Pnmcolormap User Manual(0) Pnmcolormap User Manual(0)
pnmcolormap - create quantization color map for a Netpbm image
This program is part of Netpbm(1)
pnmcolormap reads a PNM or PAM image as input, chooses ncolors colors to best represent
the image and writes a PNM color map defining them as output. A PAM image may actually
contain tuples of any kind, but pnmcolormap's concept of the tuple values that best repre-
sent the ones present in the image may not make sense if the tuple type isn't RGB or
GRAYSCALE. The design of the program, and the rest of this manual, assumes the tuples
You can use this map as input to pnmremap on the same input image to quantize the colors
in that image, I.e. produce a similar image with fewer colors. pnmquant does both the
pnmcolormap and pnmremap steps for you.
A PNM colormap is a PNM image of any dimensions that contains at least one pixel of each
color in the set of colors it represents. The ones pnmcolormap generates have exactly one
pixel of each color, except where padding is necessary with the -square option.
The quantization method is Heckbert's 'median cut'. See QUANTIZATION METHOD <#quant> .
The output image is of the same format (PBM, PGM, PPM, PAM) as the input image. Note that
a colormap of a PBM image is not very interesting.
The colormap generally has the same maxval as the input image, but pnmcolormap may reduce
it if there are too many colors in the input, as part of its quantization algorithm.
pnmcolormap works on a multi-image input stream. In that case, it produces one colormap
that applies to all of the colors in all of the input images. All the images must have
the same format, depth, and maxval (but may have different height and width). This is
useful if you need to quantize a bunch of images that will form a movie or otherwise be
used together -- you generally want them all to draw from the same palette, whereas com-
puting a colormap separately from each image would make the same color in two images map
to different colors. Before Netpbm 10.31 (December 2005), pnmcolormap ignored any image
after the first.
If you want to create a colormap without basing it on the colors in an input image, pam-
seq, ppmmake, and pnmcat can be useful.
The single parameter, which is required, is the number of colors you want in the output
colormap. pnmcolormap may produce a color map with slightly fewer colors than that. You
may specify all to get a colormap of every color in the input image (no quantization).
All options can be abbreviated to their shortest unique prefix. You may use two hyphens
instead of one to designate an option. You may use either white space or an equals sign
between an option name and its value.
-sort This option causes the output colormap to be sorted by the red component intensity,
then the green, then the blue in ascending order. This is an insertion sort, so it
is not very fast on large colormaps. Sorting is useful because it allows you to
compare two sets of colors.
By default, pnmcolormap produces as the color map a PPM image with one row and with
one column for each color in the colormap. This option causes pnmcolormap instead
to produce a PPM image that is within one row or column of being square, with the
last pixel duplicated as necessary to create a number of pixels which is such an
This option causes pnmcolormap to display messages to Standard Error about the
These options control the quantization algorithm. See QUANTIZATION METHOD <#quant>
A quantization method is a way to choose which colors, being fewer in number than in the
input, you want in the output. pnmcolormap uses Heckbert's 'median cut' quantization
This method involves separating all the colors into 'boxes,' each holding colors that rep-
resent about the same number of pixels. You start with one box and split boxes in two
until the number of boxes is the same as the number of colors you want in the output, and
choose one color to represent each box.
When you split a box, you do it so that all the colors in one sub-box are 'greater' than
all the colors in the other. 'Greater,' for a particular box, means it is brighter in the
color component (red, green, blue) which has the largest spread in that box. pnmcolormap
gives you two ways to define 'largest spread.': 1) largest spread of brightness; 2)
largest spread of contribution to the luminosity of the color. E.g. red is weighted much
more than blue. Select among these with the -spreadbrightness and -spreadluminosity
options. The default is -spreadbrightness.
pnmcolormap provides three ways of choosing a color to represent a box: 1) the center
color - the color halfway between the greatest and least colors in the box, using the
above definition of 'greater'; 2) the mean of the colors (each component averaged sepa-
rately by brightness) in the box; 3) the mean weighted by the number of pixels of a color
in the image.
Note that in all three methods, there may be colors in the output which do not appear in
the input at all.
Select among these with the -center, -meancolor, and -meanpixel options. The default is
'Color Image Quantization for Frame Buffer Display' by Paul Heckbert, SIGGRAPH '82 Pro-
ceedings, page 297.
pnmremap(1) , pnmquant(1) , ppmquantall(1) , pamdepth(1) , ppmdither(1) , pamseq(1) , ppm-
make(1) , pnmcat(1) , ppm(1)
Before Netpbm 10.15 (April 2003), pnmcolormap used a lot more memory for large images
because it kept the entire input image in memory. Now, it processes it a row at a time,
but because it sometimes must make multiple passes through the image, it first copies the
input into a temporary seekable file if it is not already in a seekable file.
pnmcolormap first appeared in Netpbm 9.23 (January 2002). Before that, its function was
available only as part of the function of pnmquant (which was derived from the much older
ppmquant). Color quantization really has two main subfunctions, so Netpbm 9.23 split it
out into two separate programs: pnmcolormap and pnmremap and then Netpbm 9.24 replaced
pnmquant with a program that simply calls pnmcolormap and pnmremap.
Copyright (C) 1989, 1991 by Jef Poskanzer.
netpbm documentation 23 October 2005 Pnmcolormap User Manual(0)