How to Add Clip Art in Photoshop [Complete Guide]

Adobe Photoshop offers numerous features for inserting photographs and editing them, but these features have their limitations. For instance, they often fail when using typographical elements such as clip art. In those cases, you might need a workaround to use those elements in your designs.

How you add clip art, text, and other typographical elements to Photoshop largely depends on the element source and your desired outcome. Sometimes, you can use native Photoshop features to do it. Other times, you need the help of third-party solutions and add-ons.

Each method has its limitation and benefits. Therefore, by reading further, you will learn what these methods are and how to implement them.

How to Insert Clip Art into a Photoshop Project

Most Photoshop projects require importing images in the application. These tasks as so common that Photoshop offers several easy-to-use options:

  1. Drag and drop the images onto your Photoshop window. Your image will appear as a new layer.
  2. Copy and paste the images into your project. Works best when moving images between Photoshop projects but can work with any image source
  3. Use the Open menu command. Gives you full control over how Photoshop will insert the images
  4. Create a “smart object”. Include the image location when asked during setup

Once imported, you can quickly and easily edit them to achieve desired effects and outcomes. There are tools for everything changing the scale, moving the new images around the screen, and cropping them to fit a design. You can even combine layers to create more complex designs as well.

These Image Import Options Will Not Work with Most Clip Art

On the surface, these options should work with clip art as well.

Clip Art is graphics design elements consisting of separate objects and images. They are rarely used on their own. Instead, you combine them to make a more complete graphics design or image. People use clip art for:

  • Collages
  • Desktop wallpapers
  • Infographics
  • App icons
  • Logos and Trademarks
  • Presentations and magazines
  • Website designs.

You can find clip art as standalone files or in sets called galleries. People love them because of their universal nature. They appear “cartoonish”, making them easier to use than stock photos.  Either way, they come in vector and raster varieties, and it is the vector variety that causes problems with Photoshop.

Photoshop is a raster image editor, which means it works entirely in pixels. This is fine for raster images which are just a list of pixels. However, vector images and clip art use math equations to define themselves. Therefore, you will need to rasterize your clip art before you can use them in your Photoshop projects.

Ways to Add Clip Art to Photoshop

How you prepare your clip art for Photoshop largely depends on where you get your clip art. If your clip art gallery includes just raster images, you can just use the internal import methods mentioned above. As long as the raster clip art comes as a standalone file, it should work like any other raster image.

However, if your clip art only comes as galleries or as vector files, you will have more work to do. You can still add them as Photoshop raster layers or Smart Objects, but you need a third-party solution to bridge the gap. This third-party solution will largely depend on the source of the clip art.

Clip Art from a Webpage

You can copy and paste the clip art into Photoshop from most web browsers. After copying the graphics in your web browser, you select Photoshop’s “Edit > Paste” menu option or press the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl-V in Windows or Command-V on a Mac). Photoshop will insert the clip art as a new raster layer.

Clip Art from Microsoft Word

If you want to import some clip art from Microsoft Office, the procedure is similar to getting the art from websites. You just create a new Microsoft Word document and add the clip art to it. From there, you select the art to activate it, then select the “Edit > Copy” menu option. You can then switch over to Photoshop and paste it in as above.

Just note that you must enlarge the clip art from inside Word if it is too small.

Use a Drawing Program to Add Vector-Based or Proprietary Clip Art

If your clip art is in a vector format, such as the Windows WMF format, you must use a third-party solution such as Placeit or Adobe Illustrator. These programs will convert the art into something Photoshop can use. This can be done in a few ways.

Copy and Paste

If your drawing application supports it, you can just copy and paste the clip art into Photoshop as mentioned several times before. You must follow the copying procedures of your drawing program, but once you get inside Photoshop everything should be the same as before.

Save in a Raster Format Then Import

If you cannot copy and paste the clip art, you can just save it to a raster format Photoshop supports. You then just import it into Photoshop like any other raster image file. This procedure is always guaranteed to work. It also gives you the most insertion options.

Use a Photoshop Smart Object

Smart Objects are the only way Photoshop works with vector images natively. They are just containers linked to an external application, usually another Adobe application. As such, any changes you make to the source file will automatically be included in your Photoshop project.

You can use add your clip art as Smart Objects by choosing the “File > Place” menu option and choosing the clip art file. Photoshop will add the object with a boundary box you can adjust and move. Once you configure it as you need it, you can double-click inside the box to save the object, and your clip art, to its layer.

However, you cannot edit the image from within Photoshop. If you must continue to edit the clip art after you import it, you must choose one of the raster-image importing methods above.


Using clip art is a great way to add universal flare to your designs, but they do not always play nicely with Photoshop. Luckily, there are workarounds you can use to add clip art to your projects.