Mid February, when minds turn to the romantic holiday, the search for free Valentine graphics sweeps through the Internet. The age of information has enabled artists to share their work on a larger scale than ever before, and there's nothing that inspires artists more than love. However, just because something is easy to find, doesn't make it good. The following ideas are some ways to get quality, free Valentine graphics.
Sources for Free Valentine Graphics
One of the best ways to get very high-quality graphics of all sorts is through online stock image galleries. Most of these not only offer a wide selection of cheap and commercially-licensed graphics, but also feature a "free image" of the day, week or month. This image is exactly what it claims to be - free. It is usually offered at several different resolutions, from tiny web-ready dimensions to print-quality.
Best of all, they usually feature the images in tune with the seasons and holidays. The odds are good that around Valentine's day, sites like iStockPhoto will show something romantic and full of red hearts and flowers. Even if they don't, you can still take the image and add a few heart-shapes from a word processor with the "wingdings" font (or some other symbol-based font). Another idea is to embellish almost any image with happy people in it in order to create your own Valentine theme.
Another way that artists share their work for free is through the Creative Commons license. This license lets them dictate the terms of how people can use their work. Usually they require something like attribution, or they may insist that the work be non-commercial, but it varies from artist to artist. The site has a wide variety of images available on it.
Online clip art galleries are probably not the best source for free Valentine graphics, simply because they are not designed to show art, but rather to get you to click through their ads. While the occasional good image might show up, it is usually buried among thousands of tiny, low-quality images.
Using Online Creative Tools
In the web 2.0 world, you can create a lot of creative images using online sites. For example, the LOLCats have become another internet phenomenon, and there's a online LOLCat generator that also lets you upload your own image, put a caption on it using the "impact" font, and then share it with your friends. An image of your sweetheart with the phrase "I CAN HAZ LUV NOW? KTHXBAI!1!" will make any geek smile on Valentine's day.
If your Valentine is the kind of person who likes South Park, there is the South Park Character Generator.
The one disadvantage to these online image generators is that they are designed for non-commercial use. Unlike all the sources listed above, these images are designed for personal use as avatars, facebook profiles, or similar uses. It would also be unethical and illegal to simply grab an image from the internet and use it without the creator's express permission. However, with so many sources for free graphics that are legal to use, why bother?
When it comes down to it, Valentine's day is a personal holiday, and the best free images are the ones you create yourself, with a digital camera or a red sharpie and a scanner, as simple as "Happy Valentine's Day to a Sweetie" written in block letters and signed with your name. Be creative - it's better than free.