> One approach that should make for a more responsive user experience is to load all of the images at startup. Make an image cache based off of an array or map. Load each of the images with Toolkit.createImage() at startup, then get each of the Image objects from your cache as needed.
Additionally, if you do this in a separate thread, the user doesn't have to sit and wait 'til they are all loaded before the user interface "comes to life." You might use a ProgressMonitor, or JProgressBar to indicate the progress of the loading, as well.