Colours of a tag

I’ve been expanding upon the experiments I presented at VALA earlier this year where I built a search by colour application for the National Library of Australia. Out of curiosity I built the same search by colour application using approximately 35,000 images from Flickr Commons.

Since building these applications I’ve been wondering, do certain topics (or tags) also relate to a colour? Does a search for Paris return the colourful images your imagination expects? Are images tagged with red really red?

With a bit of help from the Flickr API, I’ve built an application that queries the 50 most interesting Flickr Commons images for a particular tag, and displays the colours of these images. It also attempts to create a definitive colour for the tag by averaging the colours out.

As you explore the tags more & more you tend to find that most tags return an average muddy brown colour. I suspect this is partly to do with many of the images being black & white & skewing the process.

It’s really interesting to explore a few different subjects and seeing what results appear.


Can we find an colour gamut for a format?

Cities and countries

Do different cities or countries have different colours associated with them?


Do objects have particular colours associated with them? Take a bridge. Why do bridges exist? They exist to allow us to go over a river or a valley. With that logic we should expect photos tagged with bridge to have a reasonably large amount of green or blue in the image.

Sure enough, we get quite a few images with green and blue in them.


Of course colours are a natural subject to test.





Have a go

Feel free to explore the application and find some interesting results. The URL is totally hackable if the tag you want to test isn’t part of the initial tag cloud.



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4 responses to “Colours of a tag”

  1. Bobby

    This is CRAZY. You’re finding solutions to questions we didn’t even know were there.

  2. This is fascinating, Paul. Demonstrates to me there is no cure for imagination. This post has made a delightful end of the week for me.



  3. I have experimented things like this with my own photos on my hard drive. My goal was to see depending on the time of the year, or the country I was, were there specific colours?

    I haven’t finished and your code seems to be a lot better than mine. see for the python code

    I’m curious about your code.

  4. Ellen Forsyth

    This is so much fun. Thank you for this.