Bing image search vs. Google, Yahoo & Tin Eye

Bing image search interface

As you might imagine, in the course of writing Lines and Colors I do a fair bit of searching out art images on the web — whenever possible searching for the largest examples of images of artwork that I can find.

One of the ways I do this is to use the “image search” features of the major search engines. Unfortunately, Google Image Search, which used to be the standard, has been diminished in its usefulness, as Google, perhaps nervous about copyright issues, has gotten namby pamby about searching for large images and taken away the ability to search for images in extra large or custom, viewer chosen sizes.

I have of late switched the majority of my art image searching to another search engine.

Bing Image Search

OK, I hear you snickering (Bing, really? BING?). Yes, Bing, Microsoft’s seldom used (but actually decent) competitor to Google’s overwhelming dominance of the search arena.

While Google hamstrings its image search, Bing offers a full featured image search, that not only allows you to search for extra large images, but offers a few features Google’s version never did.

Unlike Google’s typically spare opening page, Bing Image Search is crowded with suggested images of pop stars, cute animals and a bunch of other pop culture garbage you’re sure to be fascinated by. (I think if you’re logged into a Microsoft account, it may remember your own recent searches.) The simple search field is at the top.

In the initial search term result (images above, with detail crop; I’ve searched for “Dutch landscape painting”), click on “Filter” to the right, and in the sub-navigation that drops down, click on “Image Size” at the left. You’ll have a choice for Small, Medium and Large, as with Google, but in addition you can choose “Extra Large”, or enter custom size parameters in the provided fields. I often search for 2000 x 2000 pixels. (The little icon in the right side of the search bar is for “search by image”.)

The filtered page will show large images with the size displayed over them. If you click on the hamburger menu at the upper right, you’ll have the option to display information from the page under the images.

Clicking on an image gives a close up. In the column to the right, the first two entries are ads, the third is the link to the originating age for the image, Under that are buttons for “Visit site”, “Pages” and Image sizes”, and below that similar images (related, but not the images in question) and related searches.

Clicking “Pages” produces a list of pages that display version of that image.

Clicking “Image sizes” organizes the image sources by the size of the image (largest is not always best as some may be watermarked or less accessible than others, you can also have multiple choices for the same size image).

The little icon in the search field at the top of the page (that I assume is supposed to be a camera) opens a Visual Search box. It offers you the option to upload an image, or enter a link to one, and search for other, hopefully larger, versions of that same image. It also allows you to search for a page with additional information about an image you’re trying to identify.

Google Image Search

Google image search interface

The Google Image Search initial returns on a search is similar to Bing’s. A link for “Tools” on the right drops down a sub-navigation from which you can choose “Image Size” on the left, with choices only for Small, Medium and Large as well as “All”.

The filtered returns show page location under them, image size is not available.

Google image search interface

Clicking on an image shows a preview in a right hand column, with the page name and link below it. In this case, the size is available by rollover. Under that are “Related images” (similar but not copies of the same image), and “Related Searches”.

Google image search interface

The Camera icon in the search bar is for visual image search. Upload or paste the URL of an image (the image itself, not a page containing an image), and returns an array of copies of the image with the source page underneath.

If you right click (or Control-click on Mac) on an image in Google Chrome, you will see a choice to “Search Googe for image”. There are plugins that provide the same functionality for other browsers.

Yahoo Image Search

Yahoo Image Search interface

Yahoo Image Search exists. Why, I’m not sure.

The initial search term results look much like Bing or Google, but there is no page or size information. Clicking on “Advanced” at right provides filters for color, size and image type. Sizes are S,M,L. (The others let you search by color as well, from the sub-menus.)

Clicking on an image returns a detail panel with the page and size info and the option to “Visit page” or View image”. There is no visual image search that I can find.

Tin Eye reverse Image Search

Tin Eye reverse Image Search interface

Tin Eye is a venerable visual image search engine that provided that service before the big guys, um… borrowed the idea. I mention it primarily out of respect for that. It still does a good job in its initial mission, but there is no provision for image size choices. Tin Eye offers plugins to put their reverse image search in browser menus. Tin Eye offers a service to track your own images and notify you if it finds they’re being used elsewhere, but the service is expensive, probably mostly of use to corporate intellectual property holders.

