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Using purchased images

Graphics | September 1, 2008 | By:

Purchased images and art are often used in print and on the Web. The term clip art refers to images—primarily electronic—that can be obtained from Web sites. This type of artwork, as well as stock photos, is not custom work created for your specific project; the art is offered as a completed image. Some computer programs offer limited artwork; CDs with artwork can also be purchased.

What we generally refer to as clip art comes in several formats, including jpeg and tiff, and each company has its own pricing structure and licensing restrictions. Although some art is free, it’s good to note that you generally get what you pay for. Check out the quality, and keep in mind that anyone—including your competitor—can purchase the same image. That said, there are options for just about any budget.

The three categories of image rights are royalty free, rights managed, and public domain. It is important to know the difference. Copyright and usage rights statements are legal and binding, and are found on each company’s Web site.

Royalty free. This type of license allows usage of the image for a limited time or pre-determined use. The buyer pays one fee to use the art, but anyone else can use that art at any time.

Rights managed. For this category, a fee is charged that reflects the type of job and quantity or circulation. If you are interested in using a rights-managed image, you will need to provide specific information about its use before the cost will be determined. For example, an image used on the cover of a book may cost more than the same one used inside a book, and there can be a charge each time the art is used. This type costs more than royalty free images, but offers more choices.

Public domain. These images are free. Note, however, that many images assumed to be public domain are copyrighted and illegal to use. Just because an image appears on the Web and can be copied does not mean it can be used. Exceptions are donated images.

Many companies sell clip art and photos on the Web. They range from inexpensive, simple work to sophisticated illustrations and professional photos. Know your needs and budgets before you begin shopping.

Some Web sites offer low-resolution downloadable art, called comps, for layout. This allows everyone to see how the art might look in the project. The format uses a low-resolution image and cannot be used in the final publication. Comps often include the company’s watermark. You can download as many of these low-resolution images as you like and purchase only your final choice, but you will need to purchase that final image in high resolution, which will not have a watermark.

Clip art sites offer search features using a keyword. Refine the search by indicating the type of image—royalty free or rights-managed art. After making a final choice, a credit card or purchase order can be used to download the file for immediate use.

Buyers agree to usage restrictions when the image is purchased. Always read the licensing information before purchasing, as each company has its own restrictions, but they’re not complicated.

Purchasing completed artwork and stock photos is easy, accommodates many budgets, provides lots of options, and can work well for many jobs.

Sara Klomp is creative director at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.

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