Copyright Free Clipart? YAY! Lots of Techincal Stuff? BOO!

Open Clip Art Library Logo

One of the fabulously helpful Building Techs in my district pointed out the Open Clip Art Library to me at the end of last year, and I’ve just been sitting on it, waiting for some excuse to use it with students and/or teachers. Since my job isn’t a facilitator role, it really hasn’t come up, so I decided that it would be best to share it here, before I forget about it completely.

For awhile now I’ve collected e-mails and comments from teachers both in my building and elsewhere that the clip art available to schools is either highly expensive (60 bucks for a lousy disc full of old images? Puh-lease!) , or is lacking in variety (how many times have you seen that Microsoft Office schoolhouse with the bell on top?). I know, I know, Fair Use says that we can use whatever we want on the Internet for our classrooms within reason, but what about using images in student work that you want to publish on a public webpage? Or what about student work that is intended to be on public display in the building or around your community? Sure, you could track down images from various websites that have Creative Commons lisences, or even take the photos yourself (that’s what I did for my fast food webquest), but the Open Clip Art Library has already amassed a huge collection of copyright free images and clip art (ALL in the public domain).

LCD DisplayAnd to navigate that large collection the nice people at the Open Clip Art site have used tags to organize the images by category. That means rather than navigating through layers of categories and sub-categories, you can find images of computers by clicking on computer, computers, technology, or any other of a dozen tags that might describe a computer. However, this does create a rather large list that’s a bit difficult to search; although it’s alpha-order, it’s still difficult to find that one tiny category you’re looking for tucked away among similiar ones. Those tags/categories that have a lot of images are in HUGE font, while other tags/categories with just one image are in a tiny font, giving you a visual cue as to what’s popular.

It gets a bit confusing once you click on the name of an image as you aren’t immediately presented with an image. Instead, you get the author’s name, when it was uploaded, and the categories it belongs to, which is a rather useful feature if you want to find similar pictures. However, once you click on the little SVG or PNG button on the right-hand side of the screen, you can see the image and save it to your desktop or wherever you need it. A cumbersome process, but a small price to pay for free, public domain images. And all that is required to use them, thanks to a Creative Commons lisence, is a simple attribution to the site, but with all of the image in the public domain, I’m not even sure that’ required.

The one HUGE downside I see to this site is that most of the files are an SVG format, which means I can’t view them on my computer without first opening them in a graphics program like Photoshop, GIMP, or Fireworks, and then exporting them as a bitmap. Sorry non-techies, this site might not be the next best thing for copyright free images, but it’s a great start!


  1. Open Clipart Library is pretty handy. There’s a ton of awful looking clipart there but if you dig you can find some gems. You get what you pay for.. :-). They recently redesigned the site with a complete overhaul so it’s much more usable now. And its super fast now… the old site was a snail.

    1. I’ll have to go back and revisit this site, thanks for the info on the site refresh. It was a big disappointment when I originally looked at it, but it’s nice that browser technology has caught up as well, and you can view all of the images in browser now.

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