• Part of a roofline shows from one building. Trees with fall color leaves on them fill most of the photo. A lamp-post is near center of the photo.

    Harpers Ferry Center

Choosing & Using Illustrations

Illustrations and maps can convey important information or impressions that can powerfully convey an impact that enhances or even goes beyond that of the text. The reverse is true as well; images can send misleading visual signals with improper use or if they are at odds with the text. The designer has a critical responsibility to further the agreed-upon message of the text, not to obstruct or confuse it. Choosing an illustration should be a conscious decision. It is better not to use any, than to use the wrong one. All images must be of high quality and prepared properly for reproduction. Almost always, one dramatic illustration is better than a lot of little ones.

If the text for your brochure is too long, consider whether an illustration, chart, or map could take the place of text and convey the same information. If you have very little text to work with, one option is to use a piece of art large and make it really eye-catching. An image is not always necessary. If you’ve got a bibliography or schedule of events or other listing, the best solution may be a typographic one.

Try to keep your images in a similar style. An eighteenth-century engraving may not fit well next to a modern airbrushed drawing. Then again, because of the subject, it might be very appropriate. Be careful with the use of cartoons or cute images. The authority of the publication can be reduced unless these are used carefully.

To ensure good reproduction, particularly when selecting continuous tone art, choose images with good contrast. Be sure they are strong and clear and not muddied or too mushy with too great a range of gray tones. Photos with a lot of minute detail will be in danger of filling in with ink on the press no matter what size it’s printed, but especially if it’s shown small.

Commercial printing can reproduce virtually any clear image. But because of the limitations of office copiers, line art is often the best choice when using this reproduction method. There are cases, however, when an office copier can adequately reproduce a photograph if it’s sharp and has good contrast.

Placement and Layout

Illustrations should be positioned to achieve an integrated look with the text. They should use the left grid modules, the middle and right modules, the right grid module, or go across the entire page. An arrangement with images and text alternating randomly in a checkerboard manner should not be used because it confuses the reader’s eye and weakens the logical presentation of information. Often, a large image at the top, using all three columns or the right pair of columns, creates a bold impression and makes the cover stand out when the publication is folded. When all the art or photos appear as squares or rectangles on the page, it makes for a more static, passive, less energetic layout. With image editing software, portions of photos or art can be prepared as a "knockout," or removed from its background.

Site bulletin with full-frame image at bottom Site bulletin with knock-out image at bottom

Above: Site bulletin with full-frame image at bottom (left) and site bulletin with knock-out image at bottom (right). Click on either image to retrieve a PDF version of the site bulletin.

But like any trick, it can be overdone. Be imaginative, but use restraint. Look at other park brochures and handbooks for inspiration and ways images can be used in this system. Sample illustration layouts may give you ideas that can be applied to your situation. "Choosing and Using Images" provides additional guidelines (Information Design, p. 61).

Fish of Zion National Park site bulletin, side 1 Fish of Zion National Park site bulletin, side 2

Above: Fish of Zion National Park site bulletin. Click on either image to retrieve a PDF version of the site bulletin.

Zion Canyon Shuttle System rack card, full bleed color Zion Canyon Shuttle System rack card, non-bleed with headline on photo Zion Canyon Shuttle System rack card, non-bleed with headline above photo

Above (left to right): Zion Canyon Shuttle System rack card, full bleed black and white; full bleed color; non-bleed with headline on photo; and non-bleed with headline above photo. Click on an image to retrieve a PDF version of each rack card.

A New Way To Go In The Woods rack card, full bleed version A New Way To Go In The Woods rack card, non-bleed version A New Way To Go In The Woods rack card, side 2

Above (left to right): A New Way To Go In The Woods rack card, full bleed version; non-bleed version; and side two of both full bleed and non-bleed versions. Click on an image to retrieve a PDF version of each rack card.

Images are usually scanned into digital files for use in page layout programs. This is a major benefit of computer technology since these scanned images can be manipulated in a variety of ways. They can be cropped, resized, lightened, darkened, or unwanted portions can be removed or de-emphasized. “Graphics Management” provides ideas for using and storing digital images (Information Design, p. 55).

Line Art

Line art consists of lines or masses of solid black; there are no grays, it is black and white. Type, pen-and-ink drawings, and engravings are examples. Often these require very little preparation for print other than sizing and cropping. Sometimes a little cleanup is desired and can be accomplished using image editing software. Line art can be converted to gray and placed in the background as a water mark using image editing software and prepared as if it were continuous tone art.

