Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Images

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Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

This page gives an overview of how images are used in Wikipedia; for more information, see Image use policy and see Help:Files on how to upload and include an image.

Choosing images

Pertinence and encyclopedic nature

Top of an unrecognizable curvy building under blue sky with a helicopter so far in the distance that it resembles a sparrow
This image of a helicopter over the Sydney Opera House shows neither adequately.

Images must be significant and relevant in the topic's context, not primarily decorative. They are often an important

illustrative aid
to understanding. When possible, find better images and improve captions instead of simply removing poor or inappropriate ones, especially on pages with few visuals. However, not every article needs images, and too many can be distracting.

See also

) on misuse of icons and other elements for decorative intent.

Images should look like what they are meant to illustrate, whether or not they are provably authentic. For example, a painting of a cupcake may be an acceptable image for

light microscope
might be useful on multiple articles, as long as there are no visible differences between the cell in the image and the typical appearance of the cell being illustrated.

Strive for variety. For example, in an article with numerous images of persons (e.g. Running), seek to depict a variety of ages, genders, and ethnicities. If an article on a military officer already shows its subject in uniform, then two more formal in-uniform portraits would add little interest or information, but a map of an important battle and an image of its aftermath would be more informative. Resist the temptation to overwhelm an article with images of marginal value simply because many images are available.

Ethnic groups

gallery of images of group members; see this and this
thread for the most recent consensus discussion on the topic.

Image quality

Use the best quality images available. Poor-quality images—dark or blurry; showing the subject too small, hidden in clutter, or ambiguous; and so on—should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Think carefully about which images best illustrate the subject matter. For example:

  • An image of a white-tailed eagle is useless if the bird appears as a speck in the sky.
  • A biography should lead with a portrait photograph of the subject alone, not with other people.
  • A suitable picture of a hammerhead shark would show its distinctive hammer-like head, to distinguish it from other sharks.
  • A map of Moldova should show its frontiers with Romania and Ukraine, so people may know where the country is located in relation to its neighbors.
  • Rice is best represented with an image of plain rice, not fried rice.
  • Intangible concepts can be illustrated; for example, two boars butting heads portrays aggression.

Pages using seals, flags, banners, logos, or other symbols to represent governments, organizations, and institutions should use the version prescribed by that entity when available. These are preferable to amateur creations of similar quality, including photographs of physical representations of emblems.

Avoid presenting textual information as images

Scale references

An image sometimes includes a familiar object to communicate scale. Such

soda cans, footballs (soccer balls), people and their body parts, vehicles, and famous structures such as the Eiffel Tower
are good choices, but many others are possible. Such objects as coins, banknotes, and sheets of paper are less satisfactory because they are specific to given locales, but may be better than none at all since at least the general scale is still communicated.

Quantitative data, if available, should still be given in the caption or the article.

Offensive images

human anatomy

Images for the lead

It is common for an article's lead or infobox to carry a representative image—such as of a person or place, a book or album cover—to give readers visual confirmation that they've arrived at the right page.

For some topics, selecting the lead image can be difficult. While Wikipedia is not censored, lead images should be selected with care (see § Offensive images, above). The lead image is perhaps the first thing to catch the reader's eye, so avoid lead images that readers would not expect to see there. Unlike other content beyond the lead, the lead image should be chosen with these considerations in mind.

Advice on selecting a lead image includes:

  • Lead images should be natural and appropriate representations of the topic; they should not only illustrate the topic specifically, but also be the type of image used for similar purposes in high-quality reference works, and therefore what our readers will expect to see. Lead images are not required, and not having a lead image may be the best solution if there is no easy representation of the topic.
  • Lead images should be of least shock value; an alternative image that accurately represents the topic without shock value should always be preferred. For example, using an image of deportees being subjected to selection as the lead image at this version of The Holocaust is far preferable to the appropriate images that appear later in the article that show the treatment of the prisoners or corpses from the camps.
  • Sometimes it is impossible to avoid using a lead image with perceived shock value, for example in articles on human genitalia. Editors may assume, per Wikipedia:Content disclaimer, that readers are aware that such articles may contain such images.
  • Using photomontages or a gallery of images of group members should be avoided in articles about ethnic groups or similarly large human populations. This does not apply to articles about things such as body parts or haircuts.
  • On some mobile platforms an article's first image may be displayed at the top of the article, even if it appears well into the article in the desktop view. When placing images consider whether this phenomenon may mislead or confuse readers using mobile devices.

