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In this paper, a new approach to the image retrieval problem is presented, that uses edge potential functions (EPF) and genetic algorithms (GA). The method allows a user to draw a rough sketch of the shape and to find or rank the images in a database that contain a similar shape at any position, rotation and scaling factor. It is explained how GAs allow to exploit the capability of EPFs to attract a sketch contour as a result, the algorithm provides the set of geometrical transformations corresponding to the best match, and a confidence factor about the presence of a matching object. The method has been widely tested achieving very satisfactory results.