Where to find Images for Printing

On many letterpress sites, I often see some of the same images used. They seem much more beautiful than ones you might find in a traditional clip art book/site. I am wondering if anyone has suggestions on where to search for images I could make into plates for printing? Thanks in advance.

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If you have a scanner, used book stores are treasure troves of great illustrations. I especially enjoy old children’s books, from before color illustrations were the norm. I’m not up on copyright law, but I think that anything old enough should be fair game, if that is a concern. I’d be interested in hearing more about this aspect, if anyone is more familiar with the legality of appropriating old images.

The ornaments and initials we publish in the Cuts & Caps department (currently residing on our old site) come from old printer’s specimen books, such as those published by the American Type Founders Corporation. These are excellent sources for letterpress-era decorative material.

Generally, any work published in the United States before 1923 is in the public domain, and safe to reuse, although there are some extra provisions to US copyright law that might apply to certain works. We convert the ornaments into postscript art, creating something new from something old, while hewing closely to the original designs.

What do you use to do the postscript conversion? I’ve been using the command-line program potrace, but am interested in other options.

Updated. It’s Elizabeth (that’s Mom, to me) who does the hard work of converting ornaments. She uses Adobe Streamline to do the postscript conversion. Tiny printing imperfections in the source image tend to become magnified in the process, so she cleans up the scan beforehand and the paths afterward.

Streamline doesn’t exist as a separate product anymore, but is now present in Adobe Illustrator CS2 as LiveTrace. I’ll have to give potrace a try sometime, see how it compares.

I have had wonderful success with a program called Silouette. I find the free-standing version better and easier than the version that works as an Illustrator plugin. It is not free, but there is a 30 day free download; it’s well worth trying.

Scan old books or even better, draw than scan your drawing.

Adobe Photoshop works for me. I scan in grayscale directly from Photoshop, then i play with the Lasso tool to erase any flaws. Adjust the Levels and save as a TIFF. Send it to a photo engraver…

That does not create vector artwork, which is what live trace, sillouette, etc., creates. The answer to this question varies depending on what type of images you are hoping to create. Certainly a photoshop tiff would not work when you need vectors for photopolymer plates.

You can use a scan, but the image should be AT LEAST 1200 dpi and bitmapped (every pixel either black or white / no grey).