The new magick package is an ambitious effort to modernize and simplify high-quality image processing in R. It wraps the ImageMagick STL which is perhaps the most comprehensive open-source image processing library available today.

The ImageMagick library has an overwhelming amount of functionality. The current version of Magick exposes a decent chunk of it, but being a first release, documentation is still sparse. This post briefly introduces the most important concepts to get started.

Installing magick

On Windows or OS-X the package is most easily installed via CRAN.


The binary CRAN packages work out of the box and have most important features enabled. Use magick_config to see which features and formats are supported by your version of ImageMagick.

## List of 21
##  $ version           : chr "6.9.5-8"
##  $ modules           : logi TRUE
##  $ 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 FALSE
##  $ pango             : logi FALSE
##  $ png               : logi TRUE
##  $ rsvg              : logi TRUE
##  $ tiff              : logi TRUE
##  $ webp              : logi FALSE
##  $ wmf               : logi FALSE
##  $ x11               : logi FALSE
##  $ xml               : logi TRUE
##  $ zero-configuration: logi FALSE

Build from source

On Linux you need to install the ImageMagick++ library: on Debian/Ubuntu this is called libmagick++-dev:

sudo apt-get install libmagick++-dev

On Fedora or CentOS/RHEL we need ImageMagick-c++-devel:

sudo yum install ImageMagick-c++-devel

To install from source on OS-X you need imagemagick from homebrew.

brew install imagemagick --with-fontconfig --with-librsvg --with-fftw

The default imagemagick configuration on homebrew disables a bunch of features. It is recommended to brew with at least --with-fontconfig and --with-librsvg to support high quality font / svg rendering (the CRAN OSX binary package enables these as well).

Image IO

What makes magick so magical is that it automatically converts and renders all common image formats. ImageMagick supports dozens of formats and automatically detects the type. Use magick::magick_config() to list the formats that your version of ImageMagick supports.

Read and write

Images can be read directly from a file path, URL, or raw vector with image data with image_read. The image_info function shows some meta data about the image, similar to the imagemagick identify command line utility.

tiger <- image_read('')
##   format width height colorspace filesize
## 1    SVG   900    900       sRGB    68630

We use image_write to export an image in any format to a file on disk, or in memory if path = NULL.

# Render svg to png bitmap
image_write(tiger, path = "tiger.png", format = "png")

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

Converting formats

Magick keeps the image in memory in it’s original format. Specify the format parmeter image_write to convert to another format. You can also internally convert the image to another format earlier, before applying transformations. This can be useful if your original format is lossy.

tiger_png <- image_convert(tiger, "png")
##   format width height colorspace filesize
## 1    png   900    900       sRGB        0

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


IDE’s with a built-in web browser (such as RStudio) automatically display magick images in the viewer. This results in a neat interactive image editing environment.