We propose a method for automatic extraction and labeling of semantically meaningful image objects using "learning by example" and threshold-free multi-level image segmentation. The proposed method scans through images, each of which is pre-segmented into a hierarchical uniformity tree, to seek and label objects that are similar to an example object presented by the user. By representing images with stacks of multi-level segmentation maps, objects can be extracted in the segmentation map level with adequate detail. Experiments have shown that the proposed multi-level image segmentation results in significant reduction in computation complexity for object extraction and labeling (compared to a single fine-level segmentation) by avoiding unnecessary tests of combinations in finer levels. The multi-level segmentation-based approach also achieves better accuracy in detection and labeling of small objects. (C) 2003 Pattern Recognition Society. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.