NEC graphics CDs. (compact disks) (Evaluation)
by Robert Bixby
Where can a desktop publisher go in search of stock art? Where can you find useful black-and-white and color photographs, images, and clip art? NEC provides the answer to this question with its wide-ranging collection of graphics CDs that includes Photo Gallery (black-and-white photos), Image Folio (color photos), Clip Art 3-D, and Image Gallery (conventional clip art). Type Gallery PS, another product, provides attractive, professional typefaces.
Photo Gallery comes with a book illustrating each of the hundreds of professionally photographed images available through this program, categorized by content. The images are in TIF format with gray scale information, so they're easy to use with most desktop publishing and word processing programs that can import art.
Because this collection was designed for broad use, the art looks generic. However, you're virtually guaranteed that something here will meet your needs.
If you're generating a publication for personal use, for use within your company, or for nonprofit use, you can reproduce any of the images as often as you please. However, if you're publishing for profit, you'll have to pay UNIPHOTO Picture Agency, the photo service owning the copyright to the photographs, for use of the images above the cost of the CD product. (This also applies to the Image Folio, which contains color photos.) Color versions of many of the photos are available from UNIPHOTO.
One thing you should be aware of before purchasing this package is the graininess of gray scale images when they're reproduced on a laser printer. Photos are more appropriate for use in typeset documents, and laser printers are more appropriate for proofing photos prior to typesetting (making sure you're using the right photo in the right place, that the picture is right side up, and so on). If your final output is on a laser printer, you might be better off either using conventional vector clip art or using the photos for scanning purposes to create your own vector clip art.
I often use photographs in desktop publishing as raw material for scanning and tracing. A product like Photo Gallery reduces the need for scanning. By and large, however, the images aren't good candidates for tracing--they aren't usually high-contrast images with simple content. More often, black-and-white photography gets its power from complex shadings that defy all but the most gymnastic of scanning software. The images work with any graphics package that uses the TIF format.
Type Gallery PS allows you instant access to any 3 typeface families out of 116--a family is a collection of roman, bold, italic, and bold italic fonts--on the CD. Once you've accessed three, to access additional typeface families you have to pay NEC a premium (on top of the $399 price of the product) between $49 and $249, depending on the size of the family. These typefaces must be used with a PostScript device.
Image Gallery offers a similar arrangement. For the price of the CD, you're allowed access to any 6 of the 20 categories of clip art provided on the disc. Additional categories (like Fashion and Food, containing an average of 210 images each) will be unlocked for $99 each.
Image Folio gives you access to over 4000 color images in "VGA resolution"--320 x 200 pixels. Clip Art 3-D comes with 2500 three-dimensional clip art images.