Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another Cardinal Rule - Avoid Religious Clipart

I've been thinking for a while about the cardinal rules for church-use graphic design. Eventually, I'll try to boil them down to "Ten Commandments for Graphic Design in Church" - or hopefully something more catchy. In the meantime, as I think of them, I'll add them to the blog. So here's a big one.

Whatever you do, DON'T use religious clip art. I know - it seems like a great idea. In the old days, you could buy it in printed form, to cut, paste and copy... catchy pics of cartoon characters saying "Praise the Lord," or praying hands, or candles. These days you can buy CD collections, or find loads of similar stuff on the web. Please, please... don't use it. All you'll end up doing is make your publications look like they're designed for a corny, cliched church.

In fact, the best thing to do if you're looking for images is to avoid clipart completely, and go for "photo-clips." Basically, a photo clip is an object cut from its original background and floating in white or transparent space. They look great in almost any context. You'll find the useful Hemera collection on CD in some retailers; though it appears they've been taken over online by the much more expensive Ablestock (sheeesh - who'd pay $199 for an image??) More affordable is the Dreamstime online collection - around $1.00 per image, though you'll have to look around to find "photo-clips." (They may be called 'photo-objects,' or simply be listed as having 'white background'.) Cheapest option of all is Google Images. You'll be sure to find something suitable for anything you can imagine... though often at very low resolution. If you're printing something small, you can get away with it - but take care. Using an overblown low-res jpg image you've sourced this way is certainly cheap. And looks it.

Again, avoid cliched images with religious subject matter. Try to illustrate with images drawn from everyday life. Connect people with the real world, rather than creating a sense of a religious 'club-culture.' Look at magazines, commercial flyers and TV adverts for inspiration. Instead of dumping your junk mail straight in the bin, study it for design ideas. Radical thought, eh?


Peter Barson said...

All good Phil

Andrew Richardson said...

Another good source of cheapish photos is For most work their lowest resolution photos are fine and they sell for about US$ 1. The only thing is, most of these photos come with a background. Some of the slightly better graphics programs (like corel photo-house that comes with coreldraw) allow you to 'clip' photos out of their background and I use this feature a lot.
istockphoto also features some 'vector' graphics which are a kind of high quality clip art. I've found these can still give quite a professional look if they're used sparingly.

sarah van delden said...

Or is FREE (if you're cheap like i am and only use my dreamstime credit for really high quality photos for printing) ... and you'll find quite a few photos on this site are actually on other "pay for stock images" sites.