All The Tropes:How to Pick A Good Image

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
If you last read this page before January 2022, please re-read the section "Copyright, Fair Use, and Everything In-Between". We have added a mention of a new wiki policy.

So, you want to find a good image for a page. The image is a great attention-grabber; it's likely to be the first thing a person sees when the page loads. In a page about the work, a good image will introduce the work; in a trope page, it will illustrate the trope and help the reader understand it. Just like a good name, a good image follows the mantra "clear, concise, and witty" (in descending order of importance: clarity is key, the other two are merely Bonus Points). There are a lot of good ways to go about making sure our images are clear, concise, and witty... let's look at them.

Page Images

  • There is an entire forum section dedicated to finding good images. If you're not sure an image is good, think you've found a better one than what's on an article, or just want to open the door for discussion, stop by and start a thread.
  • Page Images is fairly good at picking images. If an image was chosen by Page Images and you think it should be changed, don't just unilaterally replace it; start a new thread. The Page Images crowd usually leaves a commented-out note about this in the page source.
  • When you make a thread, be sure to use the actual location of the trope or work. The wiki won't tag the article if you use a redirect or don't spell it correctly.

Selecting an image

  • When multiple good images are proposed for a trope with no consensus on which one should be used, polling users in a thread in the Page Images forum is really the only option.
  • The purpose of the poll is to decide between multiple images that are all equally illustrative of the trope. If an image has been determined not to illustrate the trope (or to illustrate the wrong trope), don't include it as a candidate.
  • Polls are generally left open until voting slows down. All polls must be open for voting for at least three "business days" -- e.g. if the third day falls during a weekend, the poll is left open until Monday, as forum traffic tends to slow during the weekend.

Safe For Work

  • The wiki aims to be safe for work in its images. Avoid Gorn, nudity, and Squick. (This means that pages about pornographic works might end up with no images at all.)

Copyright, Fair Use, and Everything In-Between

  • Pictures look nicer without "station bugs" (watermark-like logos in the corner, added by a broadcasting TV station or streaming service).
  • "Artist scribbles" and signatures are fine.
  • Taking screenshots or scans of this wiki for illustrative purposes (or any other purposes) falls under the same Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license that the wiki itself falls under. (That's what the "Share Alike" part of the licence means - you can't change the terms when you make a derivative work such as a screenshot.)
  • Real Life pictures: although This Wiki documents devices in fiction, sometimes a real life picture is the best available. (Schmuck Bait is an example.)
  • Artist permission is always nice to have. If you want to use an artist's work as a page image, it is common courtesy to send an email to the artist and ask for their permission. Here is an example that was sent and responded to with permission:

Hello Dalgarra,
I am seeking permission to use this picture of yours for the page image of the trope, Villain Decay. If this is alright, please respond to the email or comment in the discussion here. If you wish us to not use your image, it will be changed, if you give permission but want a specific link please respond.

  • Original art (from DeviantArt, Flickr, etc.) may be licensed under Creative Commons, GNU Free Documentation, or another similar "re-use in particular circumstances is free" license. If you see that, go ahead and use the picture but be sure to follow the terms; for CC, especially follow BY (give the artist credit -- a link back to their website in the caption generally suffices and is a good thing to do anyway) and Remix (if it doesn't have this it means you aren't supposed to alter the image; not even resizing). SA (share-alike) might or might not be covered by this wiki's CC license, depending on what other terms are present in the license. NC (non-commercial) is not covered by this wiki's CC license.
  • TV Tropes added NC to their CC license in 2012, which is why we can't use something copied from The Other Tropes Wiki after they changed their license to include it. If you really want to use an image on TV Tropes that was added after 2012, you'll have to find the original image and use it instead. (Tineye is your friend here, but isn't perfect.)