Continuous Tone Art

Continuous tone art contains a continuous range of tonal values from dark to light; it is black, and white, and all the grays between. Examples include black and white and color photographs, watercolors, pastels, or oil paintings, or pen and ink drawings with ink wash. Offset printing presses cannot print gray or any tonal values. They will either lay down ink, or withhold ink. Any continuous tone art must first be converted to line art, or a series of tiny dots that will make up the image. This was formerly done at the print shop, but it can now be done using image editing programs. Check your software. The type of paper, ink, and press will determine how to prepare the art. Talk with your printer to get the specifications they prefer. When done properly, continuous tone art can even be prepared for reproduction by office copier. With practice, image editing software can be used to convert color art to black and white art, improve contrast, and lighten dark images.

Continuous tone art showing a range of greys Closeup showing how the image is converted to a series of dots

Above left: Continuous tone art showing a range of greys. Right: Closeup showing how the image is converted to a series of dots.

Don’t scan continuous tone art from printed publications. Not only are they probably copyright-protected, but they have already been turned into line art for printing and they will look terrible when reproduced.

Paying for Artwork

Occasionally you may find a photographer or artist who will allow you to use their work free. However, most of the time you must pay for the right to use the image. (This is, after all, how they earn their livelihood.) The price is usually determined by how the image will be used and what size it will be reproduced. The quantity of brochures being printed may also be a factor. Photographers charge a fee for lost photos, and they can be tremendously high, so be careful with the originals. Sometimes you can purchase the photograph outright, but most of the time you purchase "one time use." It’s wise to get it in writing and keep a file of copyright permissions. A credit line on the site bulletin is an important courtesy and legally tells readers that the particular image is not in the public domain.

Logos and Icons

The site bulletin system has a clean, authoritative look. Logos and icons should be used sparingly, if at all. In many cases, if a logo is chosen to serve some need that furthers the purpose of the publication, it can be treated in the same manner as other illustrations. Occasionally a logo may be used as a small symbol, such as the recycle, soy ink, or Leave No Trace logo.

The NPS Arrowhead was updated for modern reproduction methods in 2001. It is a registered "service mark" and law and regulation protect its use (Special Directive 93-07). Director’s Order 52A says in part ". . . the Arrowhead Symbol will appear on all official NPS media intended for the public, consistent with the graphic design standards prescribed by Director’s Order #52B. It will be used in all new publications immediately, and will be applied to all existing publications as they are updated. It will be the symbol of the Service used on signs, business cards, letterhead, and other materials or media that require the use of a Service symbol." The new NPS Arrowhead is available for downloading from the NPS Graphic Identity Program website and comes in several versions. Instructions for which version to use—depending on the application—are included on that website. NPS Graphic Identity Program


Any line art, photograph, or map used must either be owned by the park or the park must have permission from the copyright owner. The National Park Service is not exempt from copyright laws. And just because an illustration appears in a government document does not mean it is in the public domain. More information is available from the U.S. Copyright Office


The park's slide file can be the best source for photos. Nothing beats the integrity of the images of your park that are unique and specific to the site. When taking photographs for a site bulletin, consider the design of the brochure and the space available for the image. A wide photograph for the top fold of a brochure might require that you use only the middle one-third of a 35mm image.

Harpers Ferry Center has artwork and photographs from many parks and maintains a file of photographers who have traveled the parks. The Showcase books are another source for photographers and the Green Book is an excellent directory of natural history and general stock photography. Harpers Ferry Center has artwork commissioned for park publications and wayside exhibits that is available for use by parks in site bulletins. HFC Commissioned Art Collection

Some sources for copyright-free artwork are: St. Nicholas, Gleason’s Pictorial, Outdoor Magazine, Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, American Science and Invention, and Century Magazine. Dover Publications is famous for its copyright-free artwork and publishes catalogs on a number of subjects. Avoid using standardized illustrations from these sources when specifics of a place must be accurate, such as the exact locomotives that met at the completion of the transcontinental railroad. In cases like this, a substitute just won’t do. Acquiring New Illustrations PDF

The Bibliography for this website contains information on these publications. Many types of clip art and photographs can be purchased on computer disk or cd-rom. With their purchase, you usually purchase the right for their use.

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