Gimp::PixelRgn - Operate on raw pixels in powerful, efficient way.


  use Gimp;
  use PDL; # to do sensible things with the pixels
  my $i = Gimp::Image->new(10,10,RGB);
  my $l = $i->layer_new(10,10,RGBA_IMAGE,"new layer",100,VALUE_MODE);
  my $gd = $l->get;
  my $region = $gd->pixel_rgn(0,0,10,10,0,0);
  my $piddle = $region->get_pixel($x,$y);
  print $piddle."\n"; # stringified piddle is readable


Perl interface to GIMP's low-level pixel-access functions. In Gimp-Perl (mirroring how GIMP does it), to access these functions you must get a Gimp::GimpDrawable from a Gimp::Drawable. You can then get either a Gimp::Tile or Gimp::PixelRgn object, and work with that. Since the tile interface is very low-level, it is not further documented here. The Gimp::PixelRgn methods take and return PDL objects to handle the data, with a few exceptions.


It is vital to note that while GIMP uses the GimpRGB format (each colour a floating point number from 0 to 1.0) to pass colours around as parameters, the pixel functions all work on bytes, integers with values from 0 to 255. Depending on the type of layer/image colour mode (e.g. RGB vs indexed), the meaning of the integers' values may also vary.


In GIMP, drawables (also known as PARAM_DRAWABLE or Gimp::Drawable) are things you can draw on: layers or channels. While in GIMP most functions named gimp_drawable_something operate on drawable_IDs, some functions (notably the ones operating on raw pixel data!) need a GimpDrawable instead. In Gimp-Perl, this distinction is made explicit in that every function that operates on a GimpDrawable is no longer called gimp_drawable_something but gimp_gdrawable_something.

Every drawable has a corresponding GimpDrawable, you can get it with the gimp_drawable_get function:

  my $gdrawable = $drawable->get;

When the $gdrawable is destroyed, it is automatically flushed & detached, so you don't need to do this yourself. Do not call this method more than once; each time it is called, GIMP makes a new internal list of tiles, which will cause mayhem if done more than once.


GIMP's PixelRgns are rectangular parts of a drawable. You can access single pixels, rows, columns and rectangles within these regions.

To create a pixel region, you first get a GimpDrawable structure as above. Then you can create a Gimp::PixelRgn structure:

  $region = $gdrawable->pixel_rgn(0,0,50,30,0,0); # read-only
  $region = $gdrawable->pixel_rgn(0,0,50,30,1,1); # read-write
  $region = $gdrawable->pixel_rgn(0,0,50,30,1,0); # means undo won't work!

The last two parameters are respectively dirty and shadow. Be warned that if you set shadow to be true, the "shadow" tile(s) start out as all-zero. If you only set some, e.g. with set_pixel, then once you have called $drawable->merge_shadow($undo), nearly all the drawable's contents will be zeros.

The main "use case" for this functionality is to have a read-only "source" region, and a writable "destination" region:

  $gdrawable = $drawable->get;
  $src = $gdrawable->pixel_rgn(0,0,50,30,0,0); # read-only
  $dst = $gdrawable->pixel_rgn(0,0,50,30,1,1); # read-write
  my ($x,$y,$w,$h)=($dst->x,$dst->y,$dst->w,$dst->h);
  my $pdl = $src->get_rect($x,$y,$w,$h);
  $pdl += 7; # trivial operation
  $dst->set_rect($pdl, $x, $y);

However, it is possible to use dirty=1, shadow=0; see the "setpixel" example below. The GIMP API document says that it "could prevent the Undo-System from working as expected".

The following functions return pixel data in PDL objects:

  $piddle = $region->get_pixel(45,60); # return the pixel at (45|60)
  $piddle = $region->get_row(45,60,10); # return ten horizontal pixels
  $piddle = $region->get_col(45,60,10); # same but vertically
  $piddle = $region->get_rect(45,60,10,12); # a 10x12 rectangle

And the corresponding set-functions:

  $region->set_pixel($piddle,45,60);    # set pixel at (45|60)
  $region->set_row($piddle,45,60);      # set a row
  $region->set_col($piddle,45,60);      # set a column
  $region->set_rect($piddle,45,60);     # set a whole rectangle

Please note that (unlike the C functions they call), the size arguments (width and/or height) are omitted; they are calculated from the piddle.

The dimensions of the piddle are, for a rectangle (due to how GIMP stores the data):

  ($bytesperpixel, $width, $height) = $r->get_rect($l->bounds)->dims;

For a row or column:

  ($bytesperpixel, $width) = $r->get_row(0, 0, $width)->dims;
  ($bytesperpixel, $height) = $r->get_col(0, 0, $height)->dims;


Functions demonstrating getting and setting the colour of a pixel on an RGB layer:

  use PDL;
  sub setpixel {
    my ($i, $l, $x, $y, $colour) = @_;
    my @bounds = $l->bounds;
    my $region = $l->get->pixel_rgn(@bounds,1,0); # warning! see above
    my $piddle = pdl [ @{$colour}[0..2] ]; # remove any alpha
    $piddle *= 255; # so it's bytes, not floats
    $region->set_pixel($piddle, $x, $y);

  sub getpixel {
    my ($i, $l, $x, $y) = @_;
    my $region = $l->get->pixel_rgn($l->bounds,0,0);
    my $piddle = $region->get_pixel($x,$y);
    return unpdl $piddle;


GIMP uses "tiles" as a way of breaking drawables into smaller chunks. This allows a potentially very large image to be process in manageable pieces. To use this, GIMP (and therefore Gimp-Perl) provides an "iterator" functionality to process each part of the image. This is best explained with a simple working example:

  sub iterate {
    my ($i, $l, $inc) = @_;
    my @bounds = $l->bounds;
      # in block so $src/$dst go out of scope before merge
      my $src = Gimp::PixelRgn->new($l,@bounds,0,0);
      my $dst = Gimp::PixelRgn->new($l,@bounds,1,1);
      my $iter = Gimp->pixel_rgns_register($dst);
      do {
        my ($x,$y,$w,$h)=($dst->x,$dst->y,$dst->w,$dst->h);
        my $pdl = $src->get_rect($x,$y,$w,$h);
        $pdl += $inc;
      } while (Gimp->pixel_rgns_process($iter));

The key points are:

Iterator registration and processing

Done respectively with $iter = Gimp->pixel_rgns_register($dst) and do { ... } while (Gimp->pixel_rgns_process($iter)).

Block scope

The source and destination Gimp::PixelRgns are in a block so their lexical variables go out of scope at the end, and therefore the objects get destroyed, and they get flushed and detached.

Merge shadow tiles

Once the operation is complete and the shadow tiles have all been set with the right data, $drawable->merge_shadow($undo) is called. $undo is a boolean telling GIMP "whether to add an undo step for the operation".

data method only valid for iterators

The $region->data method is only valid for use within an iterator.


These functions take/return not PDL objects, but Perl scalars:



Ed J, based on Gimp::Pixel.pod by Marc Lehmann <>


perl(1), Gimp(1), PDL.

These GIMP API docs are also relevant: