One way to save money on your elearning project is to create custom graphics using the clip art that comes with Microsoft PowerPoint. You do this by ungrouping, editing, and regrouping the clip art. It’s a technique I use a lot especially when I want to create characters for my elearning scenarios.
Based on the feedback I’ve gotten from previous posts, there’s a love/hate relationship with clip art. You love ungrouping it to create the graphics you need. But, you hate the hassle of working with all of the bits and pieces that are part of the ungrouped clip art. It takes too much time and causes a lot of frustration. You can’t sleep, you’ve got irritable bowel syndrome, and you haven’t showered in days!
If that describes you, then keep on reading. As I share my tips and tricks on working with grouped clip art, you’ll not only save time building custom images, you’ll also restore the order of your day-to-day existence. You’ll be happy and so will your family. So let’s get started.
Some Clip Art Ungroups, Some Doesn’t
The first step in the process is to know when you can and can’t ungroup clip art. Basically, there are two ways to determine this. The first option is to whip out your calculator and solve the formula below.
If you don’t happen to have a calculator handy, try this simple shortcut. Just right click on the clip art. If you can ungroup it, it will say "ungroup." If you can’t, then it will be grayed out. Not being a math whiz, I prefer the second option, myself.
Bitmap versus Vector
There are a number of image formats and not all images are created equal. I won’t go into a bunch of detail about the various formats. Instead I want to highlight what happens when you scale an image by making it larger or smaller.
A bitmap image is made up of a grid of pixels. When you increase the size, the pixels get bigger. That’s why you’ll notice the degradation (or pixelation) of the image.
A vector image is different because instead of using a grid of pixels, it uses mathematical equations to render the image. In a layman’s terms that means you can scale it without losing any of the image’s clarity.
Clip Art Anatomy 101
Most clip art images are made up of vectors. This makes sense because if you couldn’t scale your clip art, you’d need 20 versions of the image to account for every possible size option. Scaling one image sure is a lot easier.
Generally, clip art is a series of grouped images. Sometimes everything in the image is grouped into one image. However, it is common that the images are made up of a number of grouped images. So you can have groups within groups.
If you look at the example below, the first image is the original and everything is grouped together. The second image is ungrouped but the image is still made up of sub-groups. That’s why you see fewer boxes. The third image shows everything ungrouped.
Working with ungrouped images can be a challenge, especially when you first start. I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking for some tips when working with clip art, so in the following demo, I’ve detailed some of my tips and tricks and best practices.
Here’s what I show you:
- Quickly select, duplicate, and scale your images
- Use the grid and guide options to align objects
- Work with duplicate slides and a scrub area to avoid messing up your real slides
- How to work with all of the ungrouped objects
- Save your creations as bitmap or vector images
Here’s one last important point. When you’re all done, you need to regroup your image. You’ll find it easier to work with when you need to move it around. And, if you publish it to Flash, the grouped image will render a lot faster than if it is ungrouped.
The secret when working with grouped clip art is to select areas you want to edit, copy them, and move them away from the main image. This allows you to quickly make the edits you want to make. Once you get used to this process and develop your own best practices, it really does become second nature.
Feel free to share ideas or comments by clicking the comments link.