Skip to Main Content

CHEM 6C: General Chemistry III (Brydges, Spring 2022): Find Images

Resources for Chem 6C (Brydges) - Spring 2022

Images can help illustrate, reinforce, or clarify points or concepts in your text. Authors create their own images for articles, or adapt or reuse images originally created by others. Some images are freely available, such as images that have Creative Commons licenses or are in the public domain (see below) others require that you get permission to use (and sometimes require payment).

These publishers grant automatic permission for you to reuse images published in their journals for this kind of assignment.

  • American Chemical Society grants automatic reuse for classroom use (up to 4 images from an article).
  • Royal Society of Chemistry grants permission for authorized users (including students) to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts in educational works, as part of our journal license.
  • Elsevier/Science Direct grants permission for reuse of images for internal classroom use, for the journals that we license. This excludes a few journals (including Chem and Matter).
    • If you went through the request process with an Elsevier article (example), you get the confirmation there is no fee, but you would still need to complete the RightsLink request form. 
  • American Institute of Physics has a similar setup as Elsevier
    • If you went through the request process with an AIP article (example), 

Provided that:

  1. The image does not credit another publisher. For example, an image in an ACS journal that is credited to Wiley (unless that article is also open access with a CC license)..
  2. You must include a caption that credits the image, with the article cited at the end of your paper. See Cite Images for more information.

Public Domain Images

Public domain works are no longer under copyright protection and can be used freely without requesting permission. That does not mean that every publicly available image is public domain; in fact, many images are protected by copyright. While no permission to use these images is needed, you still want to include some attribution to show you used something in the public domain if others want to use it as well.


  • Most US government images are public domain. There are some exceptions, such as images from research labs (like Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
  • Most of the images used in Wikipedia are public domain. Wikipedia also has an extensive list of public domain image resources.
  • Image search results can sometimes be limited what's in the public domain.
    • Flickr: Under Any License, select Public Domain or No Known Copyright Restrictions
    • Bing: Under License, select Public Domain

Creative Commons Images

Creative Commons-licensed images are still under copyright, but the creators have automatically granted permission to others to use/reuse the images under certain conditions, provided that you 1) give attribution for the work, and 2) use the work within the conditions of the license. There are different CC licenses, which are typically indicated by the images (or text) below. The least restrictive is CC BY, while other license options to exclude commercial use and/or adapting or remixing the work, or require that whoever uses the image has to use the same license as well.


  • Google, Bing, and Flickr image search results can be restricted to CC-licensed works. In the Google results, go to Tools, then Usage Rights. 
  • Creative Commons also has a search engine.
  • Open access journal articles often include a CC license, which you can find on the article's abstract page or the first page of the article PDF. It could be that all of the article published in the journal have CC licenses (like Chemical ScienceAtmospheric Chemistry and PhysicsNature Communications), or just selected articles (like these examples). You should see "Open" or "Open Access" somewhere on the on the article landing page or first page of the PDF.
  • Keep in mind when looking for CC-licensed images.
    • For the article to be Open Access, you should be able to get to it without running VPN from off campus. That means it's free to anyone without a subscription, like the examples above. If you need VPN, then it's not open access (and no CC license) because we have to license/pay for access.
    • An article that is open access with a CC license may include images that are not CC-licensed. This article has a CC BY-NC license, but the first image includes this caption: Reproduced with permission of the publisher. Permission is still required to reuse the image. Any permissions granted to those authors does not "carry over" to anyone else who wants to use the images.
    • An article that doesn't have a CC license may include images that are CC-licensed. For example, this article does not have CC license, but Figure 1 uses images that are CC-licensed. The caption for the images starts with Reproduced with modifications from (attribution -authors and complete citation), and then licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Generic License.

CC BY 4.0
Can share and adapt for any purpose, including commercially.

CC BY-NC 4.0
Can share and adapt, but for non-commercial uses.

Can share for non-commercial purposes only, but not adapt or create derivative works.

Can share and adapt for non-commercial uses, but must use the same license as the original work.