Important Note: When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Content, pricing, offers and availability are subject to change at any time - more info.
If you wish to send Thanksgiving cards to your friends and family that are more special than mass-produced commercial items, so you want to make your own. With the help of the many sites that provide public domain vintage images that are free for you to use, you can create beautiful homely cards for the occasion. Find out which sites offer free and legal vintage Thanksgiving images.
- Many libraries, museums, universities, and art galleries have digitized their collections and made them available for public use without restrictions.
- In other cases, people with private collections of digitized vintage art upload them to free media sites, which are, therefore, available for your use.
- Photo sites such as Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash, Rawpixel, and Flickr have some public domain pictures and vintage illustrations. These sites are generally not a good place to look for vintage Thanksgiving images, as they are oriented toward recently-taken photos.
- Before using images, check that they are in the public domain and have no restrictions, especially if you are making craft items for resale on sites such as Etsy.
- If offered a variety of resolutions, download at the largest size (highest resolution) to ensure you get the best quality when printing. Some images have only been digitized at low resolution and are best suited for use as small repeats on wrapping paper and other such applications.
- Use the images for making greeting cards, wrapping paper, gift tags, or scrap-booking, using graphic design software. With these programs, you can design cards, create patterns, and edit images.
- To obtain the best results, invest in a good-quality printer and paper or card stock for printing your images.
Where To Get Free Vintage Thanksgiving Images
You may want to create your own Thanksgiving cards but find the cost of images prohibitive. It can be expensive paying for pictures, especially when they’re a “nice to have” rather than a “must have.”
It is possible to get free Thanksgiving images entirely legally, without any infringement of copyright law that would set you up for trouble with the law. Instead, you can have beautiful vintage Thanksgiving images to use for whatever you please.
Several sites offer vintage Thanksgiving images that have passed into the public domain and are, therefore, free to use. Let’s look at the sites that offer these free vintage images.
1. The NYPL Digital Collections
The New York Public Library has assembled a huge collection of public domain content from various sources, which they have digitized and uploaded for the public to use, with no restrictions on most images. Search through their collection for Thanksgiving images and download the full original resolution images to print to the best effect.
The Thanksgiving images in this collection are vintage Thanksgiving cards, which means they are perfect for printing as they are onto robust card stock to make distinctive, personalized Thanksgiving cards.
2. The Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution‘s component entities have a vast collection of images and objects covering all fields of human knowledge, and they have digitized this assemblage. Since 2020, an enormous quantity of digitized 2D and 3D images from all the Smithsonian’s various entities is being placed online, free of charge and without any restrictions on use.
If you search for Thanksgiving images, you will find several vintage black and white illustrations that initially ran in publications such as Harper’s Weekly. These would make unique cards if used as is, but if you are prepared to spend some time adding color to them, you will end up with something truly special.
3. Public Domain Pictures
Public Domain Pictures is a membership site that hosts images in the public domain, whether stock photos or vintage images whose copyright has lapsed. These images are user-uploaded and are free to download at low resolutions. Search for “Thanksgiving” images.
If you wish to get a full-size image, you will have to obtain a premium membership (at the cost of a few dollars for a hundred images). You also have the option of tipping the image uploader. Although the small images will work for gift tags or wrapping paper, you may want higher-resolution images for making Thanksgiving cards.
4. Wikimedia Commons
A sister project to the well-known Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons is a massive collection of user-uploaded media in the public domain, including photos, videos, and graphics. To find vintage Thanksgiving images, search for “Thanksgiving” and then narrow down your search by clicking on “License” and selecting “No restrictions.”
The images you get will include many photos, but by scrolling through the selection, you will come across vintage illustrations. Open the page for the image you want, and choose “Original file” to get the picture at its full resolution.
5. Hub Pages
Hub Pages is a network of sites filled with user-created content on various topics, ranging from arts to politics. Some site users create resource pages where they upload their digitized collections of public domain images for others to download and use.
Two writers on this site, Nancy Oram and Writer Fox have created collections of public domain Thanksgiving images, with further information about usage rights for those images. Nancy Oram’s collection is entirely free to use, while Writer Fox’s collection is for personal use.
Social media site Pinterest is a good source of vintage Thanksgiving images in the public domain. Search for “Thanksgiving” and follow users who collect Thanksgiving images. From time to time, users will find new vintage pictures, digitize them, and upload them. Alternatively, they create pins as links to digitized images found elsewhere on the net.
As a result, Pinterest acts as an aggregator of vintage Thanksgiving images. User Elaine Gitzel, from Canada, has created a collection of around 500 pins of vintage Thanksgiving cards. This assemblage would be a great starting point for tracking down free-to-use public domain pictures.
7. The Graphics Fairy
The Graphics Fairy is a resource site for crafters offering almost 7000 free clip art, graphics, and vintage images for crafting use. The pictures are free to use for personal projects or resale, with terms providing certain limitations on particular pictures and restricting the use of more than six images on any one project.
