I often need buttons, generic images, or just plain ideas for graphics for a variety of reasons: icon for an article, as part of a larger image or mockup of a web page, etc.
Three Options for Finding Clip Art That is Not Junk
Stock images – Buying your source material, if it is copyrighted, is the only moral thing to do. Designers worked hard to save you the time. And a stock website like iStockPhoto makes it very affordable, so there’s no reason to rip off the creator. Searching a website stock image website can lead you to high-quality images and reduce the clutter of poorly made graphics. iStockPhoto in particular has an amazing advanced search function, by size, shape, color, even area where you want to put text.
Search engines – Google’s image search has gotten better too. If you search by exact size you can often find what you need so that you don’t even need to resize it yourself. Again, make sure you pay for copyrighted works. But it can also be a source of ideas and can show you many images, quickly.
Open Source – That’s generally where I stop, but I recently found a great website called Open Clip Art Library. It is well organized, and many of the graphics are good quality and usable without needing editing. It’s worth considering as one of the first places to search, and in fact, I’m going to start here from now on, since stock sites and search engines can be overwhelming.