Tech Talks

Reverse Image Search {Tech Talk}

Reverse Image Search

Every now and then I come across a fabric in my stash or on another person’s blog, and I wonder to myself, “What is this fabric?” If you have ever had this thought and struggled with how to figure it out, I want to introduce you today to the concept of a reverse image search. Directly from Google, reverse image search means:

You can use a picture as your search to find related images from around the web.

Pretty slick, right? I will warn you that this does not guarantee that you will figure out what the fabric is, but it is another tool you can use to help figure out the problem (don’t forget the beauty of asking in your blog, on Facebook, or on Instagram – “phoning a friend” in the quilting industry is easy with social media these days!).

I am going to walk you through the steps of a reverse image search to look for details of the fabric shown in the image at the top of the post.

Reverse Image Search Steps

1. Save an image of the fabric.

There are a few tips that I want to share about this step. Think about the way fabric images are typically shared on websites that sell fabric. The images are of the fabric straight on, and the image usually shows the pattern repeat (or multiple repeats). The image is also usually fairly small (1000px on any one side at the largest). Keeping all of that in mind can give you a leg up if you have the ability to take a photo and manipulate it for the reverse image search.

Sometimes the best you can do is take an image that already exists and modify it, though. For instance, if all you have is a picture of a quilt block that has the fabric you are interested in, I would recommend cropping down the image to just show the fabric of interest. The more information in the image, the harder it will be for the reverse image search to find what you are really looking for (if the image is of a quilt block, it will look for similar looking quilt blocks).

So, as an example, I have this image of a folded fabric:

I rotated the image as much as I could to mimic a “straight on” photograph and I cropped the image to only show the fabric:

2. Drag and drop the image into the search box.

If you’re on Chrome or Firefox 4+, you can drag an image from your computer into the search box.

  1. Visit images.google.com.
  2. On your computer, click the image you want to search for.
  3. While holding down the mouse, drag the image into the search box.

3. Review Search Results and Refine Search if Necessary

Search Results

Search Results

As you can see, there are some really interesting “visually similar images” but nothing jumps out as a fabric in the initial results. You can choose to refine the search by typing descriptive words in the “describe image here” location. I tried adding “fabric” and “blue green fabric” and “backing fabric” which lead me to this:

Refined Search

Refined Search

I clicked on “visually similar images” from the refined search.

Visually Similar Images

Visually Similar Images

And while the color scheme is different, the fourth image lead to to find that it is Artisan Spirit Shimmer by Henry Glass.

I hope this adds a tool to your online sleuthing arsenal. πŸ™‚

19 thoughts on “Reverse Image Search {Tech Talk}

  1. Pip says:

    Thanks for the tute on how to do a reverse image search, I often search for fabrics but usually have the selvedge to help me, this will help even more.

  2. SarahZ says:

    How very cool! Now that is some useable information!!! I would never have thought to do anything like that, and yes, I often wonder “ooooh! What is that?!?” πŸ™‚

  3. MoniqueB says:

    Thanks so much, I had no idea that even existed let alone how to use it

  4. Marly says:

    Thanks for the tip. While I’ve used the Google image search before, I’ve never thought to use it for tracking down fabric names!

  5. This is not something I would have ever thought of!! Thank you for sharing, yet another ‘tool’ for us!

  6. Jan O says:

    Wow, I never would have imagines such a search was possible. Thank you!

  7. Very fascinating and far to awesome! Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing this information with us; it is something I would never have thought of doing! Have a wonderful creative day!

  8. Christine Sherman says:

    Wow thanks for the helpful info!

  9. Renee says:

    Google is like my BIFF (best internet friend forever), I am amazed (and a little disconcerned) at how it syncs devices so well, and adds stuff to my calendar and when I type in the airlines of one of Matt’s flights it will also bring up his itinerary on that airline for the day. Weird, but also super helpful. Their reverse image search is so helpful. I’m glad you put together this post though, I’m sure there are tons of people that don’t know how to use it!

  10. What an interesting concept. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Thanks for the tip, I need to try this the next time I wind up with a mystery fat quarter with no label.

  12. Jasmine says:

    I never knew you could do that. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Kaja says:

    This is cool – and sadly it’s the sort of thing I might do just for fun, even if I didn’t really need the information. Thanks for the tutorial.

  14. Tish says:

    Very cool! I would have never thought about using an image to search with. Thanks for sharing.

  15. I am officially impressed. Never knew you could do this! Thanks for the great tip.

  16. Brenda says:

    Could have told you what it was if you’d just asked me. Looking at 4+ yard of the wide backing. πŸ˜‰ Seriously, interesting tute and useful when you need more and you bought the FQ from the non-selvage label side!

  17. sally says:

    I never knew there was a way to do this! I don’t remember feeling the urge to track fabric back but I’m sure this would have been useful to me in other scenarios, and I expect it will be again now I know how to do it, thank you!

  18. Lara B. says:

    This is really cool Yvonne! My son taught me about dragging the image into the search box, but I never realized how you could refine the search results. Thanks for the lesson. πŸ™‚

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)