at once using the Creative Commons search tool, but use your common sense. I’ve found some images on the site that didn’t look like they were posted by the owner, or seemed in violation of copyright laws.
  6. Try Pixabay for free images that are legal to use
  7. Flickr image search, go to the top left where it says “Any License” and choose “Commercial Use” or “Creative Commons” and follow the directions under the image for how to legally attribute or use the image
  8. Library of Congress Online Images (.gov site, free to use for non-commercial use)
  9. Wikimedia Commons is used by professionals and amateurs. You can add your own photos too. Might be a cool class project.
  10. Notegraphy Create your own image using words or quotes and the free app Notegraphy
  11. Take your own image!

Here’s another resource from Mr. Ziebarth that he just tweeted to me:

Then you will post the collage to a Canvas discussion and link the novel/story/play followed by the idea/theme followed by a link to which site you used to find your image. There should be four of these and they should look like this:

  1. Love: Flickr
  2. Stressed: Pixabay
  3. Hatchet: Advanced Advanced Google Image Search using .gov for plane crash lake
  4. All Quiet On The Western Front Google Image Search using Renaissance Art War

Album Cover

In order to upload you image you will need to 1. Create the collage and s ave it. 2. Upload the image to the “My Files” section of Canvas 3. In the discussion reply click “embed” and then “Canvas Files” and find the image. Then add the descriptions.

So what did they look like when the students were done? Here are a few:

By Yen Tran

Joyous: Taken by myself

Stressed: Pixabay

Romeo and Juliet: Flickr Image Search

Night: Notegraphy

Yen Tran

By Ezequiel Jimenez 

1.Anne Frank: Google search

2.Stressed: Flickr

3.Night: Pixabay

4.Sad: Advance google search


Ezequiel Jimenez

By Ryan Duvall

1.  Google images, Romeo and Juliet

2. Flickr: Envy

3. Advanced google search using .org, Fahrenheit 451

4. Pixabay : Frustrated

Ryan Duvall

By Katie Ho (she changed the collage layout… cool)

1. Notegraphy: To Kill A Mockingbird

2. Flickr: Infatuated: Crush

3. Advance Google Search: The Outsiders

4. Picture Taken Myself: Zoning out

Katie Ho

This student didn’t follow the directions precisely, but I don’t think I’ll have to worry about her finding legal images since she takes them all herself

By Melanie (I’m leaving her last name out to keep her subjects private)

1. zoning out; my own

2. The Scarlet Ibis; my own

3. All Quiet On The Western Front; my own

4. joyous; my own


I do Tune It Up Tuesdays activities with my students to tune up their writing and their blogs. If you want to use the Google Doc Directions/Handout on making legal cover art in your own class, feel free.

PS If you want your students or you to learn how to take your own photos to the next level you can take a short T.R.I.P. and discover how.

Hope you liked it.


PPS: Here’s an official Joy Division Video, if you have never heard or seen them. I loved this band, and still do.


4 thoughts on “How To Find Legal Images To Use In Your Art aka Record Cover Shopping

  1. Love this post! It’s the giant, juicy, chilled, seedless watermelon on the Idea Farm. So refreshing after pulling weeds all day long in the hot sun. I especially like how you break the traditional use of using a discussion board and save your students from the monotony of post once, reply twice.

    I came across an awesome Harvard Law School guide on Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media that may be of interest. Checkout

    My favorite:

    Keep the ideas growing!

    Liked by 1 person

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