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Image File Support in Rhino 5

Rhino 5 supports the attachment of image files in the BackgroundBitmap and PictureFrame commands.
Rhino works best with image files that are “power of 2” in size.
This is because Rhino displays image files as textures - always.

Images Stored As Textures

In order to display a file as a texture, Rhino uses OpenGL to “texture map” a polygon or polygon mesh. This is important information for many reasons:

  1. OpenGL stores textures in GPU memory.
  2. Because of #1, OpenGL implementations have certain hardware requirements (limitations) on how big a “texture” can physically be.
  3. Because of #2, there is no “standard maximum” size a texture is defined to be, and it's based on your video card and drivers.
  4. Because of #3, Rhino can't just use any file at any resolution and “assume” it's going to work
  5. Because of #4, If and when Rhino encounters an image file that does not meet a user's video hardware capabilities, it must resize the image to a size that can be used by the user's hardware.

It is not a “requirement” for Rhino 5 that a image files be exactly sized to a power of 2.
However, the internal representation in Rhino (and thus for OpenGL) is a power of 2. In other words, you can throw any file or texture at Rhino 5 and it will make sure it works on most video hardware.

Adjusting for the Power of 2

So how does it make it work if the image is not a power of 2?

If Rhino needs to resize an image, then it will resize it to the “next highest” power of 2 that is greater than the current dimensions but less than or equal to the maximum dimensions supported by the current hardware.

Here is a few examples to illustrate this. Assume the current hardware's texture size limitation is 8192 x 8192. If Rhino sees a file with dimensions:

  • 256 x 256 - Rhino will do nothing, perfect powers of 2
  • 1024 x 1024 - Rhino will do nothing, perfect powers of 2
  • 1024 x 256 - Again, Rhino will do nothing, perfect powers of 2
  • 127 x 127 - Rhino will resize the image to 128 x 128, next highest value that is a power of 2 and greater than the current dimensions
  • 129 x 129 - Rhino will resize the image to 256 x 256, again, the next highest value that is a power of 2 and greater than the current dimensions,

Rhino will never “downsize” an image because that's a “lossy” operation, so it will always increase dimensions never decrease them, except in following case(s):

  • 9000 x 6000 - Rhino will resize (downsize) the image to 8192 x 8192. 9000 exceeds the 8192 maximum limitation, an 6000 isn't a power of 2, and the next available power of 2 is 8192.
  • 9000 x 9000 - Rhino will resize (downsize) the image to 8192 x 8192. Both dimensions exceed hardware limitations and are adjusted to the maximum limits.


When Rhino does resize the image, it does not use any kind of sampling or bi-linear filtering, it is a straight linear stretch or shrink. So if the difference between original dimensions and adjusted dimensions is greater, the worse the results will look.

Take the 129 x 129 example above. Rhino basically has to double the size of the image resulting in every pixel now being a 2 x 2 block in the final result.

This is the major cause of “pixelization” in the display of the attached image.

However, the results can even look worse if it tried resizing to 128 x 128. You can get “banding” to occur in many cases because entire rows or columns of pixels have been removed.
Rhino will not downsize anything unless it absolutely has to due to hardware limitations.

Basic Recommendation:

Always keep images as close to values that are just less than powers of 2 as possible. And if you can, try to make them powers of 2

Given today's video hardware, the 2 limits we see most of are 4096 x 4096 and 8192 x 8192. So if you're generating large textures, those are the dimensions to which you should limit your image generator.

Making them any larger is a waste of time, space, and will cause Rhino to throw out a lot of good pixel information.

bitmap_display.txt · Last modified: 2015/09/14 (external edit)