written by: Andy Dunn•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/24/2009
Clipart.com is a great way to have access to a large clipart archive for regular users of clipart who don't mind paying a membership fee. The only real downside is the sluggish browsing of images inherent to the Web.
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Clipart.com's six million images is a lot to choose from. When you get into these sorts of numbers, searching and browsing are the features that really count. Clipart.com has the searching nailed; however, browsing thousands of images is not a web-friendly endeavor, so you have to change your working practices to minimize the number of search results.
Clipart.com is not cheap enough for casual users, who may only dip into their clipart collection a few times per year. With the least expensive option at $15 per week, the costs soon build up. But a regular user will justify that money in no time when compared to spending hours searching free clipart sites on the Web and worrying if those images are really royalty-free.
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Price to Value
If the sort of art provided is to your liking, then having six million items to choose from gives you a very good value. It's certainly a far greater number of images than any of the offline solutions.
The downside of the price to value for Clipart.com is, of course, the recurring fee. Unless you have a very regular need for clipart, the costs can build up. $160 per year is a lot less than hiring artists and designers to provide you with custom artwork, but its probably outside the scope of scrapbookers and people who want to add some art to their family web pages.
Paying $15 per each week in which you want to use some clipart is one alternative, if you only need the service a couple of times per year. You are allowed to download 1,000 images per day, so you could build up a collection of clipart you think you will need.
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Installation & Setup
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The thumbnails are large enough to get a good sense of an image. If you need to download a lot of images, you can add them to a shopping cart. Clipart.com will compress all of your art into a single file to download at the end of your session.
After you find an image, there is an option to search for other images based on its colors. After a search is done, you are shown how many of each image type are in the results; a single click further filters the results.
The limit of 49 thumbnails displayed at a time makes it hard to browse large search results.
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Being a web application, there are always trade-offs of speed versus content. Local applications can display thousands of search results very quickly; the most that Clipart.com can show is 49 images at a time.
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The web interface is as fast as I think you could make it. It's very minimal and uses bandwidth wisely. There are no unnecessary round trips to the server when you change search options.
Clipart.com has chosen to limit the viewing to 49 thumbnails at a time, which means that paging through hundreds or thousands of search results is often not practical. The best workaround is to make your searches as limited as possible, though this does mean that sometimes you miss images.
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Security & Privacy
Security is handled through a non-encrypted connection, which is disappointing (even though they do not record any credit card information).
The site lets you tell it to "remember me," but then doesn't ask for your password before allowing you to change sensitive information such as username or password. This is not how most sites handle "remember me."
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Help & Support
I found the application simple enough to use that I didn't require any help, but some people need handholding. The online help (http://www.clipart.com/en/support/showdoc?ID=1004&nvc_helpcat=0) is short but walks you through most of the things you will need.
Technical support is online only (http://www.clipart.com/en/company/support_form) and you're not even given an email address to use. For $160, I expect a little more than that.
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I'd like to see improved security on the login and password changing pages, and more opportunity for automatic reduction of searches (for example, features like "Other users chose this image").
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If you regularly use clipart, the cost of Clipart.com will not seem out of line, but it's not something that a casual user would want to pay for. If you need the biggest choice in clipart, there is no other product or web application that can compete at this price level. Clipart.com fills the gap between the sub-$20 desktop packages and the hundreds- or thousands-of-dollar costs of the professional high-end image brokers.