Scenario: You’ve found a fascinating illustration or photo, and you want to know who the artist is so you can properly credit them* when sharing it over social media.
Scenario: People are sharing an outrageously sexy illustration, and you want to know who created it so you can study and enjoy the rest of their work.
Scenario: An intriguing image is going around and your friend wants to know where it came from, and you want to earn points with someone you admire.
These are a few reasons why you’ll want to use a reverse-image search.
The first thing you need to do is save the image on your computer. If the image is blocked from being saved, take a screenshot and crop it in MS Paint. Save the file somewhere easy (like Downloads) and name it something obvious, then upload this file to any of the following reverse-image engines. Many times you can just grab the URL of the image and search with that.
Note: This often works with videos and animated GIFs, too. Get a screenshot of it as described above and use that in your image search.
I’m going to drill each of these search engines with a particularly difficult image. I know nothing about it, have only seen it referenced on other sites. It looks like a classical painting of a fanciful image, a nude woman around 25′ in height, grinning at and coddling a rural peasant. I have no idea what this painting is called nor who made it. Often I see it paired with Baudelaire’s poem La Géante. This will be a good test to see how each of these engines perform.
Google Images: It does not produce an original citation, only refers me to several blogs that have posted it. None of these blogs seem to know the name of the painting either.
TinEye: Only produces one hit, taking me to a Russian auction website. The program has confused this painting with a low-res photograph of a young, blonde woman in a bikini, riding a skateboard. TinEye is usually better than this.
ASCII 2D: Unable to find, no recommendations.
Yandex: By its recommendations, Yandex recognizes this image as a classically styled painting. It leads me to two art sites that may have featured it at some time in the past but not currently.
Bing: All the recommendations match it in color palette and tone, which is skillful, but it doesn’t cite the original image at all.
SauceNAO: Unable to find, and its recommendations do not resemble the painting.
Huh. That’s not encouraging, but to be fair, this is an obscure and unsourced image. Let me try again with something easier.
Google Images: Recognized it immediately, took me to the artist’s personal website. It also referenced where this image appears on DeviantArt but was unable to link directly to its location in LoopyDave’s gallery.
TinEye: Found this image in a couple dozen comic galleries and message boards, but never directed me to LoopyDave’s website or DA page.
ASCII 2D: Could not locate at all, unable to recommend similar images.
Yandex: Several hits to other galleries, some of which lead back to the artist’s website.
Bing: Could not locate the image but recommended other cartoonish work that kinda resembled it, in certain aspects.
SauceNAO: Only one hit, but leading straight to the correct location in LoopyDave’s DA gallery.
That was much better, I think. Some search engines will recognize the image but may not take you to the source, leading you instead to anyone that hosts it (and Goddess save you if it takes you to Tumblr! What a mess). It’s kind of a craps shoot as to which can find an authentic source for your image, and most of the time it will require some poking around and deductive work.
But it’s worth it if you want to do right by the artists who create the work you love. It’s the least you can do, honestly.
* That is, if you don’t mind appropriating art without credit, you’re probably an asshole who thinks stolen property is cool, or you’re a craven shit trying to gain popularity for someone else’s labor and talent, or you’re an entitled prick who believes you deserve quality creative for free, and on top of all that you’re an ignorant fuck who doesn’t understand how systems work. So when your favorite artists and designers have to quit working on their art because they also need to eat and pay rent, never mind upgrading their equipment and services to generate better work, you blame them and not yourself even though you have actively, intentionally chosen to penalize and punish the people you admire. And you won’t see how this paragraph applies to you because you’re an unlikable parasite, an obstacle to progress, and the death of anything nice.