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The Image Object and Its Properties

Image CData

    Note:   The image and imagesc commands create image objects. Image objects are children of axes objects, as are line, patch, surface, and text objects. Like all Handle Graphics® objects, the image object has a number of properties you can set to fine-tune its appearance on the screen. The most important properties of the image object with respect to appearance are CData, CDataMapping, XData, and YData. These properties are discussed in this and the following sections. For detailed information about these and all the properties of the image object, see image.

The CData property of an image object contains the data array. In the following commands, h is the handle of the image object created by image, and the matrices X and Y are the same:

h = image(X); colormap(map)
Y = get(h,'CData');

The dimensionality of the CData array controls whether the image displays using colormap colors or as an RGB image. If the CData array is two-dimensional, the image is either an indexed image or an intensity image; in either case, the image is displayed using colormap colors. If, on the other hand, the CData array is m-by-n-by-3, it displays as a truecolor image, ignoring the colormap colors.

Image CDataMapping

The CDataMapping property controls whether an image is indexed or intensity. To display an indexed image set the CDataMapping property to 'direct', so that the values of the CData array are used directly as indices into the figure's colormap. When the image command is used with a single input argument, it sets the value of CDataMapping to 'direct':

h = image(X); colormap(map)
ans =


Intensity images are displayed by setting the CDataMapping property to 'scaled'. In this case, the CData values are linearly scaled to form colormap indices. The axes CLim property controls the scale factors. The imagesc function creates an image object whose CDataMapping property is set to 'scaled', and it adjusts the CLim property of the parent axes. For example:

h = imagesc(I,[0 1]); colormap(map)
ans =


ans =

[0 1]

XData and YData

The XData and YData properties control the coordinate system of the image. For an m-by-n image, the default XData is [1 n] and the default YData is [1 m]. These settings imply the following:

  • The left column of the image has an x-coordinate of 1.

  • The right column of the image has an x-coordinate of n.

  • The top row of the image has a y-coordinate of 1.

  • The bottom row of the image has a y-coordinate of m.

For example, the statements

X = [1 2 3 4; 5 6 7 8; 9 10 11 12];
h = image(X); colormap(colorcube(12))
xlabel x; ylabel y

produce the following picture.

The XData and YData properties of the resulting image object have the following default values:

ans =

     1     4

ans =

     1     3

However, you can override the default settings to specify your own coordinate system. For example, the statements

X = [1 2 3 4; 5 6 7 8; 9 10 11 12];
image(X,'XData',[-1 2],'YData',[2 4]); colormap(colorcube(12))
xlabel x; ylabel y

produce the following picture.

Adding Text to Images

Use basic array indexing to rasterize text strings into an existing image, as described in this section:

Draw the text strings using text, and then capture a bitmapped version of them using getframe. Then find the black pixels and convert their subscripts to indexes using sub2ind. Use these subscripts to "paint" the text into the image into which you want to add the text string, and then save that image. Here is an example using the image in the MAT-file mandrill.mat:

% Create the text in an axis:
t = text(.05,.1,'Mandrill Face', ...
         'FontSize',12, 'FontWeight','demi');

% Capture the text from the screen:
F = getframe(gca,[10 10 200 200]);

% Close the figure:

% Select any plane of the resulting RGB image:
c = F.cdata(:,:,1);

% Note: If you have Image Processing Toolbox installed,
% you can convert the RGB data from the frame to black or white:
% c = rgb2ind(F.cdata,2);

% Determine where the text was (black is 0):
[i,j] = find(c == 0);

% Read in or load the image that is to contain the text:
load mandrill

% Use the size of that image, plus the row/column locations
% of the text, to determine locations in the new image:
ind = sub2ind(size(X),i,j);

% Index into new image, replacing pixels with white:
X(ind) = uint8(255);

% Display and color the new image:
axis image

Additional Techniques for Fast Image Updating

To increase the rate at which the CData property of an image object updates, optimize CData and set some related figure and axes properties:

  • Use the smallest data type possible. Using a uint8 data type for your image will be faster than using a double data type.

    Part of the process of setting the image's CData property includes copying the matrix for the image's use. The overall size of the matrix is dependent on the size of its individual elements. Using smaller individual elements (i.e., a smaller data type) decreases matrix size, and reduces the amount of time needed to copy the matrix.

  • Use the smallest acceptable matrix.

    If the speed at which the image is displayed is your highest priority, you may need to compromise on the size and quality of the image. Again, decreasing the size reduces the time needed to copy the matrix.

  • Make the axes exactly the same size (in pixels) as the CData matrix.

    Maintaining a one-to-one correspondence between the data and the onscreen pixels eliminates the need for interpolation. For example:

    pos = get(gca,'Position')
    width = pos(3);
    height = pos(4);

    When the size of your CData exactly equals [width height], each element of the array corresponds directly to a pixel. Otherwise, the values in the CData array must be interpolated so the image fits the axes at their current size.

  • Set the limit mode properties (XLimMode and YLimMode) of your axes to manual.

    If they are set to auto, then every time an object (such as an image, line, patch, etc.) changes some aspect of its data, the axes must recalculate its related properties. For example, if you specify

    set(gca, 'xlimmode','manual',...

    the axes do not recalculate any of the limit values before redrawing the image.

  • Consider using a movie object if the main point of your task is to simply display a series of images onscreen.

    The MATLAB® movie object utilizes underlying system graphics resources directly, instead of executing MATLAB object code. This is faster than repeatedly setting an image's CData property, as described earlier.

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