Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

:iconbit-sinna: More from Bit-sinna

Featured in Collections

Tutorials and resources by HoshinoDestiny


Submitted on
June 27, 2013


7,220 (6 today)
24 (who?)

Keywords on deviantART: a guide

Thu Jun 27, 2013, 4:41 AM

This guide is based on a project written for an 8th semester course in Knowledge Organising Systems and Processes at the Royal Danish School of Library and Information Science

The project was based on image indexing literature and included an investigation of keywords from 107 deviations from deviantART. The results of this investigation was compared with previous studies of what types of keywords users add to their images and what types of keywords is used in image searches. 

The guide begins with a very brief summary of the recommendations with examples. Afterwards follows a more thorough guide for those who are interested in the reasoning behind the recommendations and some of the results of our project.


In summary

Add keywords that describe:

  • What your deviation is

e.g. photograph painting poem plushie necklace animation 

  • What your deviation is of. 

      This includes both what your deviation is of in general:

e.g. woman cat flower dancing dance walking city beach kitchen sunset spring christmas

      As well as what your deviation is of specifically:

e.g. jennifer lawrence grumpy cat amsterdam the moon sherlock holmes

  •  What your deviation is about.

e.g. love mythology freedom war mother earth scary cute heaven hell post-apocalypse


  • Synonyms.

e.g. photo photograph 

  • Both British and American versions of words.

e.g. colorful colourful

  • Keywords taken from the category you've placed your deviation in.

e.g. paintings pop art still life fantasy sci-fi

  • Keywords you personally would use in a search.

 Don't use:

  • Keywords that has nothing to do with your deviation.
  • Commas between your keywords.

What are keywords? Why should I add them to my deviations?

Keywords are descriptive words that help others find your deviations via the Search engine here on deviantART.

FAQ #70: What is the format for the Keywords in deviations and what are they for?

On the submission page you'll find a field where it says Keywords (use spaces between keywords).

You are not required to add keywords to your deviations. It is however a good idea to do so if you want others to be able to find your work.

When someone searches for deviations on deviantART they search in deviation descriptions, titles and keywords. 

In our study we found that the deviation descriptions are often used for communicating about other things than the deviation. Furthermore we saw that deviation titles often don't describe what can be seen in the deviation.

If your title and description isn't descriptive of your deviation it is a good idea to make the effort of adding good keywords. Adding good keywords helps make sure that your deviation turns up in searches where it is relevant.

Which keywords should I add?

When uploading a deviation it can sometimes be difficult to think of keywords to add, but there will always be some relevant keywords you can use. When adding keywords, try to keep in mind what kinds of words you use when you search for images. Besides this there are some general guidelines you can keep in mind to help inspire you when adding keywords.

1. Add keywords that describe what your deviation is. This could be a photo, a watercolour painting, a poem, a necklace, or something else entirely.

2. Add keywords that describe the tools and materials you used to make your deviation. This could be Photoshop, Flash, Copic markers, graphiteyarn, mohair, nickel-free brass or something else.  

3. Add keywords that describe what your deviation is of in general terms and if possible in specific terms. This means any people, animals (and other beings), objects, actions, events, places and times depicted. In general terms your deviation might be a painting of a man standing in front of a building in the summer. More specifically it might be a painting of President Barack Obama standing in front of the White House on the 4th of July.

Whether or not you can use specific keywords depends on what your deviation depicts, but it is always possible to add keywords that describe your deviation in general terms. Both the general type of keywords and the more specific type of keywords are important, if you want others to be able to find your deviation. Even what an abstract painting is of can be described in general terms by using keywords that refers to its colours and shapes.  

Previous studies have shown that the general type of keywords, particularly the ones describing people, animals, beings and objects, were the ones most used in image searches. This means that it is positive that our study also found this type of keywords to be the most commonly used type of keywords on deviantART.

4. Add keywords that describe what your deviation is about. What your deviation is about is all the abstract concepts that can't be directly seen by looking at your deviation, but can be interpreted from it. A drawing of a heart can be about love, romance or Valentine's Day, and if it is broken it can be about heartbreak.

