Information and Communication Technology

Using images in documents

Obtaining, inserting, and manipulating images in documents

Many documents can be improved by careful use of images. Even business documents frequently contain company logos or artwork.

This page is about methods of obtaining, legally, suitable images for you to use in your documents.

It also covers methods of getting the images into your documents and simple techniques for manipulating images within a document, including resizing, cropping and positioning.

Digital camera as an image source

Capturing an image for yourself

In most cases, if you take a picture with a digital camera, you own the copyright and can include the image in any document that you produce.

Actually that's true of film cameras as well, but it's harder to get images from film into a document so I'll assume that you'll use a digital camera.

Note that I said 'most cases'. There are some circumstances where you will need to consider other peoples' copyright. e.g. if you take a picture of a page of text or a painting. If the text or painting is still within copyright, you will need to comply with the various copyright laws that apply.

Fortunately, most copyright laws allow for 'fair use'. Including an image of a piece of text or a painting for the purpose of discussing it will normally be classed as fair use. This means that you don't need permission.

How you get the image from a camera into a document depends on the camera. Many cameras can be connected to a PC by a USB cable and treated as an extra drive. Others have a storage medium such as an SD card that can be read by a PC, possibly through a USB card reader. Both of these camera types allow you to select an image from inside the word processing or desktop publishing software.

Other cameras require that you use specific software to read the images. In these cases there will be an option to save the images to your PC in a suitable format, usually .jpg

Scanner as an image source

Capturing someone else's image

The main difference between capturing an image with a camera, as described above, and capturing one with a scanner, is that scanners are designed to copy documents, photographs, etc. while cameras are designed to capture a wider variety of images such as people, landscapes etc. Camera images may of course include documents and photographs, hence the concerns about copyright.

'Fair use' still applies though, and an image from a scanner can be used in the same way as one from a camera if the copyright laws allow it.

Getting an image from a scanner to a document usually involves a piece of specialist software. This will read the scanner input and display an image, which can then be saved in an appropriate format.

Some word processors and desk top publishers will link directly to a scanner, although they will usually still need to interact with software that can operate it. Sometimes this will be a generic driver such as TWAIN, sometimes it will be specific software for a particular scanner.


Many applications such as art packages or word processors come with clipart collections. If you have a license for the application then you may use the clipart however you wish, with the restriction that you cannot give it away or sell it to someone who does not have a license.

Fortunately, there is a lot of free clipart available on the Internet so you do not have to rely on commercial applications.

When looking for free clipart on the Internet, it is important to know how it is licensed. A lot of the material that you will find will be a commercial product, covered by copyright laws and will require you to pay for its use. 'Fair use' may not apply to this clipart, since each individual piece can be charged for. In most cases this type of clipart will have a watermark displayed on each image and you only get the clean image after you have paid.

Other material may not be on sale, but you should not assume that you can use it unless there is something on the web page that specifiaclly says that you can. What you should look for are the terms 'Public Domain' or 'GNU General Public Licence'.

If an image is in the public domain, you may do whatever you want with it. The only restriction is that you cannot claim that it is yours so that people have to pay you to use it. Actually you can do that, but it might be regarded as fraud.

If an image is covered by a GNU licence you may use the image for free, subject to the licence conditions. Common conditions are that you must credit the image source and that you must state that the image is used under the GNU licence.

As a starter, the following web sites house collections of free clipart, there are lots of others.

Important. As far as I am aware these are safe sites for students to use, but I have no connection with or control over the sites and cannot accept any responsibility for the images on them.

    public domain images

    open clipart library

    WP Clipart

Image manipulation within a document

This is the part that will turn up in the practical examination for IGCSE.

The images themselves will be provided, although you may have to select which one(s) to use from a small number of alternatives.

An important point to note is that the the final document will only be seen by the marker in printed form. That means the marker cannot see any of the work that you do in manipulating the image, they can only judge the final outcome.

That in turn means you may use any software you have available to manipulate the image., you don't have to do it within a word processor.

The most common changes that you may need to make are resizing, cropping, and positioning. These are all simple tasks and you should practice them before the examination so that you can do them quickly and without having to think too hard about the process.

You may also be asked to make specific, more complex changes to an image, but that should only happen in a question on using art packages.

It is also important to realise that the question may not specifically state what you need to do to an image. e.g. if you are producing a poster, the question may tell you to include an image, but may not say which one or what changes, if any, you should make to it. That type of situation requires you to make, and possibly justify, a decision. There will be marks for doing so.


Resizing an image in a document is usually simple to do. Most word processors will allow you to use a mouse to grab a corner of the image and drag it so that the image becomes larger or smaller.

You can also right click on the image and use the options / properties tools to change the size.

However, there are a few things that you should keep in mind about resizing.

1. The file size stays the same when you resize, so if you have a 10 megabyte image in a document that covers a complete page, it will still be a 10 megabyte image if you reduce the size to a 1cm square. This may cause problems when trying to deal with the complete document. e.g. In the context of the practical examination, it may be too big for the printer to handle.

2. Images may become distorted. Some image resize systems allow for the image to retain its proportions. Others do not and images can easily become stretched out or flattened.

3. Images may become blocky when enlarged. If you start out with a small image, it will become less sharp as it is made bigger. You can see that effect in the picture for this section.

Resizing inside an art package is a bit different. The file size is reduced and proportions will be maintained as default.


Cropping an image means removing a piece of the image from one or more edges.

The top picture shows a train coming in to a station. I want to use the image in a document but don't want to have the person at the right of the picture in view. By cropping (removing) the right hand side and bottom of the picture, and then resizing it, I am able to produce an image of the train, without the person.

Most word processors and desktop publishers will allow an image to be cropped by using a right mouse click and selecting image properties / options. As with resizing, the file size is not changed by cropping, the software simply displays white space over the area you crop.

Positioning an image

Image positioning is done differently in word processors and desktop publishers.

In a desktop publisher, images are normally inserted by creating a frame for them.

A frame is a box or window which can hold elements such as text, images and / or other frames. A frame can have its own set of menus, buttons and other controls. The frame can be treated independently of the rest of the document, so can be placed anywhere on the page, whether or not there is already something there.

Frames may be positioned so that they hide whatever they are placed on top of, but normally they will have the frame properties set so that text flows around them.

In a word processor, an image is usually treated as being a single letter. It can therefore be moved around when text is altered in the document. It is usually possible to get around that problem by anchoring the image. The anchor can be to a paragraph or a single character. This will keep the picture with the text as it changes. It can also be anchored to a page, in which case it will stay still even if the text that it is in is moved

As with frames in desktop publishers, images in word processors may be able to have text flow around them. This is done by selecting the wrap property for the image.

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