How to Search for Images

Published by: @akovia - September 1, 2014
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Difficulty: Beginner Est Time: 20mins Software: General Category: Graphics General


This tutorial will cover some searching techniques for finding high quality artwork to use for fanart sources. By far the most common way to search for an image is to use Google, but there are ways to help improve your results that I will cover here. I  will also link to a thread on the forums where we keep a list of high quality source image sites. Between the two, you should be able to track down what you need if it exists.

You will learn that finding good source images will save you lots of time and frustration if you are a regular contributor to the site. Spending that extra time trying to hunt down a good source image could actually save you hours of wasted time by trying to improve a sub-par image and then having it denied.

Google Image Search:

Searching on Google should be your first stop when trying to hunt down a source image. The key to finding a good vs. great image is how you narrow down your search criteria. Before you jump right in and start searching you should ask yourself “what type of artwork am I making?” This will help you to determine the minimum size of the image you need. Trying to up-size an image to make it meet our requirements will only lead to frustration.

Once you know the minimum size image you need, you can start to think about what good keywords to use to find the kind of art you want. For instance, if you were going to create a CharacterArt, you might try searching for the Movie/Show name, followed by the character or actor name. For a Poster, you could try adding “DVD” or “BluRay” after the show name. For Backgrounds, you could add “Wallpaper” to the show name. Narrowing down the results like this will really help you to target the image you are after.

Now that we know our requirements, we can get down to searching.
Let’s look at the options that Google offers and how we can use them.

Simple Search

A simple search to find larger images would involve just a few clicks. This will help weed out the smaller images that we don’t want.

  1. Select the Images tab.
  2. Select the Tools button.
  3. Select the Size option
  4. Select the Large option.

So if this is a popular movie or show and there are lots of results, you may find what you need easily with those few steps and won’t need to dig any further.

Advanced Search

Sometime Google’s “Large” option doesn’t really give images as large as we want. In this case we can use the Advanced search option to refine our search even further.

  1. Select the Settings option.
  2. Select the Advanced search option

This will reveal multiple options to help us refine our search. In this particular case we are just trying to find larger images, so we will use the Image size: drop-down. I usually start with the 4 MP option as it normally will give results large enough for any type of artwork on the site, and work back from there if I can’t find anything suitable.

You can explore the other options here to help you search for something in particular. I use the aspect ratio option often to search for Tall or Wide images. (Posters or Backgrounds) I also use the file type: option to select png files when searching for logos, or renders for use in Cleararts.

Search Similar Images

At any point, if you come across an image in the search results that you like, you can drag it towards the top of the page and a box will open up for you to drop the image in. This will launch a new search for “Visibly Similar Images“. Very useful if the image you found is close but not quite the right size or is a DVD cover with lots of text and labels on it.

You will be presented with a new page of the results.

You should look for results in the following order for the best chance to find a match quickly.

1. Find other sizes of this image:
If there is a Large option available, check here first to see if you can find what you need.

2. Visibly similar images
Here you will find results that look the same but are not Exact. Perfect for looking for different versions of a DVD cover.
Once you click on the link to see the images, you will need to set your image size to “Large” again as it will show all sizes in the results page.

3. Pages that include matching images
Lastly, you will get other results that aren’t in either of the above categories. I don’t know why they don’t show up with the other results, but I have found great images here when I couldn’t find what I wanted in the other results. The thing to note is the image dimensions that are listed beside every result. You can inspect the image further if the image size is what you need. I recommend using the Imagus Extension to see the full size image just by hovering over the thumbnails.

Sometimes i have searched these results through 20 pages to find what I needed. Sometimes I searched 30 pages of results and didn’t find anything.

Another way to search for “Visually similar images” is to click the camera icon in the search bar.

Now you have the option to paste an image link from anywhere on the web, or even upload an image from your computer.

I hope you can see how flexible the Google search options  are and how you can use them to narrow down and hone in on the exact image you are searching for.


Lastly, there are some shortcuts you can use as you become more proficient with Google searching. Entering these right after your search allows you to enter options without having to go through all the menus.

Use this to only get file type you want in the results. So for instance, if I was searching for a logo or a render, I might use the following search text.

megamind logo transparent filetype:png

You can use other filetype as well like gif, jpg, webp, etc..
This option is in the Advanced search options from above, but I find it quicker to just enter in the search box instead of navigating all the menus.

Google search used to have a place where you could enter the exact dimension of an image you wanted to search for, but they took it out recently. You can get around this with the imagesize: shortcut. Just enter the dimensions you want. This is really only useful for background images IMO, but you might find it useful for other searches as well.

I just discovered this recently myself. Apparently this is yet another way to filter out jpgs, and to only look for images that have transparency. So this is actually a better way that just using the filetype option, as it should include all type of transparent images. (png,gif,webp,etc..)
This option is also available under the Tools menu dropdowns.

Google Search Summary

As you can see, there are many options to consider. Google is forever tweaking and changing options around, but if you have a good grasp on what is possible, you should be able to navigate their changes to find what you need.

iTunes Image Search:

iTunes is a great resource for posters, but it can also be useful as a good source to extract or rebuild a logo from scratch.

It’s very difficult to search for the hi-res images directly on iTunes, but I found a great site that does the legwork for you.

iTunes Artwork Finder

The site is pretty self explanatory. There are a couple of things to note though.

  • This isn’t a Google search and the title must be damn near exact.
  •  Use the “High Resolution” link after it returns a result.
Search Image 9

Other good Sites:

Here is the Forum thread where people share their favorite sites to look for sources. This thread could be updated at any time, so it’s a good idea to check back from time to time, and to also share any gems you might like to share as well.
Good sites for sources

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