This article describes how to perform image processing in R using the magick R package, which is binded to ImageMagick library: the most comprehensive open-source image processing library available.

The magick R package supports:

  • Many common formats: png, jpeg, tiff, pdf, etc
  • Different manipulations types: rotate, scale, crop, trim, flip, blur, etc.


All operations are vectorized using the Magick++ STL meaning they operate either on a single frame or a series of frames for working with layers, collages, or animation.

In RStudio images are automatically previewed when printed to the console, resulting in an interactive editing environment.


  • Installation
  • Load the package
  • Formats supported by ImageMagick on your system
  • Image editing: Read, Write and Convert images
  • Image transformations
    • Cut and edit
    • Text annotations
  • Layers
    • Stack layers on top of each other
    • Combining or appending images
    • Create GIF animation
  • Read more



  • For Mac OS or Windowns:



  • For Linux, you can install from source


  1. Install system requirements:
sudo apt-get install -y libmagick++-dev
  1. Install the R package

Load the package


Formats supported by ImageMagick on your system

## List of 21
##  $ version           :Class 'numeric_version'  hidden list of 1
##   ..$ : int [1:4] 6 9 6 6
##  $ modules           : logi FALSE
##  $ cairo             : logi TRUE
##  $ fontconfig        : logi TRUE
##  $ freetype          : logi TRUE
##  $ fftw              : logi FALSE
##  $ ghostscript       : logi FALSE
##  $ jpeg              : logi TRUE
##  $ lcms              : logi FALSE
##  $ libopenjp2        : logi FALSE
##  $ lzma              : logi TRUE
##  $ pangocairo        : logi TRUE
##  $ pango             : logi TRUE
##  $ png               : logi TRUE
##  $ rsvg              : logi TRUE
##  $ tiff              : logi TRUE
##  $ webp              : logi TRUE
##  $ wmf               : logi FALSE
##  $ x11               : logi FALSE
##  $ xml               : logi TRUE
##  $ zero-configuration: logi TRUE

Image editing: Read, Write and Convert images

Key R functions:

image_read(path, density = NULL, depth = NULL, strip = FALSE)

image_write(image, path = NULL, format = NULL, quality = NULL,
  depth = NULL, density = NULL, comment = NULL, flatten = FALSE)

image_convert(image, format = NULL, type = NULL, colorspace = NULL,
  depth = NULL, antialias = NULL)

The input image file format can be a file path, URL, or raw vector with image data.

Read an image into R.

frink <- image_read("")
## print(frink)

Example of image

# Shows some meta data about the image
##   format width height colorspace matte filesize
## 1    PNG   220    445       sRGB  TRUE    73494

Export an image in any format to a file on disk. You can specify the format parameter to convert the image to another format.

# Render png to jpeg
image_write(frink, path = "frink.jpg", format = "jpeg", quality = 75)

If path is a filename, image_write returns path on success such that the result can be piped into function taking a file path.

Convert image formats. You can internally convert the image to another format earlier, before applying transformations. This can be useful if your original format is lossy.

frink_jpeg <- image_convert(frink, "jpeg")
##   format width height colorspace matte filesize
## 1   JPEG   220    445       sRGB  TRUE        0

Note that size is currently 0 because ImageMagick is lazy (in the good sense) and does not render until it has to.

Image preview.

  • Magick images are automatically displayed in RStudio viewer
  • You can also use image_browse() to open the image in your system’s default application for a given type.
  • On Linux you can use image_display() to preview the image in an X11 window.

Images preview

Image transformations

Cut and edit

Several of the transformation functions take an geometry parameter which requires a special syntax of the form AxB+C+D where each element is optional. Some examples:

  • image_trim(image): Trims margin.
  • image_crop(image, geometry = "100x150+50"): crop out width:100px and height:150px starting +50px from the left
  • image_scale(image, geometry = "200"): resize proportionally to width: 200px
  • image_scale(image, grometry = "x200"): resize proportionally to height: 200px
  • image_fill(image, color = "blue", point = "+100+200"): flood fill with blue starting at the point at x:100, y:200
  • image_border(frink, color = "red", geometry = "20x10"): adds a border of 20px left+right and 10px top+bottom

Change image border and background:

# Add 20px left/right and 10px top/bottom
image_border(image_background(frink, "hotpink"), "#000080", "20x10")

Change image border and background

Trim margins:


Crop the image. Options are here width:100px and height:150px starting +50px from the left

image_crop(frink, "100x150+50")

Crop an image

Resize the image:

# Width: 300px
image_scale(frink, "300") 
# Height: 300px
image_scale(frink, "x300") 

Rotate or mirror the image

image_rotate(frink, 45)

Rotate or miror images

Modulate and paint an image:

# Change the brightness, the saturation and the Hue
image_modulate(frink, brightness = 80, saturation = 120, hue = 90)

# Paint the shirt in blue
image_fill(frink, "blue", point = "+100+200", fuzz = 20)

Modulate and paint images

With image_fill we can flood fill starting at pixel point. The fuzz parameter allows for the fill to cross for adjacent pixels with similarish colors. Its value must be between 0 and 256^2 specifying the max geometric distance between colors to be considered equal. Here we give professor frink a blue shirt.

Text annotations

# Add some text
  frink, text = "I like R!", size = 70, color = "green",
  gravity = "southwest"

# Customize text
  frink, text = "CONFIDENTIAL", size = 30, 
  color = "red", boxcolor = "pink",
  degrees = 60, location = "+50+100",
  font = "Times"

Text annotations

Fonts that are supported on most platforms include "sans""mono""serif""Times""Helvetica""Trebuchet""Georgia""Palatino"or "Comic Sans".


Stack layers on top of each other

Import and scale images:

bigdata <- image_read('')
frink <- image_read("")
logo <- image_read("")
img <- c(bigdata, logo, frink)
img <- image_scale(img, "300x300")
##   format width height colorspace matte filesize
## 1   JPEG   300    225       sRGB FALSE        0
## 2    PNG   300    232       sRGB  TRUE        0
## 3    PNG   148    300       sRGB  TRUE        0

Print images:

# Prints images on top of one another

# Create a single image which has the size of the first image

# Adding images
image_flatten(img, 'Add')

# Modulate images
image_flatten(img, 'Modulate')

# Minus
image_flatten(img, 'Minus')

Stack layers

Combining or appending images

Put the image frames next to each other:

image_append(image_scale(img, "x200"))

Append Images

Stack images on top of each other:

image_append(image_scale(img, "100"), stack = TRUE) 

Stack Images

Composing allows for combining two images on a specific position:

bigdatafrink <- image_scale(image_rotate(image_background(frink, "none"), 300), "x200")
image_composite(image_scale(bigdata, "x400"), bigdatafrink, offset = "+180+100")

Image processing

Create GIF animation

Animating image frames:

image_animate(image_scale(img, "200x200"), fps = 1, dispose = "previous")

Gif animation

Creates a sequence of n images that gradually morph one image into another.

newlogo <- image_scale(image_read(""))
oldlogo <- image_scale(image_read(""))
image_resize(c(oldlogo, newlogo), '200x150!') %>%
  image_background('white') %>%
  image_morph() %>%

Gif animation and Morth

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