A Vector is a computer based graphic that is created in programs such as Adobe Illustrator which uses mathematical equations and geometrical points, lines and shapes. This means, that unlike raster artwork (.jpg, .png, .gif, .tif image files) which are comprised of pixels, a vector file can be resized to any dimension without losing resolution. So illustrations, icons, backgrounds, textures and patterns can all be vector based files.
The most common vector file formats are:
- .eps (Encapsulated PostScript)
- .ai (Adobe Illustrator - can only be opened in Illustrator)
- .svg (Scalable Vector Graphics)
- .pdf (Portable Document Format - cannot be edited)
To edit a vector it must be saved as one of the first three file types and requires a vector editing program such as Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.
If you do not have access to these programs then check if a .png file with transparent background is available. You will not be able to edit these files but you will be able to use them in Picmonkey or Canva. Just watch out for resizing as you may lose resolution if you go too big.
If you do use a free vector in your design make sure you have checked the licence for any restrictions. If you haven't done so already you can read more about licences here.
Freepik is, in my opinion, the best free vector library, not only because the selection is so extensive but because the quality is amazing. A lot of the other websites I mention here have quite a bit of junk to sift through, but this is not the case with Freepik. The difference with Freepik is that a lot of the vectors are designed by their team of professional designers and are therefore unique to Freepik. Look out for the vectors marked with an S (Selection range). All vectors are free to use with attribution but if you create a premium account for $9.99 per month you can use their vectors without giving attribution.
The Noun Project has a huge collection of free icons. No longer are icons reserved just for standard signs and symbols, you can pretty much find an icon for anything on the noun project. Icons can serve as simple illustrations and are great tools to help us quickly communicate our message visually. They are particularly useful in web design.
Icons on the Noun Project are available for download in PNG (pixels) and SVG (vector) file format and are licenced under the Creative Commons license. You will however need to be sure to check the conditions of the CC license of each icon you choose as some may require you to give attribution.
Vexels is one of my new favourites because it's a vector library and editor in one! Yep, that's right, they have a huge library of free graphics, icons and backgrounds AND many of them can be customised in their online editor before you download. The intuitive drag & drop editor is really easy to use allowing anyone, regardless of their graphic design skills can customize designs quickly. To make it even easier the design team have designed suggested alternatives to each vector.
Vecteezy is a large online graphics community with a huge library of free vectors, illustrations and icons. It’s really easy to find what you're looking for using their search function or you can browse by category. Most vectors are free to use in both personal and commercial projects but you’ll need to check the individual licence for the specific conditions of use.
1001 Free Downloads is an incredible resource with thousands of free vectors, photos, brushes, gradients, PSDs and fonts all in one place. Pretty much everything on the site is free to download and use for personal and commercial purposes but you will need to check the license of each file you download for the specific terms as some may require attribution or other conditions of use. Finding what you are looking for is easy as you have the ability to browse by graphic type, and narrow it down by using categories and tag filters. If you know exactly what you are looking for you can get straight to the point and type it into the search bar.
Vectorportal has a huge collection with over 35 million vector downloads. You can browse by category or use the search bar. You can also filter by logo objects, and they also have other graphic elements such as swatches and Photoshop and Illustrator brushes. All vectors are free to download and attribution is not mandatory. They do however ask that you "give attribution where applicable" e.g. in instances where you give attribution to others such as presentations and book covers.
Creative Market is the ebay/etsy for designers. You can find anything on there from vectors, mockups, stock photos, fonts, patterns, templates, icons, illustrations and much more. While most of their items are for sale, in their Free Goods section, each week they have a range of items available for free download. I have downloaded some great graphics for free so it's worth keeping an eye out.
Flaticon is a branch of Freepik and was created three years after its big sister in response to the high level of searches for icons on Freepik. As it’s name suggest, Flaticon is dedicated to providing quality, editable icons. It is the same as Freepik in that you are able to use all icons for free so long as you give attribution, but on subscribing to their premium plan at $9.99 per month you may use their icons free of attribution. You will find an icon on here for everything and the quality is so good that you’ll likely have a tough time deciding on which one you like best.
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