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Wikipedia:Image use policy

Table of contents

Rules of thumb

Here's a quick checklist of rules for use of images. After the list, a more detailed discussion explains the reasoning behind them. See also sound help for information on uploading and listening to sound files.

  1. Keep copyrights in mind when uploading images, but avoid copyright paranoia
  2. See image description page for recommendations on how to use the image description page
  3. Use a clear, detailed, title
  4. Most images should be 150-250 pixels wide.
  5. Crop the images to show just the relevant subject.
  6. If you create images yourself or modify them (maps, diagrams etc.) upload also a version without any text. It will help other Wikipedias use them (translate them).
  7. Don't put photo credits in articles or on the images themselves; put them on the description page.
  8. Use JPEG format for photographic images, with moderate quality settings.
  9. Use PNG format for icons, drawings, maps, flags, and such, unless you only have a JPEG original.
  10. Add good alt text. See alternate text for images.
  11. Avoid offensive images where they are not necessary as part of an encyclopedia. See Wikipedia:profanity.

meta:Image pages discusses technical improvements to the wikipedia software that may simplify much of this subject.


Please note: this is not the official copyright policy - merely a reminder and additional tips

When you upload an image, make sure you own the image, or that it is in the public domain, or that the copyright holder has agreed to license it under the GFDL. Please note its copyright status on the image description page.

Under United States copyright law, all images that were published before January 1, 1923 in the United States are now in the public domain, but this does not apply to images that were created prior to 1923 and published in 1923 or later. The year 1923 has special significance and this date does not roll forward in 2004. This is particularly significant because wikipedia pages, including the non-English language pages, are currently hosted on a server in the United States. However, the interaction of Wikipedia, the GFDL, and international law is still under discussion.

You can find a large selection of places to acquire public domain photos at the public domain image resources.

It is not the job of rank-and-file Wikipedians to police every image for possible copyright infringement. However, if you strongly suspect that an image is a copyright infringement (for example, if there is no information on copyright status on its image description page and you have seen it elsewhere under a copyright notice), then you might list it for deletion (see below).

Deleting Images

  1. remove all uses of the image from articles - make it an orphan
  2. add the copyright infringement notice for images from Boilerplate text to the image description page
  3. list the image on votes for deletion

The image can then be deleted after a week in the normal way - see the policy on permanent deletion of pages.

To actually delete an image after following the above procedure, you must be an administrator. To do so, go to the image description page and click the (del) link. Do not click the Delete this page link, as this will delete the image description page but leave the image intact. To delete the image talk page (if any), you can use the Delete this page link as usual. Images deleted in this way are gone permanently, and can't be restored unless someone happened to keep a backup.

Image titles

Descriptive titles are also useful. Uploading a file named, for example, "Africa.png" is likely to collide with one already present, and doesn't give any clue about its contents. A more descriptive name like "Africa_map_2002.png" is better. Avoid special characters in filenames or excessively long filenames, though, as that might make it difficult for some users to download the files onto their machines.

If you make an improved version of the same image - perhaps a scanned image that you scanned again with a better quality scanner, or you used a better way of reducing the original in scale - then upload it with the same title as the old one. This allows people to easily compare the two images, and avoids the need to delete images or change articles.

Currently there is no easy way to rename an image - you have to just save it and re-upload it.

Photo montages

There are four different approaches to photo montages that different wikipedians take. Different approaches may be suitable for different subjects, or it may be possible to set a standard. The options are:

  1. photos at bottom of article (eg Rachel Corrie, Erotic art in Pompeii)
  2. photos on "images of" page (eg sheep, images of sheep)
  3. photos on an image description page (eg cattle)
  4. no photo montages allowed - only include a limited number of relevant photos

No decision on photo montages has been made yet. Please discuss pros and cons of each option on the talk page.


  • Drawings, icons, political maps, flags and other such images (basically those with large,simple,and continuous blocks of color) should be in PNG format.
  • Photos and photo-like maps should be in JPEG format.
  • Animations should be in animated GIF format.

In general, if you have a good image that is in the wrong format, convert it to the correct format before uploading. However, if you find a map, flag, etc in JPEG format, only convert it to PNG if this reduces the file size without causing artifacts. For further advice on converting JPEG to PNG, see Wikipedia:How to reduce colors for saving a JPEG as PNG.

Most of the maps on the CIA World Factbook website were coded as JPEG, but are now coded as GIF. To update these photos, download the GIF picture from the CIA factbook, recode it in PNG format, and upload it to wikipedia.

