Abstract: The broad access to digital cameras, personal computers and Internet, has lead to the generation of large volumes of data in digital form. If we want an effective usage of this huge amount of data, we need automatic tools to allow the retrieval of relevant information. Image data is a particular type of information that requires specific techniques of description and indexing. The computer vision field that studies these kind of techniques is called Content-Based Image Retrieval (CBIR). Instead of using text-based descriptions, a system of CBIR deals on properties that are inherent in the images themselves. Hence, the feature-based description provides a universal via of image expression in contrast with the more than 6000 languages spoken in the world.
Nowadays, the CBIR is a dynamic focus of research that has derived in important applications for many professional groups. The potential fields of application can be such diverse as: the medical domain, the crime prevention, the protection of the intel- lectual property, the journalism, the graphic design, the web search, the preservation of cultural heritage, etc.
The definition on the role of the user is a key point in the development of a CBIR application. The user is in charge to formulate the queries from which the images are retrieved. We have centered our attention on the image retrieval techniques that use queries based on pictorial information. We have identified a taxonomy composed by four main query paradigms: query-by-selection, query-by-iconic-composition, query- by-sketch and query-by-paint. Each one of these paradigms allows a different degree of user expressivity. From a simple image selection, to a complete painting of the query, the user takes control of the input in the CBIR system.
Along the chapters of this thesis we have analyzed the influence that each query paradigm imposes in the internal operations of a CBIR system. Moreover, we have proposed a set of contributions that we have exemplified in the context of a final application.