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How To Find Good Clipart and Photos For Your Projects

By Charles Hopkins Published 11/28/2007 | Web Design
Whether you are writing an ebook, putting together an HTML newsletter, or setting up a personal web site, you may find that you need good, quality artwork, either illustrations (clipart) or photos.

There are generally two problems you may encounter when you look for clipart or photos online. The first problem is finding something that you can legally use. If you do not know that you have the permission to use a piece of art, then you probably do not. You can use work that you have purchased the right to or have been given the right to use. You cannot use your favorite cartoon character or a professional photograph of your favorite singer.

The rule of thumb in looking for graphics online is to look for royalty-free clipart and photos. This means you may use the work without paying a continuing royalty fee for use. You may receive the right to use the artwork free of charge, you may pay a fee to access such artwork (say 15.95 a month for unlimited downloads), you may pay for the right to use that particular piece, or you may agree to link back to the creator's site in exchange for the royalty-free use of the artwork.

The second problem with finding clipart and photos online is that good royalty-free art may be more expensive than you would hope. This is changing rapidly as sites like StockXchange, iStockPhoto and Dreamstime make it easier for photographers to sell their work and for consumers to find clipart they need.

The key to finding exactly the right art for your project is to have a very good idea of what you are going to need before you start. Think about color, shape, size and resolution (whether it will be printed or posted online makes a difference).

While you cannot predict exactly what you want without looking at some art and having an aha moment, you can know in general what you are looking for. When you find the right art for your project, try to get a low-resolution file (sometimes called a comping image), to try in your layout. This image cannot be used in your project and will have a very large visible watermark on it but it will allow you to see firsthand how it will look.

Especially if you have selected a fairly expensive image, this is a crucial step in deciding whether you have found exactly the right image for your project. It is surprising how often the "perfect" image looks positively awful once it is placed.

The most important thing may be to realize that you are not going to find the "perfect" image and just go for what you believe works. You may find something that looks great, but your are tempted to keep looking to see if anything else can be found that is better. The advice is don't!

Decide what you need, find something that fits the bill, and move on with the rest of your project. Otherwise you may spend a waste a lot of time searching for something that may not exist. The biggest obstacle to finishing a project on-time and on-budget is trying to go from great to perfect, when great is usually good enough.