An Arn+ (n = 1–6000) gas cluster ion source has been utilized to map the chemical distribution of lipids in a mouse brain tissue section. We also show that the signal from high mass species can be further enhanced by doping a small amount of CH4 into the Ar cluster to enhance the ionization of several biologically important molecules. Coupled with secondary ion mass spectrometry instrumentation which utilizes a continuous Ar cluster ion projectile, maximum spatial resolution and maximum mass resolution can be achieved at the same time. With this arrangement, it is possible to achieve chemically resolved molecular ion images at the 4-µm resolution level. The focused Arn+/[Arx(CH4)y]+ beams (4–10 µm) have been applied to the study of untreated mouse brain tissue. A high signal level of molecular ions and salt adducts, mainly from various phosphocholine lipids, has been seen and directly used to map the chemical distribution. The signal intensity obtained using the pure Ar cluster source, the CH4-doped cluster source and C60 is also presented. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.