Must-Have Reference Tools for your Creative Toolbox recommends a variety of MUST-HAVE Reference Tools & Resources for your Creative Toolbox!
Reference Tools

Reference Tools

In this Guide Post, we will be sharing our recommendations about Must-Have Reference Tools for your Creative Toolbox! We will briefly look at various tools that we believe may be useful to our Members during their creative process. 

Because there are SO MANY Resources and quite a lot of information to cover, we will simplify our process. As we look at each Resource, we will:

  • Number the tools in no particular order
  • Provide a short description
  • Rate each tool honestly
  • Tell you what we LOVE about each tool
  • Offer similar reference tools.

Our goal is to help you discover excellent Reference Tools that you may be able to utilize in your creative process!

What is a Model Photo Copyright Release?

GET Model Photo Copyright Releases

A word of caution about uploading photos: 

If you are taking a photograph that features a recognizable individual and are considering posting the image for sale or plan to use it for commercial purposes, you should seek the permission of the person by obtaining a model release! 

Here’s a really great article by that has an attached video and document from an attorney to provide you with food for thought on the subject!

Our Suggestions:

Images containing recognizable individuals require a model release, if you can’t obtain one use an image from a reliable stock photo company that provides information regarding model releases.

Additionally, you should avoid using any type of image that contains trademarked content or brand logos, as even innocuous usage of these elements in a photograph can be tempting fate with a lawsuit. 

Be sure to look into your rights regarding your content BEFORE you get involved with a platform. We highly recommend investigating what occurs with your content should you change your mind and want to leave the platform or remove your content.

Using Reference without Copyright Infringement

There are also many nuances to consider when using reference photos! These concepts can be difficult but important to understand! wrote a great article on the subject called Artists and Copyright: Painting from Reference. The goal is to avoid copyright infringement, to respect the rights of our fellow creatives, and understanding how to basically determine for yourself when a work would be considered a “copy” or a even a “derivative work” of another work. 

However, ultimately if you have questions regarding copyright these inquiries are best posed to a copyright attorney!

Attributing Sources

In order to respect the License of the Creative who shared the work, you should:

  • Be sure to acknowledge & give credit to the Artist who created the work
  • Abide by the terms of the Creative Commons License
  • READ THE FINE PRINT of the Creative Commons License

According to

Reference Resources

There are a number of ways to obtain visual references that are useful resources for Artists!



The CreativeCommons is a truly amazing community & resource for Artists!



Remarks About the

★ is a non-profit organization, comprised of creatives like yourself who have seen fit to share their work. However, you should note that there are often permissions associated with the Creative Commons License. 

★ They offer a variety of Collections, such as their Museum Collection and access to a plethora of third-party platforms where you can find available resources!

★ We ABSOLUTELY ADORE the CreativeCommons and feel strongly that it’s an excellent way to “give back” to the Creative Community!



As an Artist-Centric platform, DeviantArt provides Creatives with ability to exhibit, promote, & share their work to their supportive Arts Community!



Remarks About DeviantArt

★ More than 44 Million Creatives comprise DeviantArt’s unique Community!

★ DeviantArt hosts over 370 Million “Deviations!”

★ Does not claim ownership of any submissions and insists that the Artist is the ONLY ONE who can give permission for use. Artists have the freedom to set the Terms & Conditions relating to the use of their work!



Pixabay may be a way that some photographers would like to try to get some exposure for their work and give back to the community!



Remarks About Pixabay

★ Great for using as photo reference!

★ With OVER 1 MILLION images, Pixabay offers an amazing selection of photos to choose from!

★ Images are shared by their host of amateur & professional photographers!

★ Pixabay helps amateur & professional photographers & illustrators to share their work and get paid for it!

★ Users who download images are asked to “Buy Coffee” as a form of donating to the Photographer in exchange for providing the image.

★ The platform professes that the images are copyright free, free to use, and no requirement to attribute the image properly.

