Free Vintage Christmas Cards in the Public Domain

Hope everyone is having an awesome weekend! I sure am. Someone just scored a sweet deal on a bunch of vintage trading cards (those images to come soon!)

Now I’m in the Christmas spirit. And I hope you are too. Coming your way are eight vintage Christmas cards in the public domain, originally published in the early 20th century.

I edited these images a bit in Pixlr, but you can find the originals under ‘Christmas cards’ tag in the NYPL public domain collection online.

 

How to Print & Decorate Your Vintage Christmas Cards

Printing out your vintage Christmas cards is super easy, but decorating them is the fun part. Use card stock paper to print out your greeting cards and decorate them with puffy paint, glitter, or found objects like buttons, yarn, and dried flowers. You may even like them better as is.

Other crafty ideas to consider:

  • Resize them to create small note cards or magnets
  • Resize them even smaller for Christmas jewelry and pendants
  • Create your own Christmas wrapping paper
  • Make your own Christmas mugs
  • Change the image resolution in Photoshop to create Christmas posters
  • Use Photoshop to convert images into simple lined drawings for coloring books

For more free Christmas illustrations check out last year’s post on antique Xmas graphics and typography.

Editing Your Vintage Christmas Cards for Free

If you follow this website, then you know I don’t hide my love for Pixlr. Pixlr is Autodesk’s free online image editor. It’s the one I use the most, but there are other free editors as well.

In the mean time, here are 10 more free online photo editors to try, courtesy of The Balance:

  • Gimp
  • Paint.net
  • Inkscape
  • EasyComic
  • Pixia
  • Photo Pos
  • Artweaver Free
  • Photoscape
  • Krita
  • Photobie

The History of Vintage Christmas Cards

Ever stopped to think of how Christmas cards came to be?

Here are a few tid-bits on the history of Christmas cards from Smithsonian Magazine:

The most talked-about origin involved wealthy 19th-century arts patron, Sir Henry Cole, who wanted an easier way to send Christmas letters in bulk. So he contacted artist, J.C. Horsley, and took their illustration to a London printer to print 1,000 copies. These original vintage Christmas cards were printed on Cardstock and featured people celebrating around a holiday table or helping people in need.

These cards were produced in the late 1840’s, but Christmas cards themselves didn’t catch on till decades later.

*Henry Cole also played a significant role in developing London’s renowned Victoria and Albert Museum.

More Free Christmas Stuff

Before I wrap up this post, here are more free Christmas resources to check out. Enjoy!

Watch free Christmas movies

Free stock photos of Christmas trees

Christmas Gifs to share online

Twinkling Christmas lights graphics

Listen to free Christmas music online

More free Christmas music downloads

Free printable Christmas gift wrap

Big list of Christmas freebies

Get free Christmas catalogs

public domain vintage christmas cards with holly gift box

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19th Century Decorative Design Illustrations

antique-decorative-design-illustration-3 antique-decorative-design-illustration-4

I love antique art books, especially art supply catalogs and instructional materials.

The 19th-century book, The Art of Decorative Design, discusses symmetry in nature and botany when designing decorative collectibles, motifs, etc. I just skimmed around honestly, so there’s definitely more to it than that. I saw another chapter that talked about how to express emotion in decorative design which looked interesting too. You can check out the entire book here.

There were a few illustrations that caught my eye, so I cropped and brightened them up a bit for you to use. I thought these would make great stencil designs for screen printing. You could also use them for invitations, playing card designs, stamp designs, mixed media painting, and other fun stuff.

Antique Art Supplies and Vintage Color Charts

It’s almost summer! Time for pools, shorts, soft serve ice cream, and of course, creativity! Summer is the perfect time to finally start that novel, children’s book, animation, or video game.

One of my favorite things to do during summer is to paint outside with a simple canvas and easel. Feeling nostalgic, I went on what I thought would be an impossible hunt for free vintage illustrations of art supplies. But I lucked out and found this awesome antique art supply catalog from 1906 that’s packed with drawings of antique art pencils, inks, chalks, art sets, and vibrant color charts. I went through the catalog and picked out my favorites, then I brightened them up a bit with Pixlr.

