I just spent far too many hours looking for good free fantasy images to use on this site. I still haven’t found the perfect one, but I found something that will work.
If you’re curious, it’s on the home page just below the big banner image (the column marked “Magic”).
I expected it to take some time – you have to work harder for free stuff, right? I did not, however, expect it to take up most of my day. Why did it take so long?
Why Are Free Fantasy Images Hard to Find?
Most Are Low Quality
You can, however, take a screenshot of a video game and do that. Which is what many of the fantasy graphics are or at least start as.
Most of the ones that people put a lot of time and skill into… aren’t free.
I really facepalmed when that clicked. Of course someone with the skills to make fancy fantasy art (which is what it is) are going to charge for it! I’m lucky I found any for free that look good.
Matching Magic Styles
Call me picky, but I wanted something that didn’t completely contradict the kind of magics I plan to write about. I can compromise a bit – expecting to find something that 100% matches my story is completely unrealistic.
But is 20-30% too much to ask?
Unfortunately, trying not to include dragons and mermaids and creatures I don’t expect to have in the books definitely limited my options (the one at the top of this article was one from ImaArtist that didn’t really fit for this and reasons listed below, so I’m glad I get to use it here instead).
The Artist Used Different Tags
I clicked on the artist’s name and, lo and behold, here came options that never showed up in my search because the artist tagged it with something different than what I searched for (*sob*).
Learn from my mistakes, and use this tactic early in your search: if you find an image you like that isn’t quite perfect for your purpose, see if something else the artist did fits better.
In fact, if you like an artist, follow them or bookmark their page. Save yourself time in your next search, too.
Wanting Something Colorful
Most of the good free fantasy images use a lot of black, are gray scale, or are mostly white. Anything with a multiple colors still tends to be really dark, which, unfortunately, didn’t match the other images in that area of my site.
I don’t know if the style trends dark because it’s easier to create it digitally or if the people willing to share their work for free just go for that. But even the digitally enhanced photos in this category tended to be really dark or all icy whites.
Size & Style Matching
This one is very much my fault. If I didn’t care about how that picture went with the other pictures on the page, the search would have been a bit easier.
But I’ve spent so long working with graphics and other sites that I couldn’t stand to have it completely mismatched. Honestly, I did settle on this a bit (the image there isn’t perfect for the grouping), but if I were willing to have completely different colors, focus styles, or general saturation, I would’ve had more options.
That said, the area of the site would’ve looked a bit jumbled and jarring.
How Do People Find Fantasy Book Covers?
This experience is making me realize that I better start researching how to find a fantasy book cover before I finish the book.
Based on what I saw today, I may even need to have an artist make one if I want it to match my book at all. And I have no idea how that would work or what it would cost. Add that to my “things about self-publishing that I need to research” list.