Another type of abstract keywords is the ones describing the impressions you get from your deviation and its content. You can for instance have a drawing of a cute monster, a scary monster or a depressing monster, or a painting that is intended to make the viewer feel happy, sad or nostalgic.

Previous research has shown that in image searches abstract words are often used in combination with keywords describing image's contents in general terms. This means that it is important to both use keywords that describe what your artwork is of and what it is about. 

Other things to keep in mind

It is not necessary to add keywords that describe parts of a whole if you have already added keywords that describe the whole. For instance, if you add the keyword face it is not necessary to add words such as lips, eyes or nose unless they have particular significance in the deviation.  

The category you chose for your deviation can usually give inspiration for a few keywords. And since the categories themselves can only be browsed and don't automatically function as searchable keywords, it is always a good idea to take advantage of this inspiration. If you've added a deviation to the category Traditional Art > Paintings > Pop Art, then it won't turn up in a keyword search for Pop Art, unless you also add Pop Art in the keyword field (or the title or description). 

In our study, we found only a few deviations where words from the categories were used as keywords. This is unfortunate, as previous research has shown that the type of words that can be found in deviantART's categories are often used in image searches. 

One last thing to keep in mind when adding any kind of keyword is to use synonyms and alternative ways of expressing or writing something whenever it is possible. E.g. photo and photograph, fan art and fanart, colorful and colourful. This is important because the search engine on deviantART only looks for the exact words entered into the search field. So if someone searches using the keyword colourful they will not find the deviation where you added the keyword colorful, unless you also used colourful in the title, description or keyword field.

If you have any questions about our project, our findings or keywords and searching in general you are more than welcome to ask. :)

Skin by Ikue (modified by Bit-sinna)
Add a Comment:
CashKingD Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hello, and thanks for the guide. I have a question: at what point should I stop adding tags? Like, when does it get redundant? 15 tags? 20? More? Thanks
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
As long as your tags are relevant for your image there is not a cut-off for when adding extra tags become redundant. But I can imagine that it will often become difficult to add more relevant tags once you have reached 15 or 20+ tags. :)
rainbowideasyt Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014

So commas are not recommended, what happens to keyword phrases?

Example: A picture of a cat chasing mouse

Keywords I want: cat chasing mouse, cat hunting, cat running
Keywords I put into keyword section: cat chasing mouse cat hunting cat running (like this...?)
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist

Keyword phrases are treated as single keywords, and for this reason the order of the keywords does not matter. So if you want the keywords you mention, you would only have to add the following to your keywords field:

cat mouse chasing hunting running 

This way your deviation will show up in searches for:

cat chasing mouse

cat running

mouse running

cat hunting

hunting cat



and so on...

I hope that answers your question, but if not, please let me know. :)
rainbowideasyt Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014
I see, very simple indeed. Thanks for the explanation!
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem. :)
TheValentineTiger Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Do you happen to know if grammar matters? It would be slightly irritating to have to put 'don't' and 'dont'.

Also, if I a word like 'sparkles' will it also search for images with the tag 'sparkle'?
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Grammar does matter quite a bit, I'm afraid. So if you want to cover all bases in regards to "don't" you will have to include the following so they are present in either your title, your description or your keywords:

don't dont do not

While "dont" isn't gramatically correct, a quick search shows that it quite widely used, and can as such still be a valuable keyword.

In regards to singular/plural and different word endings in general: At the moment a search for "sparkles" will not return results for "sparkle", so if both is relevant for your image, I'd suggest adding both.

Sorry for the slow response, I hope it has been of some help. :)
TheValentineTiger Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
That's ok, as you can see, I'm not the fastest responder either.

Thanks for the help! Presumably the rules still apply the same with the new hashtags?
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem. The same rules should apply, however until the new tags are fully implemented it will be impossible to say precisely how they will work. But I'll update the guide when things settle down enough. :)
Add a Comment: