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muhuk's blog

Nature, to Be Commanded, Must Be Obeyed

November 20, 2010

Drawing Gradients with PyGame

I have been learning myself some PyGame on my free time. Best way to learn new technologies, I believe, is to develop small project and doing a lot of reading. Everybody seems to agree on the former but most fail to put effort doing the latter.

I needed to draw gradients for the background of my little learning project. First I tried the naive approach: iterating over each pixel and setting the correct value. This takes forever as you could have guessed. I continued my research to find out the close connection between PyGame and NumPy. Yes, fast array operations. My gradient generating code using linspace and tile is below:

def generate_gradient(from_color, to_color, height, width):
    channels = []
    for channel in range(3):
        from_value, to_value = from_color[channel], to_color[channel]
                numpy.linspace(from_value, to_value, width), [height, 1],
    return numpy.dstack(channels)

I create three 1D arrays for each channel and then tile them to get a 2D array. Then I stack those 2D arrays and get combined (r, g, b) values. Each 1D array contain values linearly sampled between given maximum and minimum values by linspace. I can then blip this array on a surface like this:

gradient = generate_gradient((63, 95, 127), (195, 195, 255), 1024, 600)
    pygame.surfarray.map_array(some_surface, gradient),

This works quite well. But I was curious whether there is a better method, so I did some googling. First I stumbled upon James Tauber’s gradient code. Arrays! I was a bit ashamed not remembering standard library had array module. James Tauber’s code builds an array with the correct values and then writes the image as a PNG file. It also has the ability to generate multi-gradients.

Then I found gradients package for PyGame. This package does much more than linear gradients. It creates a PyGame surface of 1 pixel thickness, fills it with the gradient values and then resizes it.

I made a small test to see which method runs faster. I had to strip file and compression related code from James Tauber’s gradient module. I run a simple method tha just generates a gradient image/array in memory and returns it 10 time, below is the average times:

  • 320x240:
    • numpy: 0.01469659805
    • array: 3.6310561180
    • pygame: 0.0069756984711
  • 800x600:
    • numpy: 0.1323119163
    • array: 19.9719331265
    • pygame: 0.0192141056061

Here numpy is my method above, array is the stripped version of James Tauber’s code and pygame is the gradiends package. If my benchmarking method doesn’t have dramatic errors fastest way to generate linear gradients is to fill a strip with correct values and then to resize it.

Now I’ll go back to work on my learning project.

If you have any questions, suggestions or corrections feel free to drop me a line.