Whether you’re writing an email, creating the homepage of your website, or setting up a social media page, you need a captivating header image to hook your audience.
Header images can serve different purposes, depending on where they are used. However, in a nutshell, they deliver some message – could be as simple as a welcome or something specific, like a discount offer or a CTA – through an aesthetically pleasing experience.
If you’re looking for websites where you can find awesome header images, keep reading. In this article, I’ll share 7 top-rated sources where you can download stock images, vectors, and illustrations.
Let’s jump right in.
Let’s kick things off with Pixelied – a complete package, offering both high-res header images and a powerful online graphic design tool.
Unlike other traditional stock photos websites, where you can simply search for images and download them, Pixelied lets you select an image (sourced straight from Unsplash or Pixabay), customize it to your liking, and download it in a format of your choice – all for free!
How to Design an Awesome Custom Header Image on Pixelied
You don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to create a stunning header image using Pixelied.
The tool offers top-level customization features, templates, and much more – all on a highly intuitive user-interface.
To get started, head over to our free online editor.
On the editor, click on the button under where it says “Search Templates” in the sidebar to expand the complete list of available templates.
Here, you can find ready-to-use templates for email headers, covers, banners, blog featured images, and more.
Alternatively, you can also set a custom image size for your header and design a new image from scratch, which, again, is super-easy. To do this, click on resize at the top and specify the pixels.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that you decide to go with a template (highly recommended). To do this, click/tap once on any template that you like from the available options to load it up on the canvas.
At this point, if you want to add/replace any images on the template, click on “Images” to access the stock photos from Unsplash and Pixabay.
Search for anything specific using relevant keywords. To load up an image on the canvas, click/tap on it once, and resize it using simple drag and drop features to fit the design.
You can also change the placement of the layers, as shown below.
In addition, you can also change the copy and typography, add custom elements, change the background image, and even add your own image to the design.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – there’s a lot more that the tool offers, all without the complexity of Photoshop.
Once you’re done designing your custom image, simply click on the download button at the top to get your header image as either a JPG or PNG.
Next on the list is Shutterstock – a well-known website where you can find high-quality stock photos, videos, and even 3D models.
What I like most about Shutterstock is its wide selection of filters that allow you to refine your search and find that perfect header image.
You can sort your results by relevancy and freshness, specify the orientation you’re looking for (in the case of header images, you want to set it to “Horizontal”), specify the color/theme, and much more.
The only drawback?
It’s not free.
Well, there is a free trial, but after that, you need to opt for one of their paid plans before downloading and using any image.
If you’re on a tight budget or don’t usually require images that often for your projects, you might want to look elsewhere.
If you’re looking for free stock photos that you can use as header images, you should give Pexels a shot.
Unlike Shutterstock, you don’t have to sign up or pay a premium to get the images.
What’s more – you can also download stock videos for free.
Like Shutterstock, Pexels offers filters that you can use to narrow down your results, though the options are rather limited.
You can filter photos by their orientation, size, and their background color/theme.
Subsequently, you can also use a stock photo finder to help you search the best photos.
That’s all there is to it. Simply hover your cursor over any image and click on the download icon to get the image – no need to sign up.
If you want, you can also donate to the original user through PayPal (if they accept donations) and/or give them a shout out.
I’ve been using Freepik to download stock photos and vectors for a while now.
If you frequently have to download resources and have some budget to spare, I highly recommend getting a premium account (though the platform also offers free images).
With a premium account, you get complete access to the massive media library and don’t have to attribute the creator.
Aside from that, the tool also offers a remarkable search customizer with tons of filters, including, but not limited to:
- Category (vectors, photos, PSD, or icons)
- Type of license (free or premium)
- Sorting by popularity or time
To get any image that you like, open it and click on the green download button.
This will download a zip file containing the JPG, EPS (editable file that can open on Adobe Illustrator), and a license for your header image on your system.
Next website on the list is Dreamstime – a platform where you can find photos, illustrations, videos, editorial content, and even audio files.
Like Freepik, Dreamstime also offers both paid and free resources.
If you’re not willing to spend any $$$ on your next project, click on “Free Photos” at the top menu and type in a relevant keyword in the search bar.
However, to download any image, you’ll need to sign up for a free Dreamstime account, which will hardly take a minute of your time.
Compared to the previous platforms, I feel that the website doesn’t have as many options when it comes to header images. For that reason, it should certainly not be your first choice (as in, only look at this website once you’ve exhausted all other options).
iStock by Getty Images is another (mostly) paid platform where you can find some of the best header images – whether you’re looking for something to spice up your social media design, create a killer banner for your WordPress website, or anything else.
To get started, sign up for a free iStock account.
This will give you access to 1 photo, 1 video, 1 illustration, and 1 audio clip for free on a weekly basis.
Not such a good deal if you’re trying to manage a tiny marketing design budget – but it’s alright if you don’t normally look for images every day.
Otherwise, you can always go for a paid plan.
And like most websites on this list, iStock offers great filters that can help you find an on-point image and really make that single weekly freebie count. Click on “Refine” (next to the search bar) to reveal the filters.
All in all, it’s a fairly decent website with millions of images.
Let’s wrap this up with PNGTree – a great resource for PNGs and background images.
This is a fairly good option if you’re looking for vectors or customizable templates for your header image. However, if you’re looking for classic stock photos, you’re better off checking out the other options on this list.
Similar to Freepik and Dreamstime, you can find both free and premium header images on PNGTree.
Furthermore, you can narrow down your options with smart filters, including category (set to “Png Images” by default), format, and the option to sort by popularity, number of downloads, and freshness.
It’s certainly not the best option out there, but it’s worth a shot if you can’t find anything relevant on the other websites.
What to Include in Your Header Image?
As mentioned earlier, a header image can be used on different platforms and can serve different purposes.
For that reason, there aren’t any universal “best practices.” However, there are certain elements that you should consider including in your header image – whether it’s for a website, an email, or a social platform.
- Your Brand Elements – this could include your logo, corporate colors, and/or any other visual element that you want people to associate with your brand.
- Compelling, Informative, and/or Entertaining Copy – this could be your company’s slogan, some problem that you solve, or even a discount deal (anything that helps provide some context).
- A Call–to-Action – a header image is wasted if it doesn’t include a compelling CTA.
In addition, if you’re creating a website header image, include links to your social media platform and other pages on your website.
In the end, just remember one thing – less is more. Don’t fall into the trap of including everything in your header image and ending up with a cluttered mess.
Wrapping it Up
With all those (paid and free) websites out there, you can easily find something amazing to use as your header image.
Remember – if you want to stand out, customization is key. Whatever website you use to download your header images from, you can always edit/customize them using Pixelied.
Best of luck!