Incorporate them into your next collage or find inspiration for hidden object video games, greeting cards for artists, Etsy products, and more!

Did You Know?

  • Pencil “lead” is actually graphite. The term originated from the Greek word, graphein, which means “to write!”
  • The actual origin of pencils themselves can be traced back to mid-1500s England. There, a large graphite deposit was discovered which lead to the creation of the pencil we commonly use today. Drawing pencils started to grow in popularity during the 17th century.
  • Many scholars believe that the first easels were actually used by ancient Egyptians!
  • One of the earliest known art supplies is the classic paintbrush. Anthropologists discovered proof of paint brush use in paleolithic caves in Europe.
  • Archaeologists revealed that oil paints were used in Afghanistan as far back as the 7th century!

 

FREE Vintage William Heath Robinson Graphics In Color

William Heath Robinson is one of my favorite artists of the public domain. While searching for new material to curate, I stumbled upon of series of WWI illustrations he created through 1914 and 1918 called “Some Frightful War Pictures.”  These unique antique illustrations feature imaginative cannons, contraptions, battlefields, and more imaginative war imagery. I decided to create a small digital art project with them, and I used free tools such as Pixlr and LunaPic to create colorful “pop” versions of these illustrations for you to use.

Use these free William Heath Robinson graphics as blog images, material for collages, stickers, postcards, prints, and more!

 

Attribution to FreeVintageIllustrations.com is required for online use. See terms for more details. 

Free Vintage Illustrations for Easter: Beatrix Potter’s Benjamin Bunny

This is one of my favorite posts! Beatrix Potter was one of my favorite childhood authors and illustrators growing up, and I was absolutely thrilled to learn a while back that her original works entered the public domain in 2014. Her whimsical critters and rabbits have always been perfect for Easter.  One Easter Sunday, I remember receiving a miniature book collection of all her stories, from Peter Rabbit to Mr. Fisher. For this post, I brought back one of her classics, Benjamin Bunny. This book and its iconic illustrations were originally published in 1904. I selected and edited some of my favorites from a very early version of the book found in the public domain. Easter is the perfect time to bring out this classic story and create Beatrix Potter themed decor, blog images, parties, coloring books, and many more creative Easter projects. To help inspire some ideas, I included links to unique Beatrix Potter themed crafts at the end of the post!

 

Craft Projects & Gifts Inspired By Beatrix Potter!

Make this Easter a Beatrix Potter themed day! I gathered a list a really cool craft projects and gifts online inspired by the one and only Beatrix Potter. Her classic stories and illustrations are ideal for DIY Easter projects, plastic easter egg fillers, decor, and themed gift baskets. I hope you find the creative inspiration you need in this post to whip up some real Beatrix Potter magic this Easter!

Inspired Craft Projects

Beatrix Potter Preschool Activities         Beatrix Potter Inspired Baskets

Tiggy-Winkle Napkins                               Peter Rabbit Garden & Baby Shower Ideas

Beatrix Potter Nursery Theme                 Beatrix Potter Easter Egg Roll Party

Beatrix Potter Spring Garden Party         Beatrix Potter Glitter Ornaments

Beatrix Potter Gift Tags

Buy Beatrix Potter Gifts for Easter

Receiving Beatrix Potter gifts on Easter was one of my favorite childhood traditions. From her lovely illustrations to her whimsical woodland stories, it’s safe to say that Beatrix Potter is simply timeless! Yes, I’m an incurable Beatrix Potter nerd. I still have many of my past Beatrix Potter stuffed animals, book collections, and stationery from childhood. My mom would also stuff my plastic Easter eggs with Beatrix Potter stickers and other trinkets. Looking back, that’s was great alternative to candy!

If you’re looking for a creative alternative to wicker Easter baskets, you can always use foldable Beatrix Potter themed gift boxes. These have that extra element of surprise so you can create fun Easter mystery boxes. Stuff your Beatrix Potter mystery box with Peter Rabbit stuffies, stickers, decorated eggs, craft supplies, sweets, and more trinkets.