Try to avoid cropping or otherwise editing JPEGs too frequently--each edit creates more loss of quality. If you can find an original of a photograph in 16-bit or 24-bit PNG or TIFF, edit that, and save as JPEG before you upload.

Avoid images that mix photographic and iconic content. Though CSS makes it easy to use a PNG overlay on top of a JPEG image, the Wikipedia software does not allow such a technique. Thus, both parts must be in the same file, and the quality of one or the other will suffer.

When uploading SVG images, upload both the SVG source and a rasterised version, and cross-link on the image description page. Direct SVG support is planned (see meta:SVG image support) but not yet implemented.

See also: Wikipedia:How to keep image file sizes as small as possible

Markup Markup for images is quite complicated. This may be improved in the future: see meta:image pages. Here are some examples of typical markup:

left float, no caption <div style="float:left;margin:0 1em 1em 0;">[[image:NAME|alt text]]</div>
right float, no caption <div style="float:right;margin:0 0 1em 1em;">[[image:NAME|alt text]]</div>
left float, with caption <div style="float:left;margin:0 1em 1em 0;text-align:center;">[[image:NAME|alt text]]<br>''Caption''</div>
right float, with caption <div style="float:right;margin:0 0 1em 1em;text-align:center;">[[image:NAME|alt text]]<br>''Caption''</div>
left float, with larger <div style="float:left;margin:0 1em 1em 0;text-align:center;">[[image:SMALL|alt text]]<br>[[media:LARGE|larger version]]</div>
right float, with larger <div style="float:right;margin:0 0 1em 1em;text-align:center;">[[image:SMALL|alt text]]<br>[[media:LARGE|larger version]]</div>
large central picture <center>[[image:NAME|alt text]]<br>''Caption''</center>

If your caption is longer than a few words, you may need to explicitly set the div width. Some browsers adjust the width of the div based on the width of the text, and if there is a large caption, the div may become too large. To solve this problem, simply set the width of the div to the width (in pixels) of the image, like so:

<div style="width: 250px; float:right; margin:0 0 1em 1em; text-align: center;">[[image:NAME|alt text]]<br>''Caption''</div>

(replacing width: 250px; with the correct width of your image. The inclusion of this specification is optional, but recommended if you have a caption longer than a few words. For large amounts of caption text, use text-align:left; to make it left-justified.

Alternate text is optional but recommended. See Alternate text for images for hints on writing good alternate text.


This scalebar is red from 0 to 100 pixels, yellow from 100 to 150, green from 150 to 250, yellow again from 250 to 300 and red again from 300 to 400 pixels.

There are many technical hints in this section that some people may not have the tools or expertise to deal with themselves. If, for example, you find a great image that needs to be cropped, resized, or recoded and you don't know how to do that, ask someone on the Village pump to do it for you.

Scale and crop images to a size appropriate for the article. Keep in mind that many readers are using 800x600 displays, and so images wider than 300-400 pixels may overwhelm the article. Larger images also take more time to download over slow links. Likewise, images smaller than 100 pixels wide may be difficult for users of larger displays to see. An optimum size for images with text flowing around them would be 150-250 pixels. Images without text on the side can be wider.

Of course image complexity is an important factor to consider when sizing images. Don't use tiny "thumbnail" images linked to a large image--use an image of the appropriate size; adding a link to a larger version (perhaps the original source) is fine as well, but don't upload the larger one unless it is really needed.


When resizing large pictures to smaller ones:

  • Crop out unimportant background.
  • Please preserve the original aspect ratio, streched images look non-proportional and confusing.
  • Consider using an integer ratio such as 1:2 or 1:3, which may produce better results.
  • Resize from the largest resolution available - if you have a 2048pixel version, work from that, not the 800pixel version uploaded.
  • Consider file size as well as image size - sometimes a version with more pixels but fewer bytes is preferable.
  • Consider using the most advanced resample filter (such as Lancoz, B-Spline etc.) this will render the smaller image in the highest quality possible and will avoid artifacts such as aliasing or color reduction.
  • When making a thumbnailed version to replace someone else's (presumably inferior) thumbnail, please keep the same name as the original.

Revision history of articles containing images

Old versions of articles do not show corresponding old versions of images, but the latest ones, unless the file names of the images have changed.

Recommended software

These software packages have been recommended by wikipedians for use in image manipulation:

Related topics

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