A search for “Thanksgiving” images turns up over 175 pictures, which are organized into different categories such as turkey, pilgrims, cornucopia, and patriotic so that you can quickly find what you are looking for. There are also uploads of vintage sheet music of traditional Thanksgiving hymns.
8. Free Vintage Art
Free Vintage Art is a collection of vintage art in the public domain for use by crafters in projects such as scrapbooking, art projects, and homemade greeting cards. A search for “Thanksgiving” images turns up two pages of pictures, all of which are in the public domain in the US and are, therefore, available for you to use in your projects.
As the resolution of most of these images is pretty low, we recommend using them for filler images in scrap-booking, for gift tags, or as motif repeats on wrapping paper, rather than as large images on greeting cards.
Dreamstime is the largest community of stock photos worldwide and also offers vector illustrations. These images are royalty-free; to download them, you must sign up for a free membership using your name and email address.
Some images are available to download free of charge, whereas others you will have to pay for, although costs are low, at around $0.20 per image. A search for royalty-free and public domain Thanksgiving images turns up many pictures of various types for your projects.
Rawpixel offers free and premium photos, artwork, and fonts. You must create a membership to download content, but you can choose between free and premium membership, with free membership giving you access to their public domain artwork.
Sign up with a name and email address and confirm with a code they send to you to gain access to their collection. Searching for “Thanksgiving” images reveals some intriguing black and white illustrations.
11. Clip Art Library
Clip Art Library is, as the name implies, a library of clip art that is free to download and use. Searching for “Thanksgiving” images leads to many cute vector clips that would be ideal for applications such as gift tags or stickers. Due to how vector graphics work, they will also print out well at large sizes and would make sweet illustrations for children’s Thanksgiving cards.
12. Quotes Project
Although Quotes Project’s primary focus is, as their name suggests, images with quotes related to various topics, they do also offer a collection of over 100 free vintage Thanksgiving images. As these images are relatively low resolution, we recommend using them for scrap-booking rather than for use on greeting cards.
To download these images, right-click them and select “Save image as.” The pictures are offered in WEBP format, and you will not be able to view them on your computer or manipulate them. To work with these images, you must use a free image converter such as this one to convert them to a format you can edit.
13. Free Vintage Illustrations
Free Vintage Illustrations offers thousands of vintage images in the public domain for the public to download and use for whatever they please. These images are provided in JPEG and PNG formats and at pretty good resolutions, which means they will be suitable for various purposes. To download these images, open the page for the picture you want and select “Download free.”
This site offers the option to narrow down images to color or black and white and to sort by illustrator, so if you are looking for illustrations by a well-known Thanksgiving artist, you may find them more quickly this way.
14. Public Domain Clip Art
Public Domain Clip Art offers over 25,000 clip art illustrations in the public domain, including 41 Thanksgiving pictures. These range from simple graphics to vintage art, and several would be ideal for gift tags or wrapping paper. To save these images, right-click on them and select “Save image as.”
15. Public Domain Vectors
Public Domain Vectors is a collection of 65,000 vector images, including clip art and SVG files, all in the public domain. Searching for “Thanksgiving” images turns up many great vector images, including vintage black and white illustrations and other clip art. Because of the fundamental nature of vector images, they print great at any size, and resolution is not a problem.
You can download these images without creating a membership, and they would work excellently on wrapping paper or anywhere else that you need precise, line-based art.
US Copyright Law exists to promote art and culture by assigning exclusive rights to the creators (authors) of works, which include artwork and other images. These rights are to create and sell copies (hence the term copyright), modify the pieces and create derivatives, and publicly show their work.
However, there are time limits on these rights, which usually expire 95 years after the publication of the work or 70 years after the creator’s death (whichever comes first) and enter the public domain, meaning that everyone has a right to copy, sell, remix, and display these works. Works published before in 1926 or earlier, are in the public domain in the US.
You will need image design software to work with the images you have downloaded from these sites. Which software you use depends on your budget, with Adobe Photoshop offering enormous power at a hefty price tag.
The free and open-source alternative, GIMP, is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS and provides plenty of functionality for designing greeting cards and other materials for Thanksgiving.
Alternatively, if you cannot run image manipulation software on your computer, use a web-based solution such as Canva. Create a free account for basic functionality, or upgrade to Pro.
We also have a list of free editors here.
To design cards for Thanksgiving, begin with a high-resolution image in the public domain and use image design software to manipulate the canvas to include back matter. On a separate canvas, create an inside greeting for your card.
Print these two images on reverse sides of quality card stock (ensuring that you have them correctly oriented so that everything is facing the right way up), and the result will be a professional-looking card. You can decorate with ribbons, glitter glue, or pinking scissors for a more homely look.