Beatrix Potter has proven that Easter isn’t just for bunnies. Hedgehogs, frogs, and guinea pigs are also perfect critters for the season. Speaking of, I found these charming Beatrix Potter gift tags featuring guinea pigs working in the garden. These would make cute add-ons to easter baskets and presents wrapped in Beatrix Potter Gift wrap. You could really make a Beatrix extravaganza if you wanted to! My inner child sure wants to that’s for sure.

*While Beatrix Potter is in the public domain, due to licensing conflicts with a previous publisher, I strongly recommend just using these images for personal use. Learn more here: http://www.hbook.com/2013/05/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/peter-rabbit-and-the-tale-of-a-fierce-bad-publisher/

Free Vintage Illustrations of Early 20th Century Ireland

In honor of St. Patricks Day, I went on a hunt for some really cool vintage illustrations of Ireland. I was hoping to find something from the 19th or early 20th century, and low and behold, I struck gold! At the turn of the century, writer Katherine Tynan traveled to Ireland where she visited such Iconic Irish locations as Dublin, Cork, Galway and Donegal. She published her travels in the 1911 book, Ireland, now in the public domain, and featured brilliant illustrations by Francis S. Walker. I created the gallery below by collecting and editing some of my favorite illustrations from the book.

The original images had more of a sepia tone, so I used Pixlr to enhance those lush greens and blues instead.

While writing this post, I become more and more curious about Prehistoric Ireland too and included some fun facts about historical Ireland below.

Fun Facts about Ancient Ireland!

  • In the Neolithic Period, gigantic burial structures and monuments were erected in Ireland and were thought to be the tombs of royal court members.
  • An important figure in Irish Folklore, Iron Age Queen, Maeve, is believed to be buried on Knocknarea Mountain. According to Irish Folklore legend, Queen Maeve invaded the area of Ulster to steal an infamous bull from her enemies.
  • Ancient Ireland is often known for its famous “peat bogs”. Made from dead plant material, especially moss plants, peat bogs are a type of wetland with the ability to preserve organic material extremely well. Over time, archeologists have discovered several preserved bodies in these wetlands.
  • In the 12th century, the Norman Invasion of Ireland created more than 700 years of English rule over the Island. Before the invasion, Ireland consisted of several different kingdoms.
  • The Shamrock Connection: According to Irish Folklore, the shamrock plant was actually sacred to the legendary Druids of ancient Ireland. During Ireland’s Iron age, the Druids consisted of artistic and academic individuals such as poets, doctors, scholars, and the spiritual leaders of communities.

These images were collected, cropped, and edited from a published book in the public domain. Feel free to use these images in your personal, commercial, and educational work, and please credit FreeVintageIllustrations.com when sharing them online. These images would make great postcards, images for blogs, material for digital art, images for school projects, and more!

 

Free Vintage Children’s Book Illustrations of Fairies and Elves from 1918

There are neverending ideas for fairy and elf inspired projects. I love shining a light on awesome fairylore that’s available to the public, and fortunately, the public domain is packed with classic fairy stories and illustrations to use and modify for your children’s libraries, after school programs, paintings, Etsy products, reimagined fairy stories, and more creative projects. These vintage children’s book illustrations come from the Frances Jenkins Olcott classic, The Book of Elves and Fairies, and were illustrated by Milo Winter. Milo’s work here is considered a representation of The Golden Age of Children’s Book Illustration which spanned the late 19th century to the early 1940s. The book has around 50 different kinds of fairy stories and features titles like “The Boy who Found the Pot of Gold”, which tells the tale of a young boy who meets a Leprechaun for example. You’ll also find stories about winter fairies and more mythical seasonal creatures.

 

These images were curated from a digital copy of an original publication found in the public domain and edited by this site. These images are entirely free to use in your personal, commercial, and educational work without permission. Please give credit to FreeVintageIllustrations.com when posting these images on your blogs, websites, and social media pages.