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How to Find Images & How to Use Them: Illustrations

An introduction to searching for images and using them

An illustration is a visual explanation or interpretation of a text, concept, or process. It is typically included in published media, whether print or digital, static or moving, and can include a variety of media such as photography, drawing, painting, print making, digital design, multimedia, and 3D modelling.  Illustrations originated with printed books, journals, and newpapers, and grew in number, complexity, and scope as technical publishing capabilities grew. Depending on purpose, an illustration can be technical, stylized, realistic, or expressive, and is typically produced by a special kind of artist called an illustrator.  When illustrations are included in books, they are typically listed and indexed separately from the text.

Illustrations are often classified in genres such as scientific (medical, botanical, technical, or mathematical), fashion, narrative, architecture, and archaeological (among many others).

Artstor is an outstanding resource for locating scientific and historical illustrations (see tab in this research guide).

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