14+ Stunning Portrait Reference Photos Websites for Artists

Drawing portrait art can be tough. To improve, it’s a great idea to practice using various reference photos of faces. 

If you keep practicing the same faces, you will lack some of the important fundamental techniques of portrait art, especially since every race has different facial characteristics.

You might wonder where to find such a diverse range of face photos. Don’t worry; there are 14 websites listed here that offer fantastic reference images for portrait drawing. 

Plus, you can use any images in this guide as practice material. They’re all up for grabs to help you hone your portrait drawing skills.

1. Google Image

Of course, the easiest way to search for a portrait image is by searching them on Google. Simply open your web browser and use Google Images to search for a portrait image to use for reference.

You can use this keyword to help you navigate Google Image

General keywords:

  • portrait reference photos
  • portrait photography for artists
  • figure drawing reference photos
  • anatomy reference for artists
  • facial expressions reference
  • pose reference for artists
  • free portrait reference photos
  • high-resolution portrait reference photos

More specific keywords:

  • [age group] portrait reference (example: child portrait reference, elderly portrait reference)
  • [ethnicity] portrait reference (example: Asian portrait reference, black portrait reference)
  • [gender] portrait reference (example: male portrait reference, female portrait reference)
  • [emotion] portrait reference (example: happy portrait reference, sad portrait reference)
  • [style] portrait reference (example: classical portrait reference, modern portrait reference)
  • [body type] portrait reference (example:  plus size portrait reference, athletic portrait reference)
  • [background] portrait reference (example: nature portrait reference, studio portrait reference)

2. Pinterest

Pinterest is a widely used social media platform that specializes in images. Even though many artists upload their art on Instagram, it’s hard to search for them. 

Meanwhile, Pinterest has a powerful search engine that makes it easy to find pictures, setting it apart from Instagram.

Like Google, simply type the keyword on the top search bar on Pinterest. Because Google Image indexes Pinterest, you may notice similar images on Pinterest. 

But with Pinterest, you can find unique images that can’t be seen on Google.

3. Bing Image

Bing image search portrait image

Bing Images is another option for searching for pictures online, and it’s an excellent alternative to Google. Bing is surprisingly effective when it comes to image searches. 

In my experience, Bing’s image results can be more diverse and varied than Google’s.

However, Bing might not be as precise, particularly for complex searches like “classical portrait reference.” 

You can use the same search terms you would on Google to find images on Bing.

4. This Person Does Not Exist

This person does not exist website

“This Person Does Not Exist” is a fascinating website that uses AI to create realistic portraits of fictional people. 

Link: https://thispersondoesnotexist.com/

You can see a new, computer-generated face when you refresh the page. 

If you’re unfamiliar with refreshing a webpage, you can hit enter in the browser’s address bar or by pressing Ctrl + R on Windows and Linux or Cmd + R on macOS.

During my tests with this website, I noticed that not all images look realistic; some have odd anatomical features and postures. You may need to refresh multiple times to get a usable image. 

Remember to save the image once you find one that meets your needs, as each refresh generates an entirely new portrait.

5. Pexels Portraits

Pexels Portraits is a website that offers a large collection of royalty-free portrait photos that you can use for personal or commercial purposes.

Pexels is an excellent resource for portrait reference photos because they are all released under the CC-0 license.

This means you can use them for both commercial and personal projects without needing to give credit.

However, if you find a photo particularly useful, it’s a kind gesture to credit the photographer and provide a link to their work.

To find portraits on Pexels, you can search for “portraits” or follow this link to access the portrait section directly.

Link: https://www.pexels.com/search/portrait/

6. Flickr


Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/portrait/

Flickr is another great resource for artists looking for portrait references. Flickr is a website used to store portfolios of amateur and professional photographers. 

Even though it’s a website dedicated to photographers, you can use their images as a reference for your art.

To find portraits on Flickr, simply use the search bar to enter keywords such as “portrait,” “face,” or more detailed descriptors like age, ethnicity, or emotion. 

After getting your search results, you can narrow them down by selecting a specific license type from the “Any license” dropdown menu, ensuring you only see images you have the legal right to use.

7. Unsplash

Link: https://unsplash.com/

Unsplash offers free photos for everyone—the terms of their license support this philosophy.

You can download and use all photos in Unsplash for commercial and non-commercial projects. You don’t need to ask for permission to use the images, but giving credit to the photographer is welcomed and appreciated.

There is also a premium version of Unsplash, Unsplash+, which offers a broader range of high-quality photos. But it’s not free, unlike the nonplus version of Unsplash.

Keep in mind that Unsplash has a limited number of stock photos. So you won’t get a huge number of reference photos from Unsplash.

8. Reddit Portraits

There are many subreddits dedicated to portrait photography. You can use their image as a reference to your art. 

Here is the list of subreddits that you can use to get portrait reference photos:

But what about copyright? Well, as long you don’t trace their photography, you can use any photo as a reference. Remember, as a reference, don’t trace them

9. Reddit Gets Drawn

Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/redditgetsdrawn/

Reddit Gets Drawn is a subreddit where Reddit users can post pictures of themselves to be drawn and where artists can find subjects to draw. 

Every day, you can discover dozens of new portrait photos, making it worthwhile to visit this subreddit regularly.

Since the Reddit users themselves upload their photos for art purposes, you can use them as a reference.

Note that most photos in this subreddit are uploaded by amateur photographers with a smartphone camera.

Hence, their quality is not as good as a reference photo captured by a professional photographer.

10. LIFE Photo Archive by Google

Link: https://images.google.com/hosted/life

LIFE Photo Archive is a collection of different photos for LIFE Magazine from the 1750s to today.

Most of the images were never published and are available for free through the partnership of LIFE Magazine with Google.

Even though most of the images are black and white, you can use those images as references for your portrait art. 

11. DeviantArt

Link: https://www.deviantart.com/

If you don’t want to use realistic reference photos, you can use stylistic reference photos from artwork shared by numerous artists on DeviantArt.

I don’t recommend this practice because relying on realistic photos as a reference is better. This practice applies even if you’re drawing anime or cartoonish style, so you have the correct grasp of anatomy and proportion.

But art is about freedom. If you want a stylistic reference photo, you can quickly get it on DevianArt.

12. Line-Of-Action

Line of action

Link: https://line-of-action.com/

Line-of-action is a website that provides resources for artists to learn gesture drawing. 

It features a section dedicated to facial expression practice with over 500 photos, which can be beneficial. You can set up short, timed sessions to practice drawing various portrait expressions, from neutral to happy to sad.

You can also register an account and join the discussion on the forum

13. Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons hosts a diverse array of royalty-free portrait reference photos, ranging from professional shots to more informal ones.

Because it’s hard to navigate, you must use the search function to get the photo you want. You can search for specific images, for example, a portrait of Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift.

14. Stock Snap

Stock Snap is a website that features a wide variety of images. You can search for portrait photos by entering “portrait” into the search bar.

These photos are also CC-0 licensed, which means they can be used for personal and commercial projects without restrictions.

This makes StockSnap an ideal choice for artists in search of reference material.

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Kenny HD
Hi, I’m Kenny. I’m a digital artist who began learning art at the age of 21. I enjoy drawing cartoons and fan art.

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