How to place an image


A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy
A Siberian Husky used as a pack animal

Basic example (producing the image at right):

[[File:Siberian Husky pho.jpg|thumb|alt=A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy |A [[Siberian Husky]] used as a pack animal]]

  • File:Siberian Husky pho.jpg The file (image) name must be exact (including capitalization, punctuation and spacing) and must include .jpg, .png or other extension. (Image: and File: work the same.) If Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons both have an image with the specified name, the Wikipedia version is the one that will appear in the article.
  • thumb is required in most cases
  • alt=A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy Alt text is meant for those who cannot see the image; unlike the caption, it summarizes the image's appearance. It should comport with Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Accessibility/Alternative text for images and should name famous events, people and things.
  • A [[Siberian Husky]] used as a pack animal The caption comes last, and gives the meaning or significance of the image.

See WP:Extended image syntax for further features and options. If the image does not display after you have carefully checked the syntax, it may have been blacklisted.

VR photographs

To display

VR photographs (aka 360-degree panoramas or photospheres), use {{PanoViewer


Image using width upright=1.8, so that it is 80% wider than the Siberian Husky image above (which is at the default upright=1 width)
Image using upright=0.5; a scaling factor less than 1 contracts the image width.
This image uses |thumb|center|upright=2.5 to expand the image, center it, and clear the area on either side.


A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy
A Siberian Husky used as a pack animal

Most images should be on the right side of the page, which is the default placement.[nb 4] Left-aligned images may disturb the layout of bulleted lists and similar structures that depend on visual uniformity, e.g. by pushing some items on such lists further inward. Hence, avoid left-aligned images near such structures. If an exception to the general rule is warranted, specify |left in the image link: [[File:Siberian Husky pho.jpg|thumb|left|alt=A white dog in a harness playfully nuzzles a young boy |A [[Siberian Husky]] used as a pack animal]].

An image should generally be placed in the

navigational hatnote in the form of {{Main}}, {{Further}} and {{See also}} templates). Do not place an image at the end of the previous section as this will not be visible in the appropriate section on mobile devices. An image causes a paragraph break (i.e., the current paragraph ends and a new one begins) so it is not possible to place an image within a paragraph. This applies to thumb images; small inline images are an exception (see Inline images

Wide images opposite one another ...
... can create a distasteful text sandwich (depending on platform and window size).

Mul­ti­ple im­ages can be stag­gered right and left. How­ever, a­void sand­wich­ing text be­tween two im­ages hor­i­zon­tally op­po­site each other; or be­tween an im­age and in­fo­box, nav­i­ga­tion tem­plate, or sim­i­lar. As an al­ter­na­tive, con­sid­er us­ing the {{

for in­form­ation on the u­se of multip­le im­ages.


It is often preferable to place a portrait (image or representation of a person) so that they "look" toward the text, but do not achieve this by reversing the image, which creates a false presentation. (Faces are never truly symmetric even in the absence of scars or other features.)

References from article text

Image placement varies with platform and screen size, especially mobile platforms, and is meaningless to screen readers. As such, article text should not refer to image positions, especially with terms such as left, right, above, or below. Instead, use captions to identify images.

Inline images

  • Substituting frameless for thumb produces an "inline" image. For example,
       This [[File:Flag of Japan.svg|frameless|x20px]] is an inline image.
       This is an inline image.
  • A one-pixel border may be added via |border. For example,
       This [[File:Flag of Japan.svg|frameless|x20px|border]] is an inline image with a border.
       This is an inline image with a border.
  • Inline images do not have captions
  • Note the syntax x20px: whereas 20px specifies a 20-pixel width, x20px specifies a 20-pixel height. Heights between x18px and x22px will usually match surrounding text well. (upright is not usually used with inline images.)

Making images available

All images used on Wikipedia must be uploaded to Wikipedia itself or

is not supported.

Images uploaded to Wikipedia are automatically placed into the

image pages
start with the prefix File:.

