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Use Less Clip Art

Desktop Publishing Rules of Image Usage


Use Less Clip Art

Clip art comes in many styles. Most clip art is best used boldly but in limited amounts. Pages at bottom middle and bottom right contain too much clip art, used haphazardly or without purpose.

Jacci Howard Bear no cheesy clip art

Cheesy clip art includes images that are overused, irrelevant, or inappropriate to the subject matter.

Jacci Howard Bear

Cut the clip art clutter. Clip art is wonderful, abundant, and fun to use. It can spice up fliers, newsletters, and posters. Yet too many pictures on a page make it hard for the reader to concentrate on what the document says. Use clip art with moderation and with purpose. Use clip art that supports your text or illustrates a point.

There are no hard and fast rules on how many images on a page is too many. But unless you're dealing with a product catalog or a yearbook, chances are that if there are more than three or four images the page is too graphics-heavy.


Reduce & Resize
Instead of many small images, consider using just one or two large images. Image overload generally comes from using too many bits of scattered clip art, decorative bullets, boxes or borders, and rules (lines) all on the same page. Strip most of that out. It's unnecessary. Choose one or two key images that complement the text and use them to focus attention or provide visual interest.

Instead of many completely different images scattered all over, unify them. Make them all the same size. Use the same border. Line them up vertically or horizontally. Use a single style of dingbat for bullets throughout the page, throughout the publication. When it is necessary to use many images, provide consistency and order by tying them together visually.

Instead of a barrage of images competing for attention, prioritize them. Give a single image prominence through size and placement. Unify the remaining images elsewhere on the page using the techniques previously described.

Pick a Central Idea
Many times the creator of a piece will feel the necessity to use a piece of clip art to illustrate or point out every idea or concept on the page.

For example, a party announcement might have a phone icon by the phone number, a house or envelope next to the address, a clock beside the time, and several pieces of clip art for cakes, streamers, party hats, presents, or whatever and a confetti border around the whole page. While the idea may be to emphasize each of those key pieces of information, it's overkill.

Instead, use font size, placement, alignment, or color to group, set apart, or emphasize the secondary information and cut that clip art. Pick one or two images to signify the party theme and use them.

The Bottom Line: Make sure each image used in a piece serves a necessary purpose and is appropriate to the tone and style of the piece. When the image count rises above three on a single page, consider other ways to achieve the same effect without adding more visual stimulation.

"Right and wrong do not exist in graphic design. There is only effective and non-effective communication."
— Peter Bilak - Illegibility


The Desktop Document > Design Phase > Image Selection

The Desktop Document > Images Phase > Image Placement

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