- Friday, September 2, 2011

Get the Picture

Whether you are an experienced graphic designer or the average Joe spicing up an office form, everybody loves having a nice supply of clip art/images to use. If you type in "free clip art" into a search engine, you will be flooded with links to lists of links to lists of links.... When you finally find a page, either the images are too small to use or completely irrelevant to what you need. Many of the better ones charge a subscription... Here are some other options to consider for clip art...


Many typographers create dingbat fonts, where every letter is an image. You probably already have a few in your system like Wingdings. Online, there are many free ding bat fonts available as well as fonts you can purchase. Make sure you have permission to use them for commercial purposes before profiting from it.  Most downloaded fonts have a license agreement (either a readme file or on their website).

Designing with dingbats is pretty easy in many programs that have a form of text art. You can easily add shadow or outline or turn it into a 3D image. In addition, you can copy and paste one of the images into the Paint application and use the fill option to "color" it into something more like a clip art. The beauty of this is unlike clip art, you get to choose your color scheme to match the rest of what you are doing.  In addition, because it's a font, you can stretch it in most cases without having the pixelation issue.

Stock Images

Quite a few websites have stock images available. They are a collection of photographs and illustrations you can use for almost any reason (depending on the copyright agreement). Some of the more professional ones charge credits per image where you buy credits by the bulk, but there are free ones available. In addition, places like Wikimedia Commons and U.S. government websites have photographs and illustrations that are generally safe to use for any purpose (again, check the copyright agreement).

Text Images

Sometimes the best image is just text written in a colorful way. Simply draw a shape, pick a color for it, and place text on top of it, something witty or sarcastic, and give the text a different color. You can draw a star with text on it that says, "Superstar" or a heart with text that says, "Live, Laugh, Love."  Or you can make a rectangle like a web divider and stream text across it. You can delete the shape and quote some of your favorite passages adjusting font sizes and font direction. You can shape the text itself lining it up just right playing with font size so it looks like a heart or tree, or spells a 3 letter word. Instead of passages, you can use a series of descriptive words like beautiful, graceful, intelligent... shaped into the profile of a woman.  

Photoshop Brushes

If you use Adobe Photoshop, you can download various brushes. Like any other place where you download someone else's art to use in your own, you want to read the copyright agreement. In addition, people also offer different shapes and textures.

Your Own Creativity and Ingenuity 

Some of the best backgrounds are just a piece of a photograph stretched out to make a texture, or a close up of something like tree bark.  You can scan in some glitter coated ribbon to make a border, or scan a paperclip as black and white to get an image of a paperclip.  You can change photographs into black and white images, or add tints or an artistic filter. Feeling really creative? Grab some paint and make "abstract" art.

The bottom line is the sky is the limit with what you can use for images. You don't have to have a huge clip art gallery to find that perfect image for your work. 

Image provided by smokedsalmon at freedigitalphotos.net