Obtaining images

All images must comply with Wikipedia's image use policy: in general, they must be free for reuse, including commercial use and use after alteration, though some "fair use" of non-free content is allowed in limited circumstances—see Wikipedia:Non-free content.

Finding images already uploaded

Search for existing files through:

Making images yourself

You may upload photographs, drawings, or other graphics created with a camera, scanner, graphics software, and so on. When photographing or scanning potentially copyrighted works, or creating depictions of persons other than yourself, be sure to respect copyright and privacy restrictions. For further information see Wikipedia:Non-free content.

In order to maximize images' usefulness in all languages, avoid including text within them. Instead, add text, links, references, etc., to images using Template:Annotated image or Template:Annotated image 4, which can also be used to expand the area around an image or crop and enlarge part of an image—all without the need for uploading a new, modified image.

Finding images on the Internet

An extensive list of free image resources by topic can be found at:

Google Image Search, Picsearch and Pixsta. Creative Commons
licensed images with Attribution and Attribution-ShareAlike as their license may be used on Wikipedia. Images with any license restricting commercial use or the creation of derivative works may not be used on Wikipedia.

The Creative Commons site has a search page that can be used as a starting point to find suitably licensed images; make sure you check both the checkboxes "use for commercial purposes" and "modify, adapt, or build upon".

If you find an image on the Internet that is not available freely, you can email the copyright owner and ask for their permission to release it under a suitable license, adapting the

boilerplate request for permission. If you cannot find a suitable image, you may also list your request at Wikipedia:Requested pictures
, so that another contributor may find or create a suitable image.

Requesting images from others


Editing images

image of the Moon, red tints represent the highest elevations, purple the lowest; lest the reader be misled, the caption should make clear that this is not the coloring a viewer of the Moon would actually see.

An image's utility or quality may be improved by cropping (to focus on the relevant portion), cleaning up scanning artifacts, correcting color balance, removing red-eye effect, or other adjustments.

The caption of an image should mention such edits (e.g. introduction of false color or pseudocolor) if a reader needs to know about them to properly interpret the image.

Edits that improve the presentation without materially altering the content need not be mentioned in the caption e.g. rotation to correct a slightly crooked image, improvement to the contrast of a scan, or blurring a background to make the main subject more prominent. (However, all changes to images taken from outside sources should be noted on the image's description page. For images created by editors themselves, changes which could have been part of the image's original composition—such as rotation or minor cropping—need not be mentioned on the description page.)

Images should not be changed in ways that materially mislead the viewer. For example, images showing artworks, faces, identifiable places or buildings, or text should not be reversed (although those showing soap bubbles or bacteria might be). Do not change color integral to the subject, such as in images of animals. It is usually appropriate to de-speckle or remove scratches from images, though that might be inappropriate for historical photographs.

An image that was originally published as a

original research
. Images that were colorized by their creator, an expert, or a reliable source may sometimes be acceptable.

AI upscaling
software should generally not be used to increase the resolution or quality of an old or low-resolution image. Original historical images should always be used in place of AI upscaled versions. If an AI-upscaled image is used in an article, this fact should be noted in its caption.

For assistance in editing images, try WP:Graphics Lab.

Uploading images

autoconfirmed accounts (meaning at least four days old and at least ten edits at the English Wikipedia) can upload media to the English Wikipedia. Only free licensed media, not fair use media, may be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Media on Wikimedia Commons can be linked to in the same way as media of the same name on Wikipedia. To upload media to the English Wikipedia, go to special:upload and for Wikimedia Commons, go to commons:special:upload. For preferred file formats, see: Preparing images for upload

Image description pages

Each image has a corresponding

description page, which documents the image's source, author and copyright status
; descriptive (who, what, when, where, why) information; and technical (equipment, software, etc.) data useful to readers and later editors.

To maximize the utility and educational value of an image, please describe its contents as fully as possible on the image's description page. For example, photographs of artwork benefit from documentation of the artist, title, location, dates, museum identification numbers, and so on. Images that are described only in vague terms (for example, "a cuneiform tablet" or "a medieval manuscript") are often less useful for Wikipedia and less informative to our readers.

