TinEye: powerful reverse image search engine

Me 1:  Remember that great background you downloaded a while ago?

Me 2:  Yeah! Of course, I accidentally deleted it.

Me 1:  Really? You deleted it?  Oh.

Me 2: Yeah…. all I was able to find of it on the internet was a thumbnail.

Me 1: Wait- you were able to find a thumbnail of it on the internet? That’s great!

You may have heard of Google Similar Images.  It searches for images which are similar to one that you find in an images search result:


So what if you want to know where you got that great desktop background, a higher quality version of a picture that’s been circulating the internet, or [insert reason to find images here]? First you’d need to find it on Google’s specialized image search before you can get a better version from Google Similar Images. After you find it, the similar image match-up is not as perfect as some would hope.  That’s where TinEye comes in. TinEye takes a picture – either from the internet or from your computer – and find ones that look alike.

For an image of space, Google might show this…


…but TinEye will show this:


The obvious difference is TinEye is finding identical images with greater accuracy than Google Image Search. The not-so-obvious difference is TinEye is not only finding identical images, but each identical image is of different quality and resolution (high, low, medium, etc.) than the next one so you have a variety of choice to pick whichever image fits your need.

Additionally, you have multiple ways to sort out the search results.  You can choose biggest, best, or even worst match!

Me 2:  This is all really cool, but you haven’t showed me how to do this.

Me 1:  Well, it’s actually not all that hard.  You just go to TinEye’s website and click along:



Easy, and useful, isn’t it? To make TinEye user friendly, the developers have created an extension for Firefox users, an addon for Internet Explorer users, and a bookmarklet for everyone else which allow you to do quick TinEye queries instead of having to visit TinEye.com every time to start a search.

To start using TinEye, visit these links:

TinEye homepage

[Firefox extension]

[Internet Explorer addon]


[This article has been contributed to dotTech [.org] by Locutus with minor edits from Ashraf. Locutus is still searching for that thumbnail, that lonely little thumbnail.  He wants that higher quality wallpaper!]

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  • Eric989

    There is another similar but better service than this now. It is called Google Search by Image. Ashraf covers it here.
    Here is the link to the service.
    It finds identical and similar images as well as images of different sizes and images without watermarks etc.

  • The links keep giving me an error page. It says I’m lost.

  • RobCr

    To Timmy,
    And I now have McAfee (free) site adviser, as well.

    To ALL,
    I mentioned this on one of Ashrah’s other pages.
    If you have an image on your hard drive, that you would like to ‘Tiny Eye’, then right click the image, and choose open in FireFox.
    Then you can right click it, and search Tiny Eye.

  • Timmy

    @Rob: AVAST to the rescue again!

  • Just awesome!! It will help me a lot. I usually face the questionnaires mentioned at the top of the post many times.

  • no one nowhere

    you are given credit at the bottom of the article.
    This article has been contributed to dotTech [.org] by Locutus with minor edits from Ashraf.

    Thanks Locutus.

  • SilenceIsGolden

    I’ve been using Yandex as my main search engine for a while now and it has this function built in. If you click on this link http://images.yandex.com/yandsearch?like=www.youthedesigner.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2011%2F11%2FSigurRos_Takk.jpg&p=1&text=sigur%20ros&img_url=thesteinbergprinciple.files.wordpress.com%2F2009%2F12%2Fsigur_ros-takk-frontal1.jpg&rpt=simage you can see a search results page that gives you links to webpages that have the exact same image but in a different size, telling you which size you’ll find there. It sounds complicated, but for everybody looking for a good replacement of that overly-used search-engine starting with G, I’d give it a try anyway. (If you can’t find what you’re looking for, Yandex always offers a link to Google and Bing, passing on your query.)

  • Umm, why does the author show up as Ashraf?

  • Oh yes, I love TinEye – it’s also really good for artists, for keeping an eye on stolen work :D

  • @Jyo: I don’t remember where I originally heard about it, but what made me remember it and decide to write this was actually Lifehacker finding out about the Firefox extension.

  • Jyo

    I’ve heard about this on lifehacker many months ago. It’s really useful and I’m glad word of this great site is being spread around here.

  • davidroper

    After reading the homepage for this FF addon, I see how it could benefit others.

    One guy said he used it to check a “personals” picture that a woman had sent him. Turned out it was actually a picture from a porn site in the UK.

    That saved a wasted affair starting at a nightclub or bar didn’t it? Maybe a robbery of him as well.

    Very useful. I took the FF addon so I could have it anytime I wanted.

  • MikeR

    Hi Kraal: actually, um, no — it wasn’t me wot did it (re the scammers.) I actually believe the main dealer involved talked to their supplying manufacturer and between ’em they brought pressure to bear (the ‘forged’ cars were principally BMWs.) My efforts really only went as far as eBay. And the outcome of that was predictable: zilch. TinEye certainly wasn’t all-seeing — it failed to ‘track’ a number of images — but it came up trumps twice, and that was enough.

    (Helped, incidentally, by the idiocy of the scammers. . . who were stupid enough to leave the licence plates showing on their stolen pix.)

  • Kraal FictionWriter

    @MikeR: 0_o Wow. Thanks to you a big time scam operation was caught. Now /that/ is awesome.

    This is potentially very useful. Potentially, for me, anyway. I haven’t lost any pictures and or need better quality pictures that I found online. Yet.

    Maybe I’ll try it out later today.

    So, other than being very good at revealing criminals, TinEye ‘just works’?

  • Rob

    The Good news is – The FF extension works
    The bad news is – One of the links on my “Buffy” (Sarah M G) alternate images threw me to a web page that had a virus on it.
    The good news is my free Avast anti-virus detected it, and offered to sever the connection.

  • MikeR

    Well done, Locutus (and Ashraf).

    I’ve long wondered why TinEye isn’t more widely known. . . especially amongst users of eBay.

    Thanks to TinEye, I was able to stop a particular eBay scammer who was advertising cars for sale at what to me seemed to be suspiciously low prices.

    I was able to find a TinEye match for an image used in one listing and traced it to the main dealer who was actually selling the car. I notified eBay of the scam and the dealer notified the police.

    eBay (typically) failed to do anything with my report but several months later I heard from the dealer that a police investigation — fairly unusual in itself, I would’ve thought — had led to the exposure of a widespread scam and identification of the scammers involved: they were even selling cars via a scam website complete with images they’d stolen from legitimate sources.

    I wouldn’t be without TinEye as one of my ‘eBay Scam Detectors’.