This Genius Art Hack Is the Cheapest Way to Get Luxe-Looking, Unique Artwork

published Oct 19, 2022
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Craving unique, museum-worthy art designs — minus the bespoke budget? I have a genius two-part “shopping” hack for you, the first part of which actually costs absolutely nothing (yes, really!). Two words: public domain.

You may already be taking advantage of license-free music and movies, but did you know that you can similarly access certain images and art digitally, too? Basically, any published creative work not protected by copyright law is considered part of the public domain, meaning it has full unrestricted use in any capacity (think prime gallery wall material!) without fees or permissions. Art can enter the public domain for a number of reasons, including how long it has been around; for any registered piece created on or after Jan. 1, 1978, its copyright typically lasts through the artist’s lifetime plus 70 years.

While there’s unfortunately no all-encompassing public domain website to pull art directly from, I rounded up a few online resources below. Even some renowned art museums made the list, allowing you to browse and save famous paintings, posters, drawings, and photographed artifacts via their open access digital catalogs — all for free, might I add! If you’re set on a specific art style or subject matter, say, a black-and-white landscape, for example, it’s also worth searching fair use stock photo platforms for high-end, one-of-a-kind-looking images as well.

From there, once you’ve found your favorite no-cost art downloads, you can easily print and frame pieces from home. For an even more professional looking piece, you can send the files directly to a framing company (recommendations are also below!), and a ready-to-hang picture will show up on your doorstep within days or weeks. Either way, the whole process arguably costs considerably less than buying a brand new print or painting altogether, and you can curate an entire room’s worth of art with this simple two-step method alone. Best of all, public domain options completely run the gamut from literal works of art to vintage baseball cards to decor-worthy photography that you won’t find from any retailer. Just always read any reuse fine print and double check that whatever you’re eyeing is actually labeled as “public domain.” Of course, if you can afford to purchase original art, go that route as often as you can to support working artists. You can always supplement with public domain pieces in that case. Here’s where to get started in your search for something that speaks to you.

Best Free Public Domain Art Resources

Best Online Framing Services

This piece is part of Art Month, where we’re sharing how to find, buy, and display art in your home, and so much more. Head on over here to see it all!