Reliable sources, if any, may be listed on the image's description page. Generally, Wikipedia assumes in good faith that image creators are correctly identifying the contents of photographs they have taken. If such sources are available, it is helpful to provide them. This is particularly important for technical drawings, as someone may want to verify that the image is accurate.

Description pages for images are rediscovered by editors using the

. To help editors find precise images, please remember to document the image description page accordingly. Well-categorized and well-described images are more likely to be used.

Consideration of image download size

Images can greatly increase the bandwidth cost of viewing an article – a consideration for readers on slow or expensive connections. Articles carry reduced-size thumbnails instead of full images (which the user can view by "clicking through" the thumbnail) but in some file types a thumbnail's reduced dimensions doesn't translate into a concomitant reduction in file size. (In most browsers you can see a thumbnail's size by right-clicking for its "Properties".)

If one image's file size is disproportionate to those of others in the same article, you may want to reduce it by selecting a different file format:

  • GIF images with a frame size larger than 100 million pixels (measured as pixel height × pixel width × number of frames in the animation) cannot currently be displayed in thumbnail form in Wikipedia articles. A thumbnail of a GIF image can be considerably larger in kilobytes than the original image file.
  • The
    file compression
    . For this reason, PNG format files are usually preferred to the GIF format. For images with substantial editing, or for which further editing may be warranted, uploading a PNG as well as a JPEG is common (PNG is lossless compression, so repeatedly saving edits on a PNG will not result in loss of quality).
  • Animated GIF images have a few additional restrictions. Images larger than 100 million pixels (measured as pixel height × pixel width × number of frames in the animation) currently will only show the first frame of the animation in a thumbnail. When not using a GIF animation at its original frame size, consider creating an Ogg Theora movie of the animation.
  • Animated PNG images with a frame size larger than 12.5 million pixels cannot currently be displayed in thumbnail form in Wikipedia articles, a significantly lower limit than the GIF format, and is not fully supported on all browsers.
  • A JPEG or other compressed image format can be much smaller than a comparable GIF or PNG format file. When there is no apparent difference in quality, such as with a photograph that has no sharp graphical transitions, a compressed image format such as JPEG may be preferable for reasons of download performance. Wikipedia is often able to achieve much better compression of JPEG photograph thumbnails than comparable PNG images, and with little perceptible loss of quality. Repeatedly loading and resaving an image as JPEG will result in loss of quality, however, as will using low settings for the JPEG; as such, if you've made edits, it can be helpful to save a PNG or TIFF copy before closing the image editor and upload that as well; this copy can then be used to generate a new JPEG after further editing.
  • Where an image consists solely of line art, charts text and simple graphics, an
    SVG file can be significantly smaller than other graphics formats. This is because the data is encoded as a series of drawing commands, rather than as raster graphics. There are open source
    applications available for rendering graphics in SVG format. However, SVG thumbnails are rendered as PNGs.
  • Rather than including an image gallery on an article, which could add significantly to the download size, consider creating a gallery/category on the Wikimedia Commons instead.

See also


  1. ^ The size of the original image can vary widely, depending on for example the resolution. Some images could take a whole 15 inches of space on a computer screen.
  1. ^ Here a "typical Wikipedia reader" is defined by the cultural beliefs of the majority of the website readers (not active editors) that are literate in an article's language. Clarifying this viewpoint may require a broad spectrum of input and discussion, as cultural views can differ widely.
  2. ^ If you do much work with image layouts, consider leaving your preference at 220px to match the "reader experience" of most readers.
  3. ^ px works the same as upright for users with the usual base width setting of 220px, but works counterintuitively for readers whose base width is set to a different value (see Help:Preferences § Files). For example, an image coded 275px—presumably to make it wider than most images on a particular page—is actually rendered smaller than most images if the user has changed their base width to 300px. In contrast, upright responds gracefully to changes in the user's base width, maintaining the relative size of images in any given article by enlarging or reducing all of them proportionately.

    However, a thumbnail cannot be displayed larger than the original uploaded image. For example, if an image is coded |thumb|330px or |thumb|upright=1.5 (for a reader with the usual base width of 220px), but the original uploaded file was only 200px wide, then the article thumbnail will still be displayed at only 200px.

  4. ^ A consistent left margin creates a stable anchor for tracking through lines of text making it more readable / accessible.