The Complete Guide to Clipart

What is Clipart? 

Clipart is a type of graphic, either physical or digital, that can be used for design both personally and often commercially. Generally, clipart is made by artists and illustrators and sold non-exclusively (usually) to customers who then use the clipart to make things! And by things, I mean just about anything. Seriously. The list is huge. Here's a wee small list to get the idea: 


Samples of PNG clipart
  • Social media posts 
  • T-shirt designs 
  • Fun stickers  
  • Business cards 
  • School worksheets for teachers 
  • Wedding invitations 
  • Greeting cards 
  • Blog graphics 
  • Advertising 
  • Kid's party favors 
  • Mug and tumbler designs 
  • Brochures 

 A Very Brief History of Clipart 

Clipart used to come on physical sheets that were full of stock images supplied by stock art studios and print companies. The clipart was cut out by hand and used on print boards which were then sent to print. Hence the "clip" art term. You can still purchase physical clipart books on websites like Amazon or at Dover Publishing.  


About Digital Clipart: Raster and Vector 

Today, clipart is almost always sold or acquired in digital format and then used in graphic programs like Procreate, Photoshop or Canva to make designs. Digital clipart can come in many file types but the biggest difference in formats is raster vs vector and transparent vs non-transparent. Raster images are made up of fixed pixels (tiny squares of color) so the size is limited. Raster images can be made smaller but not larger otherwise they get blurry and pixelated and lose quality. On the other hand, vector images can be resized up and down. Vectors use math! It's all about lines and curves and anchors. But the main point is that vectors can be easily resized without any quality loss. 


Raster Image zoomed in

Raster Image Types  

  •  PNG 
  • JPG / JPEG 
  • GIF 
  • BMP 
  • TIFF 

 Vector Image Types 

  •  AI
  • EPS
  • SVG
  • DXF
  • PDF* 

 Although there are other graphic file types, most of the clipart sold is in one of the formats above. For most people who want to make things like hoodie or mug designs or stickers, raster images are plentiful and easy to work with. Vector images are best for things that need to be resized like a company logo which could go on a small business card and on the side of a large work truck. 

* PDFs are technically vectors but they can contain raster images (like PNG clipart) that will lose quality when upsized.   

Transparent vs Non-Transparent Clipart 

For designing, users will want clipart that is transparent which means that it has no background color at all so you can place it over top of other clipart and letters without a square bounding box getting in the way! Transparent clipart usually comes in PNG format.  


Transparent PNG file vs Non-Transparent PNG File

What is the BEST type of clipart to buy for new designers? 

Transparent PNG of daisy clipart
If you're new to graphic design and want to start making digital graphics like t-shirt designs or tumbler designs, choose transparent PNG format. Make sure it is at least 300 DPI (dots per inch which is the amount of dots a printer will deposit on paper per inch when printing). Generally, you don't need to go above 300 DPI but never go lower!


If you want to make designs that will end up being used on a cutting machine (like a Cricut), then choose SVG format.  


There's more to The Complete Guide to Clipart!

The Complete Clipart Guide