Graphics are a big part of anyone’s course. I mean, who doesn’t love a great looking picture?

The biggest problem you should consider when choosing graphics though is basic: how does this graphic look? I know it might sound obvious, but that is a serious consideration. When choosing graphics for your document, LMS, or presentation, you should consider the validity and functionality of the graphic. You may have found a really great picture of a cat or a sunset to use in your course. Does that image really apply to your course though?

Here are some things to consider when you choose a graphic:

  1. What is its purpose – when choosing a graphic it is important to keep your learning objectives and other materials in mind. If you are teaching a course on American History, you may not want to show a picture of something like whales unless it really applies to what you are teaching.
  2. How does it look – A graphic that ‘pops’ out at you is great, but if it’s too flashy you may distract your audience. Flashy images pose too much of a problem, especially with students who may need to use a screen reader to understand your image. The images you choose should be great looking, but also clear looking.
  3. Do I have permission to use this graphic – This is a big one. Permission and citation are hot button issues in academia. It is very important that you don’t steal someone else’s imagery and use it as your own without permission. If you can’t obtain permission, then there are plenty of websites you can find images to use for free (which I will talk about next!).

So where can you find graphics to use in your course? Below is a short list of places.

Google Images

Google Images is a great place to find graphics. However, keep in mind that not every image is free to use. Lucky for you there are plenty of images on it to use. If you want to search for images that are fair use, you can do so by choosing that option while searching. The image below shows you how to do so:

These are the steps to finding free to use images on Google Images.

These are the steps to finding free to use images on Google Images.

By clicking on the gear icon you can bring up advanced search options. If you scroll to the bottom you will see the drop down menu labeled ‘usage rights.’ From there you can begin to search for images covered by fair use.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a website that allows for convenient access to search services provided by other organizations. Search results generated by CC are almost always free to use and you do not need to obtain permission to use what you find. In addition to images, CC also searches for other media like video and music.

Creative Commons allows you to search through many different websites that host media. Some examples include Google, YouTube, and Flickr. After typing into the search bar what you want to look for, simply click on the service you wish to use and CC will bring you to it with a list of media that is available. It’s a great tool because it has so many different websites centralized in one location.

Wikimedia Commons

Much like creative commons, Wikimedia allows for searching of free to use media. I have found Wikimedia to be lacking in quantity in some areas, but it more than makes up for it in quality. Many of the images I have found are of great quality and I have used plenty from this website. If you are looking for primarily educational images then I would definitely recommend Wikimedia.

Finally, in regards to images, I also recommend using a color palette generator with your image for your presentation. If you have a title image that you want to use that really speaks for the presentation, you might consider using a color palette based off that image so the rest of your presentation flows. That isn’t a necessity though. If you do decide to use one though you should go back to my posting about color palettes to help you choose a style!

Color Palettes

Choosing a color palette for your presentation can be a challenging task. On the one hand you want to have a dynamic presentation with awesome looking colors. On the other hand though, you don’t want a presentation full of hot pinks and incredibly bright yellows. It’s never good practice to make your PowerPoint look like a pack of highlighters.

At Learning Solutions I attended a session hosted by Bianca Woods. She is an Instructional and Graphic Designer based out of Canada. She gave a great session on graphic design tips for all sorts of projects. Bianca talked about everything from typeface to graphics and color. One tool she highlighted in her presentation was a color palette generator. The one she highlighted in particular was from a website called It’s a cool little website that has a lot of tools you can use in graphic design.

The way the color palette generator works is by using pictures that already exist to generate your colors. Take this example on the website:

This is a screenshot of a color palette generator website. It currently shows a beach color palette.

This is the default picture listed on the website.

A picture from the beach was uploaded to the website. Using the colors that were present, the generator created a palette from it. It also gave two variations of the palette.

The original purpose of the tool was to come up with a website color scheme that matches a stock photo a client wants to work with. However, the tool easily translates to a PowerPoint as well! If you have an opening photo that you really want to use, you can upload it here and find a palette to match it.

Take a look at a photo I used:

This is a screenshot of a color palette generator website. It currently shows a purple color palette.

This is a photo I used.

I have to mention a few things about this tool. If you use a picture that is too large in dimension (usually bigger than 1280×768) or too small (lower than 640×480) the tool won’t generate a palette. However, if you have to use that picture, there are plenty of other tools out there that can help!

Check out the Color Palette Generator here!