Speaking of TV Tropes, their version of this page as of the fork included the phrases "If an image has a little copyright stamp (©) on it, we can't use it" and "The same goes for watermarks of ownership". These statements are Artistic License Law (of the type "'we didn't know it was copyrighted' is a legal defense"[1]) that bear no relation to actual copyright law. It is the opinion of All The Tropes that we have the same "fair dealing" and "fair use" rights that other encyclopedic wikis (such as Wikipedia) have to use limited excerpts from copyrighted works for the purpose of review and analysis, as long as we identify that we are using images under fair use. (This "encyclopedic" usage, by the way, is why we come down hard on people who add false information to the wiki - allowing one feeble joke is not worth us needing to delete tens of thousands of images.)

Also, as per this forum discussion, All The Tropes prefers using Public Domain and Creative Commons licensed images when they exist. Please use copyrighted images only where there is no other alternative.

Images for Trope pages

  • Visual Aid: Unlike Works, page images for trope pages are there to help explain the trope, not provide an example above the example line.
  • Why are Comic Books, Manga, Newspaper Comics, and Web Comics so popular?: Because the addition of Speech Bubbles allows the image to include Dialogue on top of visualizations, something which multimedia works lack. This, combined with a distinct lack of Motion Blur, leans toward a dominance of these images.
  • The image is not an example entry: the part of the page above the "examples" line is for explanation and related tropes, the part below is for examples. The image is above this line, unless it's too tall. Being an example, or even the greatest/most triumphant/Ur Example, does not make it good at conveying the trope to other people. The goal of an image is to Show, Don't Tell.
  • Captions can help: A picture can need a caption to make the final leap, as long as it tells the story right up to the point where the caption closes the gap.
  • Memes: Resist the urge. (Unless, of course, the page is about that meme.)
  • How can I tell if it's a good picture if I'm very familiar with the work? Ask yourself "If I had no exposure to the source work, would this image still make sense to me?" If you're not sure about the answer, go ask in Page Images, there are bound to be a few people who wouldn't know it from a hole in the ground who can give you some perspective.
  • A composite picture: Sometimes an image consisting of several examples of this trope shows how a common trope manifests in different works. This works better with tropes that are in Spectacle category and some of the video game tropes. Footnotes can be used to list the works the examples are from.
  • What makes a good image (and caption)?
    • Show, Don't Tell. Visual aids are great to help explain the trope.
    • Synergy between caption and image where they work together very well to show what's going on. The proper balance is commonly that the picture (being the first thing seen) works as the set up to a joke, with the caption functioning as the punchline.
    • Quotes from the same work or instance tend to make good captions.
    • Snark, while not discouraged, is a good second to a meaningful quote.

Things to avoid:

  • Just a Face and a Caption: The visual equivalent of a Zero Context Example. Most of the time, they only make sense if you're already familiar with the work and the trope. Read the link for more details about why this is a bad idea.
    • "If you read the example, this makes perfect sense" is not a good way to explain the trope. In this case, the example is essentially a long caption.
  • Heavy stylized drawing style. If a picture is heavily stylized (and not to illustrate a trope about something being stylized), it's harder for people to decipher what is going on in there.
  • Wall of Text. If the image is nothing but a paragraph of text with a character drawn so that there's somewhere to stick a Speech Bubble, it's not a great image. It's a quote that page readers (used by blind people) can't read.
  • Demotivators have a current kill order on them - again, page readers can't read them. If you find one, the preferred response is to cut the image out of the middle and put the text as a caption, as a placeholder. If you're not sure it's good without it, bring it up in Page Images.
  • Entry Pimping. The image is not there solely to bring your favorite work to the attention of others.[2]
  • Spoilers. There's no code to make an image disappear when the image pops up and most people's eyes are immediately drawn to images, meaning they can't unsee the image. This applies to pages that say they contain unmarked spoilers, too - casual readers will see the image before the notice.
  • Images based on a Literal-Minded interpretation of the trope's title can be misleading. For example, Pet the Dog is not about petting dogs, it's a metaphor, which is a reason that the page features a kitten instead.
  • "X shows us how it's done", "One of these things is not like the others", and other meme-tastic captions are worse than nothing. Captions are not mandatory.