★ Does not guarantee any remuneration (monetary compensation) to the Artists who contributed the images for the use of their photography work!

★ You can also access Shutterstock’s Premium Stock Photos from Pixabay’s platform. The sale of stock images from Shutterstock is an affiliate program that helps Pixabay maintain it’s ability to offer content for free.

Similar Platforms:

  • Pexels – Provides quality images from a growing creative community. Canva purchased the companies Pexels and Pixabay to “democratize design” and increase the number of stock photos offered to Canva users.
  • Unsplash – Offers a TON of professional-looking photographs! 
  • – Similar to is a “For Creatives, By Creatives” style-platformImages are free for download, for commercial application, or reuse in your work! The organization encourages users & creatives alike to sign up for ease of use and contribute photographs they’ve taken to give back to the Community they are building!

More FREE Stock Image Platforms

There are so many excellent FREE Stock Images options that the following tools deserve honorable mention!


The main difference between FREE & PAID Stock Image Platforms is that when you use a paid stock image you are purchasing the license and the right to use the photos



Shutterstock offers a voluminous library of Premium Stock Images, Photos, and Vectors for use in commercial applications.



Remarks About Shutterstock

★ Shutterstock has helped Creative Contributors earn over $1 Billion USD!

★ Used by household names like CapitalOne, Johnson & Johnson, and even Netflix!

★ Currently offers 312 Million Images and it’s library is growing on average 192,000 images daily!

★ Their Premium Plans provide “Access [to] professional design elements and time-saving features!”

Similar Platforms:

  • iStock – Millions of Images, Illustrations, ClipArt, & Audio and Video Tracks
  • Getty Images – Stock Images, Editorial Photography, Music, & Videos
  • BigStock – 90+ Million Stock Images, Illustrations, Vectors, & Videos
  • Superstock – Footage, Illustrations, & Images


Art Reference Sites

This Resource is a Family of photo reference platforms geared toward Artists! And definitely deserves mention here. 

Provides a veritable cornucopia of options for photographic reference to help when working on a variety of work!




NOTE: Some of the following reference sites may contain highly accurate representations of human anatomy! HOWEVER, THEY ARE NOT PORNOGRAPHIC. We understand this may make some people uncomfortable. If the potential presence of nudes is an issue for you, then we do not suggest clicking on the links below for this particular recommendation!

If you liked this recommendation, check out these Guide Posts to discover other AMAZING tools you may want to add to your Creative Toolbox!

Must-Have Idea Generation Tools to Add to your Creative Toolbox

This Guide Post is about MUST-HAVE Idea Generation Tools that our Artists may be interested in adding to their Creative Toolboxes!

Must-Have Reference Tools for your Creative Toolbox
0 recommends a variety of MUST-HAVE Reference Tools & Resources for your Creative Toolbox!

Must-Have Crowdfunding Tools for your Creative Toolbox

This Guide Post is on the subject of Crowdfunding and how it can be beneficial to help Artists & Creatives!

Must-Have Efficiency Tools for YOUR Creative Toolbox

Our Recommendations for Must-Have Tools to help with efficiency that Artists may want to add to their Creative Toolbox!

Must-Have Social Media & Scheduling Tools for your Creative Toolbox

Navigating Social Media There are times when Social Media can be downright overwhelming! We've all been there. However, having the right tools often makes ...

Must-Have Learning Tools for your Creative Toolbox

DISCOVER THESE MUST-HAVE LEARNING TOOLS!ADD THEM TO YOUR CREATIVE TOOLBOX! Visual Learning Platforms Having a growth mindset is a ...

Must-Have Design Tools for Your Creative Toolbox

We provide our recommendations about these AWESOME Design Tools our Artists may add to their Creative Toolbox!

Love this recommendation? Or have a reference tool you’d like to suggest that we add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Show full profile

Artist & Creator of Makyn Originals Studios, LLC.

What's on your mind?

Leave a reply
Reset Password
Shopping cart