I work on RPG books. In a lot of those books, there are illustrations that do not have rectangular borders:

enter image description here

I know that the process is "text wrapping," but is there a concise way to describe an image without a background designed so that text abuts it on both sides easily?

  • Perhaps the term you are looking for is clip art?
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 15:24
  • Doesn't that imply pre-designed images, also of a particular style? Would it make sense for me to ask an artist to do a custom illustration like clipart? It sounds like I mean the style rather than the format.
    – Arcandio
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 15:29
  • "Clip art" is just a generic name for any style of graphic/illustration which has been cut out (or clipped) for pasting into a document. I thought that was what you were asking. Is that not what you are asking?
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 15:45
  • The wiki article you linked, as well as my general understanding of the term, is more along the lines of "is pre-made images used to illustrate any medium." (emphasis mine) That's what I'm worried about, is that telling an artist to illustrate a clip-art piece would just confuse them, rather than tell them what the border should be like. The Wiki article doesn't contain either the word "edge" or "border" so don't think that communicates what I mean, even if it has a similar meaning.
    – Arcandio
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 15:53
  • If you asked an artist to design you some clip art, it would by definition be pre-made, ready for you to paste into a document. To be honest you seem to be trying to split hairs here. Clip art is just art that has been cut out or clipped, usually without a background, or just on a plain white background.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 16:16

3 Answers 3


The style of embedding illustrations within a text block or floating on a page of a book surrounded by text or other design items is not a characteristic of the illustration itself.

The illustrations themselves simply have no background. The images "float" on a featureless background. You might say they are "in limbo." Often, normal square framed illustrations are "shopped" to drop-out everything but the desired detail. The irregular outline or profile of the illustrations are then embedded which is a characteristic of the typographic style of the document.

The text is loosely or tightly "tucked" or "tucked-in" around the illustration profile or object shape.

This is referred to as Wrapping Text.

Your sample shows text that is arranged to flow around the floating images and other objects. It is also referred to as Text Runaround. Sometimes layout software uses the term "Text Effects."

  • 2
    So if you were asking for such an illustration, would you just have to explain the all the requirements? "No background, except a simple shadow or background element like a tree or rock?"
    – Arcandio
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 15:56
  • The shadow was not a part of the illustration. It was added to the layout. The subject was cut from the image background. It's "dropped out." Then an appropriate shadow was added. You would just ask for the illustration you want and cut what you want out of the illustration that you receive.
    – Stan
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 16:17
  • 2
    @Arcandio If you wanted a picture of a tortoise doing something—smelling a flower, say—in the middle of the page as with the page style above, you would ask for a picture of a tortoise smelling a flower. After you receive the a/w, you would remove the background, add a shadow, and position it in your layout. Nothing more need be said to the illustrator except, "Thanks, here's your requested payment, as agreed." : )
    – Stan
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 16:27

From my own experience in broadcase, we often refered to these as "cut-out" and refered to the process of making a cut-out as "close-cutting".

If you go on stock photography sites, you will find this term often returns the kind of image you are looking for. Also, "isolated" is a keyword often used to describe these.




  1. (by extension) Any small borderless picture in a book, especially an engraving, photograph, or the like, which vanishes gradually at the edge.

This is what I was looking for, for anyone who ends up looking for the same term. The problem appears to be that it's obscure enough that most modern designers don't use or know of it, google search results don't include many examples of this definition. Still, it covers what I intended: a borderless illustration with no indication that the work is pre-made or "stock," or any indication of the background, shadows, or details of the image. It's specifically designed to be typeset around, or placed between paragraphs, without the need for re-design or modification.

  • Since I answered my own question, should I remove the question, or leave it for others to find? I'd appreciate it if the term came back into common use for this purpose, if only in my sector of the industry.
    – Arcandio
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 16:59
  • 3
    I would just be wary of using "vignette" because from my understanding, they're often smaller, more simple illustrations that accompany a bigger theme and are used to fill up space that would normally be blank. Wikipedia backs me up on the "filling up space that would normally be blank" but the "smaller and simpler" part is my own perception I've gathered from the term. The illustration shown in your example is not that small or simple and it occupies a space that would normally have had text in it.
    – curious
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 17:06
  • You are using a term for the appearance of an illustration not for the preparation of the illustration. It is also used to describe short video sequences within a program and for short sequences in theatre presentations loosely related to the story line. English Language Usage.SE would have also contributed to your search for a descriptive term.
    – Stan
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 17:49
  • You answered your own (great) question. Don't remove it. Review HELP in the "?" icon in the menu for guidance on awarding points in your situation.
    – Stan
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 17:53
  • 2
    Vignette is pretty widely used in photography, so I think people might be confused by that definition: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vignetting Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 21:45

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