Not Picturable:

  • Sometimes a trope is too text- or plot-dependent for an image to work, and the better option is to just leave the page imageless than put an image that would confuse the reader even further. Don't fret, it happens.

Images for Work pages

  • The most common picture for a works page is a title screen or box art. It's what most people will see when they look in the store for a copy, and images are fairly easy to come across.
  • Official promotional art such as movie posters are common, including cast pictures. This is particularly common when the actual cover is a flat color and a logo or something similarly minimalist.
  • Unlike many other types of work, Fan Fiction, Web Comics, and Web Original have relatively easy-to-access creators. If you want to know what they'd prefer, send them a simple email with links to both the site and the page in question. For instance, this was how the page images for xkcd and Darths and Droids were chosen.

Images for Creator pages

  • The most common picture for a works page is a photo (or painting or sketch) of the creator. This is relatively easy to find when the creator is a single person, but even large groups sometimes have promotional images of themselves available somewhere.
  • A picture of the creator doing some creating or with a creation is better than a simple profile shot of the creator. For example, which tells you more about this writer: Arthur C. Clarke in profile, or Arthur C. Clarke on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Using images on the wiki

Main article: All The Tropes:Uploading and Adding an Image to a Page
  • Pages with quotes should have the image on the right side (you can learn how to do this on Help:Formatting).
    • Pages without quotes should have the image on the right side, too.
  • If the image is rather tall, move it to the right as well. Note: This is the default in MediaWiki wikis such as ours, so there's no need to explicitly say it.
  • Modifying images to work better or building a collage are allowed and sometimes preferred over individual, unmodified pictures.
    • Newspaper comic strips and web comic strips in particular are frequently modified to fit within the 350-400 pixel width. If a comic is too wide, a common solution is to stack the panels vertically.
    • Single images are usually sufficient; however, with some tropes, especially those that deal with changes or comparisons, it may be necessary to have a multipart image.
  • Troper-made images are fine. If you have artistic skills and would like to make an image for a page, go for it; just look at the List of Pages Artists Can Illustrate to get started. Dug Too Deep is one such example.
  • If there's more than one good image, feel free to start an Image Links subpage for the page.

Quality of image

  • Some images simply have bad image quality (compression artifacts, pixelation, and so on). This detracts from what the image is showing, and simple quality upgrades are something you don't even need to ask to replace. For example: Giant Enemy Crab had this image that was replaced with this higher-resolution copy of the same image. No fanfare, just a quick replacement, and on your way.
  • While there are no size limits, sizes more than 350 or 400 pixels wide will crowd out text, especially on smaller screens. Either resize the image before uploading it, or use the image width parameter for the File markup (with the Thumb parameter).
  • If you need to resize an image (which you shouldn't need to unless it's huge - you can set the image width parameter for the File markup in most cases) and don't like working with MS paint or other programs, you can use pic resize to do it.


  • Most images don't have the title of the work in them -- which is a problem, since people will likely want to know what work an image is from. Fortunately, we have ways of getting around this. The most common method is to simply make the image clickable. See Help:Formatting for how to do this.
  • Multisource works: When an image is a parody of another, such as a gaming web comic or something, the preferred potholing method is the image pointing to the parody source, and the caption pointing to the parodied work. If there's multiple source works, a footnote with a list of the characters named and potholed is preferred. Most Common Superpower is an example.
  • Non-potholed images that you've found can be potholed to the appropriate work if you know it.
  • If a Real Life image is chosen, you can either pothole to Real Life or don't pothole it at all.
  • If an image is not potholed or sourced in some way, bring it up in the Page Images forum.
  1. It isn't.
  2. Of course, if your favorite work actually does have a better picture for a trope, that's a different matter.