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How to Make Your Own Clip Art

Updated on January 2, 2018
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Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky clean and drama-free.

Learn how to create your own clip art gallery of original images to enhance your blog posts, articles, and print documents.

If you publish your writing online, having an image attached to your article helps create a positive online reader experience. Photographs can grab readers’ attention and provide visual cues about the article’s content. Well-placed images improve the overall readability of each article by giving the readers’ eyes a break from lengthy blocks of text.

Finding copyright-free photographs and images for non-fiction and topical articles can sometimes be a challenge. There are so many clip art and stock image websites to choose from that sometimes it’s just easier to create your own image.

Ordinary objects can be quickly transformed into miniature masterpieces using a smartphone app like Instagram.
Ordinary objects can be quickly transformed into miniature masterpieces using a smartphone app like Instagram.

Why should you create your own clip art when there are so many free images available online? Here are a few good reason to learn how to make your own original images for your blog or website:

  • Solidify your brand by keeping images and style consistent across all your online publishing (website, brochure, newsletters)
  • Save time and money by having your own cache of pre-sorted images.
  • Create the images that you want to see in your next story. Stock photos often lack diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, class, weight, height or physical disability. Images that do purport to be diverse tend to look rather contrived. Create your own clip art catalogue that reflects the diversity and uniqueness of your community, your neighbourhood, your reality.
  • You’ve got guaranteed original artwork. You won’t need to worry about accidental copyright infringement or seeing the image in your article on someone else’s website.
  • By crediting yourself and copyrighting the photo in your name, you can link back to your own webpage, creating an extra inbound link from your article

There’s one more reason to consider creating your own clipart: getting away from you computer for a few house and talking a walk around your neighbourhood can feed your creative spirit and fend off writer’s block. Looking around, noticing small details, standing back and getting a bit of perspective can give you that extra little boost you might need to solder on through your next article.

You don’t need to be a master photographer to create your own collection of good-looking images. Here are some tips on how to start building your own free clip art gallery.

  • Take photos wherever you go: food, signs, plants, trees, scenery, objects around the house
  • Take photos with your iPhone and use an app like Instagram to change the tone, style, clarity and brightness of the images.
  • Create your own photo montages and still life displays with objects around the house
  • Use Scrabble tiles, fridge letters, wooden blocks to spell out a catchy phrases that match the content of your post. Try photographing the words from different angles for interesting affects.
  • Try going analog. Do your own freestyle doodles, stick figures or cartoon characters.

Choose simple, close up images that aren’t too detailed. Keeping your image clean and simple increases its readability. Don’t worry about whether or not the image says everything that you want it to say. By matching the image with a headline, subtitle. or caption, you can suggest a link between the article and the image. Here are some other tips for picking images that will work well in your clip art catalog:

  • Choose one main focal point or theme per photo.
  • Pick the appropriate size and scale for your images. Your photos need to have good proportions that can withstand being enlarged or shrunken according to the online publisher’s specifications. A photo of a dandelion in a field might look clear in its original size, but if the photo’s dimension’s are significantly reduced, the dandelion might become invisible.
  • Use images that are symbolic and universal. It may seem cliché but these images work. They have stood the test of time and people know at a glance what they mean (ie; clock or watch = time; school supplies = education; trees and seedlings = ecology, the environment or growth) What will make these images stand out if how you chose to crop, colour and tint the images.

Have fun splashing around with color. Changing the tint, tone, and saturation of a photo can tranform it into an entirely different image!

  • Choose bright, high contrast images for added visual impact.
  • Or, choose a monochromatic tint for an understated effect. Monochromatic tinting also helps to disguise or neutralize garish colors in your photograph.
  • Learn about the effects of colour on mood, perception and motivation, and then colour or tint your photos to match the content of your article.

Video Tips: How to use Instagram.

Classic black and white goes well with almost anything. Limiting your photographs to black and white is one of the simplest ways to create a consistent brand image across all your media. If you are worried about not having enough colour in your post or on your article, remember that there will most likely be enough color surrounding your article in the way of other advertisements, widgets, gadgets and text. Here are a few more tips for creating a stylish suite of black and white clip art:

  • Change photos into black and white to hide imperfections or tone down colors that would otherwise look rather garish.
  • Like a black and white wardrobe, black and white photos go well with almost anything. Sepia tones can also work well as neutral palette for you photographs.
  • Black and white photos can be very atmospheric, lending a brooding or ominous tone to an article.
  • Black and white photos can also be very stylish and minimalistic for those people who prefer a simple, uncluttered look.

A beautiful blue sky full of fluffy white clouds can be transformed into broody storm clouds just by changing the photo to black and white and adjusting the exposure.
A beautiful blue sky full of fluffy white clouds can be transformed into broody storm clouds just by changing the photo to black and white and adjusting the exposure.

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.

— Ansel Adams

Be respectful of privacy. Here are a few reminders of the ethics and etiquette involved in creating your own clip art catalogue:

  • Always crop out any private information, landmarks or street numbers that might violate someone else’s personal privacy.
  • Don’t take pictures of strangers without their permission. Taking a picture of a large faceless crowd from a distance is acceptable as long as no one can be individually identified.
  • Don’t use photos of friends or family unless you have explicit permission from them to do so.
  • To be on the safe side, don’t use photographs of children. If you insist on including an image of a child or children with your article, always use a reputable commercial stock photography source – that way you can be sure that only paid child actors and models were used. If you want to create a playful tone to your article, photographs of children’s toys, games and educational materials can be just as effective in enhancing your article.

© 2014 Sally Hayes

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