Stock Art Printing Knowledge
Stock Art

Stock photos and clip art have been around for a long time, even before computers. Stock photos are professional photographs of all different subjects that are sold individually or as a set, usually on a CD or on the Internet. Clip art is line art such as drawings and illustrations rather than photographs. Clip art images are available either in digital form on CDs or on the Internet or as black and white images in a book that are cut out, or "clipped", and pasted into the layout.

Here is a list of some of the companies that offer stock clip art and stock photos.


An example of a stock photo

Stock Photos

Comp images

Stock photo companies will send out free CDs with sample images or an electronic catalog of their images. The resolution for the images is 72 dpi and usually includes a watermark or company imprint. You may use the sample images in a "comprehensive layout" to get approval from the customer before actually purchasing the image. Once the layout has been approved, you order the high resolution photo to use in the final file. It is illegal as well as unethical to use a comp image on a final product, and it will look unprofessional due to the low resolution.

What to look for in a stock photo

  • File Format - Some companies save their images as TIFF, JPEG (different compressions), or Kodak CD.
  • Scan type - Drum scanners typically do the best job.
  • Resolutions available - Some companies give you two choices of resolution, 72 dpi and 300 dpi. Others give you more choices and at different sizes. Make sure you can get the resolution you need at the size you need. Watch for companies that only offer low res small photos. The low res photos are only good for multimedia and Web work, not for printing.
  • Color mode - Most stock photos come as RGB files. Do any editing or special effects on the image in RGB, then convert it to CMYK before using it for print. If you have questions on the conversion, ask your printing company. There are several settings that should be set carefully. Never use images that are saved as Index Color for printing. Those images are used for multimedia and the Web.
  • Clipping paths - Some high-quality stock photo companies supply clipping paths with your images. Clipping paths that are supplied could save you a lot of time.


Clip Art

File Formats

EPS format means it is a PostScript file that is made up of vector art. PostScript files can be opened and edited using programs such as Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Freehand. They are easily edited and the resolution is dependent on your output device. The higher quality images are built with different areas of the image as separate elements. Each of the separate elements is its own object which are grouped together to form the complete image. If you edit a piece out of the image that you don't want, the rest of the image is there. This differs from the example below, which was not created with different areas of the image as separate elements. If an element, such as the sunglasses, is removed, it would take extra work to restore the image to its original form.

TIFF format is a bitmapped or raster image. These are harder to edit and must be created using a program such as Adobe Photoshop. The resolution is set in the image and enlarging the image could make it look bitmapped, or jagged.


Legal Rights

When purchasing stock art, you don't actually buy the image, you buy the rights (or license) to use the image. There are two different types of license agreements: royalty free and rights protected.

  • Royalty Free - Royalty free means that once you have purchased the image or the CD you can use the images as many times as you would like for as many different projects as you like. However, some companies don't allow you to use the image on products that will be sold, such as post cards, so watch for that.
  • Rights Protected - Rights protected images are to be used only for a specific project. You must tell the company exactly how the image will be used, how many times, etc. The benefit to the rights protected image is that the images are controlled and you don't have to worry about a competitor using the same image.


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