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Lost in Cyberspace

Free clip art is just a mouse-click away

This article was originally published on December 29, 1998 by SignOn San Diego and Copley News Service.

For those of us whose artistry runs more to impulse than talent, clip art is a lifesaver – or at least a nice way to spruce up a Web page, party flier or newsletter.

As desktop and online publishing have exploded in the last decade, so has the business of providing clip art – pre-packaged stock drawings that can be popped into anything from a beer ad to a choir practice announcement.

There are quite a few commercial clip-art packages available, from the ClickArt series by Broderbund to Corel's similar packages to the discount bin CD-ROMs at the local software outlet.

But sometimes you may not want to pay $25 and more for a decent collection, or you may only need a few drawings – a telescope for your astronomy Web site, perhaps, or a football player for your son's birthday party invitations.

And if you know where to look on the Web, there is plenty of perfectly good – and perfectly free – clip art to be had. Low-resolution graphics suitable for the Web (generally 72 dots per inch) are more common, although you can also find high-resolution (300 dpi and up) for print.

As with anything free on the Net, you will find two kinds of Web sites with free clip art: Hobbyists', which aren't always of the highest quality, and commercial sites with lots of advertising to pay the bills.

At most of these free art sites, you will find a list of GIF- or JPEG-formatted graphics (especially those designed for Web use) with links to the individual images. You simply click on the link to view the image, then save it from your browser to your hard drive. (Graphics for desktop publishing may be in a variety of formats that won't display in your browser, and those will be downloaded by simply clicking on the link itself – you won't generally be able to view those before downloading them, however.)

Perhaps the best place to start looking for clip art is also the most obvious: There are links to hundreds of sites from here – most, if not all, of which offer at least some free graphics.

One of the better indexes for finding free pictures on the Web is at The Mining Co. There is both in-house clip art you can grab right there as well as links to other sites on the Web.

Another site with a long index of links to free clip-art sites is the Virtual Free Clip Art page. There are more than 100 sites linked from there alone.

One commercial site with free clip art of high quality is at Since this is an advertising-driven site, it takes scrolling through page after page to see all that's available; not much fun although the animated GIFs are good.

Those who like animated GIFs for their Web site should also visit Harry & Dorret Goodwin's page. They've got everything from rocketing space ships to blinking frogs; hundreds, probably thousands, all told. (This is one of the better family/hobbyist sites you'll find on any subject.)

There's also the FreeGraphics site. It changes often, which is good, but the author asks for a link back to his home page if you use any of his art, which isn't so great. The art here tends more toward Web site signage: "Welcome," "click here," "e-mail." Also, there are usually at least a couple of drop-cap alphabets worth grabbing.

Yahoo, of course, has a page listing links to online clip art collections – the only problem is that not all of them are free.

Netscape, too has a similar page.

Other good sources for finding free clip-art are the various Web rings dedicated to that task. (A Web ring is a group of sites linked to one another by a common menu at the bottom of each page, allowing you to tour sites built around a specific theme.) A list of such sites – several dozen at least – can be found at RingWorld.

Finally, perhaps the easiest place to look for free clip art is within software you already own. If you have WordPerfect 8, for instance, you already have some clip art at hand. Other programs also often include clip art and fonts as a throw-in item.