Render Styles#

See render style.

All render style classes are designed to share a common interface (with some having extensions), making the usage of one class directly compatible with another, except when using style-specific features.

Hence, the factory functions AutoImage, from_file and from_url provide a means of render-style-agnostic usage of the library. These functions automatically detect the best render style supported by the active terminal.

There are two main categories of render styles:

Text-based Render Styles#

Represent images using ASCII or Unicode symbols, and in some cases, with escape sequences to reproduce color.

Render style classes in this category are subclasses of TextImage. These include:

Graphics-based Render Styles#

Represent images with actual pixels, using terminal graphics protocols.

Render style classes in this category are subclasses of GraphicsImage. These include:

Render Methods#

A render style may implement multiple render methods. See the Render Methods section in the description of a render style class (that implements multiple render methods), for the description of its render methods.

Auto Cell Ratio#


This concerns Text-based Render Styles only.

The is a feature which when supported, can be used to determine the cell ratio directly from the terminal emulator itself. With this feature, it is possible to always produce images of text-based render styles with correct aspect ratio.

When using either mode of AutoCellRatio, it’s important to note that some terminal emulators (most non-graphics-capable ones) might have queried. See Terminal Queries.

If the program will never expect any useful input, particularly while an image’s size is being set/calculated, then using DYNAMIC mode is OK. For an image with dynamic size, this includes when it’s being rendered and when its rendered_size, rendered_width or rendered_height property is invoked.

Otherwise i.e if the program will be expecting input, use FIXED mode and use read_tty_all() to read all currently unread input just before calling set_cell_ratio().

The Active Terminal#

See active terminal.

The following streams/files are checked in the following order (along with the rationale behind the ordering):

  • STDOUT: Since it’s where images will most likely be drawn.

  • STDIN: If output is redirected to a file or pipe and the input is a terminal, then using it as the active terminal should give the expected result i.e the same as when output is not redirected.

  • STDERR: If both output and input are redirected, it’s usually unlikely for errors to be.

  • /dev/tty: Finally, if all else fail, fall back to the process’ controlling terminal, if any.

The first one that is ascertained to be a terminal device is used for all Terminal Queries and to retrieve the terminal (and window) size on some terminal emulators.


If none of the streams/files is a TTY device, then a TermImageWarning is issued and dependent functionality is disabled.

Terminal Queries#

Some features of this library require the acquisition of certain information from the active terminal. A single iteration of this acquisition procedure is called a query.

A query involves three major steps:

  1. Clear all unread input from the terminal

  2. Write to the terminal

  3. Read from the terminal

For this procedure to be successful, it must not be interrupted.

About #1

If the program is expecting input, use read_tty_all() to read all currently unread input (without blocking) just before any operation involving a query.

About #2 and #3

After sending a request to the terminal, its response is awaited. The default wait time is DEFAULT_QUERY_TIMEOUT but can be changed using set_query_timeout(). If the terminal emulator responds after the set timeout, this can result in the application program receiving what would seem to be garbage or ghost input (see this FAQ).

If the program includes any other function that could write to the terminal OR especially, read from the terminal or modify it’s attributes, while a query is in progress (as a result of asynchronous execution e.g multithreading or multiprocessing), decorate it with lock_tty() to ensure it doesn’t interfere.

For example, an image viewer based on this project uses urwid which reads from the terminal using urwid.raw_display.Screen.get_available_raw_input(). To prevent this method from interfering with terminal queries, it uses UrwidImageScreen which overrides and wraps the method like:

class UrwidImageScreen(Screen):
    def get_available_raw_input(self):
       return super().get_available_raw_input()

Also, if the active terminal is not the controlling terminal of the process using this library (e.g output is redirected to another TTY device), ensure no process that can interfere with a query (e.g a shell or REPL) is currently running in the active terminal. For instance, such a process can be temporarily put to sleep.

Features that require terminal queries#

In parentheses are the outcomes when the terminal doesn’t support queries or when queries are disabled.

  • Auto Cell Ratio (determined to be unsupported)

  • Support checks for Graphics-based Render Styles (determined to be unsupported)

  • Auto background color (black is used)

  • Alpha blend for pixels above the alpha threshold in transparent renders with Text-based Render Styles (black is used)

  • Workaround for ANSI background colors in text-based renders on the Kitty terminal (the workaround is disabled)


This list might not always be complete. In case you notice

  • any difference with any unlisted feature when terminal queries are enabled versus when disabled, or

  • a behaviour different from the one specified for the listed features, when terminal queries are disabled,

please open an issue here.