While browsing through the Gmail settings, I found out that I could select a profile image which is shown to my email recipients. How does it work?

  • Will it attach an image to every message?
  • If not, will the image be shown to non-Gmail users? How?

I recently received an email from non-Gmail account and the new Gmail design showed sender's image next to the message. After googling the sender's name, I found out the image is actually the same he uses in his Google profile—though I can't say if it is the profile image.

Does Gmail automatically search Google Profiles or is there an email standard I'm not aware of? Looking at the raw email, though, I see no references (attachments, binary data, urls) to the profile image, so it probably isn't the latter.

Is the Gmail image independent of the Google Profiles image?

†) I'm also sure it is not a Google Apps for domain -account.

  • 1
    Anyone knows how to set an image for email addresses that are not Gmail or Google Apps? Would you need to create a Google Profile? Do they also support Gravatar? Something else? I can't find an official resource on this.
    – Lode
    Nov 2, 2011 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


As you've noted, the Google support page has information about uploading profile pictures. Specifically, the page notes that you can make the choice as to the people that can see your profile picture:

You can select whether you'd like all Gmail users to see your picture, or only those who you've allowed to chat with you, using the radio buttons next to your uploaded photo on your Settings page.

  • Visible to everyone means anyone who you email, or who emails you, can see your picture. If you have a public Google profile without a photo and you choose this option, your picture will be used on your Google profile and will be visible to others there.
  • Visible only to people I can chat with includes users who have been given permission to see when you're online and to chat with you.


If you have a Google Profile, changes made to your Gmail picture will be reflected in your Google Profile.

Looks like the Gmail picture and Google Profile picture are linked. However, from my reading of the support documentation, your profile picture will only be visible if the email recipient that's reading your email is using Gmail.

One thing that you could check is to see if you've associated the non-Gmail account that sent you an email with a Contact. I have contacts that with multiple email accounts (both Gmail and non-Gmail). The picture for the Contact appears to automatically show the Gmail profile picture.

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    But regarding "Visible to everyone means anyone who you email, or who emails you, can see your picture." How do non-Gmail users see the picture? How is it sent? Nov 2, 2011 at 16:36
  • 2
    @koiyu, I interpreted "visible to everyone" as a reference to only Gmail users. I tested with a Yahoo account - I didn't see a Gmail/Google profile picture when I sent my Yahoo account an email from Gmail. Did you check to see if the non-Gmail email sender's Google account is associated to the same contact as the non-Gmail email account? If it is, then the explanation is simple - Gmail uses Google's data to put up the profile pic.
    – JW8
    Nov 3, 2011 at 21:27

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