Tip for searching by site

All three of the above major search engines allow you to search for images (or other content) from a particular site. In the regular search bar, enter the search terms, followed by a space and then the word site, a colon (no space) and the URL of the site. For example: “dutch landscape paintings”. This will return a page with results for that topic only from the Sothebys auction site.

Other sources for high res art images

General search engines are just one avenue for searching out art images on the web. Another, often more fruitful way to find large art images is to do local searches on the sites of major museums, or on art image agglomeration sites, such as the Google Art Project, Wikimedia Commons of the Art Renewal Center. These should be the topic of another post.

Happy image searching!

(Oh yes, and Time Sink Warning!)


Alex Warnick

Alex Warnick, watercolor paintings of birds
Alex Warnick, watercolor paintings of birds

Alex Warnick is an artist who specializes in watercolor paintings of birds. Her website portfolio is divided into sections for Painting and Illustration, though her technique seems basically consistent.

She combines a naturalistic approach to the birds themselves, setting them off with bits of flora that act as design elements.

In addition to her portfolio, you an find additional examples of her work in her website’s “Store” section, as well as on her blog.

There is a relatively extensive interview with Warnick in an episode of Andrew Tischler’s The Creative Endeavour Podcast (YouTube).


Maximilian Liebenwein

Maximilian Liebenwein, classic illustration
Maximilian Liebenwein, classic illustration

Austrian-German painter and illustrator Maximilian Liebenwein, who was active in the late 19th and early 20 centuries, worked in an illustation style that feels in keeping with many of the other classic illustrators of that “Golden Age” of illustration. In particular, some of Liebenwein’s illustrations put me in mind of the Russian folk art influenced illustrations of Ivan Bilibin.

I couldn’t find very much of Leibenwein’s work on the web, but there’s enough to make looking worthwhile.


Sija Hong

Sija Hong illustration
Sija Hong illustration

Originally from China and now based in New York, Sija Hong is an illustrator whose clients include Scientific American, Tor, Chronicle Books, Lerner Publishing Group, and Little Brown & Company Books, among others.

Her illustrations are swirling, multilayered cascades of imagery and design elements, shimmering with vibrant color. Hong tames these seemingly wild ingredients with controlled color schemes and underlying patterns to bring them into narrative focus.

She works in a combination of traditional and digital media, starting with the former and bringing her work to a finish digitally.


Charles Dana Gibson

Charles Dana Gibson, pen and ink illustration
Charles Dana Gibson, pen and ink illustration

Charles Dana Gibson was one of America’s great “Golden Age” illustrators, and one of its finest proponents of pen and ink illustration.

He is particularly known for his drawings of the “Gibson Girl”, an idealized example of what at the time was becoming known as the “New Woman”. The Gibson Girl became a symbol of women who were coming to the fore and taking on new roles in society. Gibson’s drawings also made the Gibson Girl a fashion icon.

There are a number of remarkable pen and ink artists from that period, toward the end of the 19th century and into the 20th, but few had the same combination of delicate subtlety and bold freedom that exemplified Gibson’s command of the pen.

His illustrations ranged to many other subjects. The Library of Congress has a nice online exhibition feature that outlines some of his major areas of interest, while focusing on the Gibson Girl.

Many of the reproductions of Gibson’s drawings appear to reflect the discoloration of the paper on which they were drawn, but they are still highly enjoyable.

For more, see my previous posts on Charles Dana Gibson.


Eye Candy for Today: John Berkey spacecraft

John Berkley spacecraft illustration
John Berkley spacecraft illustration

Up in Space, John Conrad Berkey

Image is from this article on the always superb One1more2time3’s Weblog (scroll down in the article).

(See my post on production designer Hans Bacher’s amazing blog here. If you have not visited this blog, I will issue a Timesink Warning. It’s amazing.)

This painting is a wonderful example of a spacecraft (that might be best described as a space yacht) by American illustrator and futurist John Berkey. Like futurist designer Syd Mead, Berkey’s concepts remain futuristic well after they were created.

Berkey worked primarily in casein and acrylic. His work appears detailed at first, but in close reveals itself to be loose and gestural, leaving the viewer’s eye to fill in a lot of detail.

For more, see my previous posts on John Berkey.