Public Domain Design Ideas

Pinterest is the place where I am bookmarking all kinds of ideas. I have also been exploring programming languages for design ideas. But I came upon this PDF of designs and realized that there are millions of public domain books online with lots of great graphics. This one is particularly helpful because it shows how to do a design manually rather than computer generated. Digitization of design to happen later through various steps.

Any other sourcebooks for illustrations and design that we can use? I would be particularly interested in potential engraving designs for box lids.


I love
There is also The Public Domain Review to look at.
Flicker Commons has some great stuff including over a million images from the British Library
There is the stuff from the University of Oxford/Vatican Library collab, which I discovered via, and which I discovered today with a google search for “Public Domain Collections”.


Here is one of the images, along with an svg. The paths haven’t been simplified. But you get the idea. Trace bitmap in Inkscape.

cusakskullhor.svg (211.5 KB)


Another style for those that don’t even want to use the computer for design work could be like a zentangle pattern where you would just use your material or tape as the canvas for your zentangle and let the laser do the rest.


omg, old maps swoon

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@Joshua. That zentangle stuff is insane. I can see some sort of Japanese yosegi meets that.

@johnawerner posted a good link in the woodcut thread.

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That Zentangle stuff will be excellent when I have a large surface that I want to engrave something, but have no appropriate images/patterns in mind. Eventually even I have to admit celtic swirls aren’t supposed to be on every surface :slight_smile:

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I love this thread!

I think it goes without saying that if you’re AT ALL interested in historical design that you should be aware of (and buying!) Dover Books. They publish works whose copyright has run out, plus lots of original material. They now sell design books that contain CDs of both raster and vector images from many periods in history, and they just recently introduced an online image resource, DoverPictura. They have phenomenal stuff to inspire you, and once you buy the books or images (oftentimes for very low prices) the images are yours to use in any way you want, including commercially.

Here is the first handful of books that came up on their site when I checked in:

And here are their image topics:

This is their main page for design books, including ones with CDs of images, and e-books with downloadable content:

Here is the site for DoverPictura, where you can just buy collections of images. Typical price: 44 images for $16.

13 Likes Is pretty good for personal use if you like the old style engraved look. I use them for educational tools.


I am working on a post for Islamic art. I have a fantastic book on the math, theology, design and art of Islamic patterns. That at least will give you another doodle to go for. And when all else fails Maori tattoo patterns.

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Very cool resources!

The US Library of Congress has some amazing image collections:

There is a wide variety of stuff there (understatement) some only available low res, but lots of good high resolution scans if you look. Many are public domain, but the LOC does not enforce any kind of right authority, so you sometimes have to figure out the situation for yourself.


Yes! My mousepad is an LOC image.


New York Public Library has an incredible digital collection and it is very well curated.


NY Public Library adds 135,000 more hi-res digital images to its public domain site. :smiley:


The NYPL release of more than 180k images also has a nifty tool for visualizing those images.


oh my gosh- that is amazing!! I’m going to have so much fun with all these resources!

Stumbled on this with the visualizing tool, collection of intricate designs:


Woah. Super resource!