5 tips for using clip art and graphics

You can add visual interest to your Microsoft Office documents easily by using clip art and graphic images. However, their inclusion shouldn't be haphazard. When using clip art or other images, the following tips can help you avoid making simple mistakes.

Don't let "pretty" be your only criterion

Before you add a clip or image to your document, be sure that it makes sense in the context you're using it in, and that you're not including it just because it's pretty.

For example, you may want to include a piece of clip art or an image if it illustrates a point, supports the message you're trying to convey, and will be readily understood by readers. Whether the image is simply a visual cue (such as a company logo) or is used to convey important information (like a data chart or graph), your audience should be able to understand its purpose clearly. You don't want to include an image just because it's pretty, but rather because it enhances the overall look of your document and serves a specific purpose.

Give your readers clues

Sometimes images appear separately from the text that describes them, which can make it difficult for readers to know what information they're supposed to get from the images.

You can help your readers by providing a few clues, such as image captions or labels. For example, if you can't use text wrapping to put the image into context, you can use a caption or a descriptive title instead, to connect the image to your text.

You can also call attention to specific or important parts of an image through direct labeling. For example, you can add arrows or numbers to an image to point out the important areas. Then, you can add descriptive text that corresponds to each arrow or number. Captions and labels should appear close to the image to help your readers understand what they're looking at and why.

Use adequately sized images

Readers should be able to view and read your graphics easily. Whether too small or too large, an incorrectly sized image can make your document look messy and may actually detract from its overall effectiveness. If an image is too small, readers may have to struggle to make it out. If the image is too large, it can distract readers from the text as well as increase the file size of the document. Remember, you want to include images that emphasize what you're saying, not take away from it. The following shows the difference between images that are too small, too big, and adequately sized.

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Don't include too many images

Including too many images can make your document look cluttered and unorganized, which ultimately detracts from your document's overall appearance and effectiveness. Try to include only those images that convey key pieces of information or serve a specific purpose.

Give credit where credit is due

Because so many images are easily accessible on the Internet, you may be tempted to grab and use any image you see. The problem with this is that images often are protected by copyrights, and you need permission before you can use them in your personal documents.

If you use copyright-protected images within your document, you must also cite the source for each image. However, there are several sites, such as the Clip Art and Media site on Office Online, that allow free use of their clips and images as long as you agree to their terms of use.

Applies to:
Excel 2003, Outlook 2003, PowerPoint 2003, Word 2003