Let's say I have 1 band raster images with Gray Color Interpretation and I want to change their color based on their data values. Data values -1, will be Blue, -0.5 will be Light Blue, 0 will be Yellow, 0.5 will be Orange and 1 will be Red. If the data values are <-3000, I want to have that colored Black and if the data values are >3.402, that should be colored White . Will that be possible in gdal? And process that in batch?

  • 2
    There is an answer for that on GIS.SE: gis.stackexchange.com/questions/104196/… more information about color tables here: trac.osgeo.org/gdal/wiki/…
    – jzol
    Jan 14, 2015 at 8:55
  • What does c1, c2, c3, c4, ..... cN means in vrt? The easiest non-scripting way to create or modify a color palette is to translate your file to VRT (XML) format, and edit the color table in the XML file. - Does this mean that you have to modify the files one by one? What if there are many files that I need to change the color from one directory? Will these be possible also?
    – lovelyvm
    Feb 2, 2015 at 5:34

2 Answers 2


c1 to c4 in the vrt file are the RGBA values you see in a 4-channel RGBA tif file. Every row corresponds to an integer palette value in the source file.


gdaldem seems to be the right tool for your task:

  1. Take a raster of your choice (like SRTM as an example)
  2. Create the following text file named col.txt:

0 black

100 blue

200 yellow

300 orange

400 red

500 white

  1. On command line, run

gdaldem color-relief N51E007.hgt col.txt out.tif

and the result will look like this:

enter image description here

I have added white dashed contour lines to show that the colours get interpolated.

Instead of colour names, you can use RGB values as well, see http://www.gdal.org/gdaldem.html#gdaldem_color_relief for details:

The supported list is : white, black, red, green, blue, yellow, magenta, cyan, aqua, grey/gray, orange, brown, purple/violet and indigo

You can create a vrt file as output too and look into that on how the interpolating is done with <LUT> keys:

gdaldem color-relief -of VRT N51E007.hgt col.txt out.vrt

  <VRTRasterBand dataType="Byte" band="1">
      <SourceFilename relativeToVRT="1">N51E007.hgt</SourceFilename>
      <SourceProperties RasterXSize="1201" RasterYSize="1201" DataType="Int16" BlockXSize="1201" BlockYSize="1"/>
      <SrcRect xOff="0" yOff="0" xSize="1201" ySize="1201"/>
      <DstRect xOff="0" yOff="0" xSize="1201" ySize="1201"/>


To apply different transparencies, I got around with this batch:

gdaldem color-relief -of GTiff N51E006.hgt color.txt output6.tif -alpha 
gdaldem color-relief -of GTiff N51E007.hgt color.txt output7.tif -alpha 

and this color.txt:

0. 255 255 255 0
50. 255 0 0 50
100. 0 255 0 100
150. 0 0 255 150

with elevation in meters, and RGBA values between 0 and 255.

  • what option from the gdal_calc utility will transform the data range of my source file? The source file I am using was processed using gdal_calc. I also tried to open the source file from qgis, and it has a -2.6 min and max values. I was unable to change the color then. So I thought of changing the values of the min and max, from -1 to 1. And was able to get the desired output. How will I do that?
    – lovelyvm
    Feb 2, 2015 at 9:16
  • How would you like values of -0.75, -0.25, 0.25 or 0.75 be represented? In your question it looks like you want 7 colours and nothing else. A colour ramp is also possible.
    – AndreJ
    Feb 2, 2015 at 10:55
  • I just want to change its color based on their data values. And would want to do that in batch process. One of the color ramp available in qgis is the RdYlBu. That is what I preferred to use.
    – lovelyvm
    Feb 3, 2015 at 5:43
  • 1
    If the data type allows it, yes. See gdal.org/frmt_gtiff.html for allowed values. You might have to use gdal_translate if your dataset has only byte or integer type.
    – AndreJ
    Feb 4, 2015 at 4:55
  • 1
    what value is used for NODATA in your input file? nv will not work.
    – AndreJ
    May 25, 2015 at 6:54

Here is a auto color script based on AndreJ's code:

Custom color:
python gdaldem.py input_tif.tif color.txt output_color.tif
Auto color:
python gdaldem.py input_tif.tif auto output_color.tif

import subprocess
import sys
import os
import tempfile
import numpy as np

def main(input_file, color_file, output_file):
    cmd = "gdaldem color-relief " + input_file \
          + ' ' + color_file + ' ' + output_file
    subprocess.check_call(cmd, shell=True)

def gen_color_file(input_file):
    fp, temp_file = tempfile.mkstemp(suffix='.txt')

    dem = DEM(input_file)
    phase_data = dem.height_band.ReadAsArray()

    max_ph = np.nanmax(phase_data)
    min_ph = np.nanmin(phase_data)
    range_ph = max_ph-min_ph
    colors = ['black', 'blue', 'yellow', 'orange', 'red', 'white']
    with open(temp_file, 'w') as f:
        for i, c in enumerate(colors[:-1]):
            f.write(str(int(min_ph + (i + 1)*range_ph/len(colors))) +
                    ' ' + c + '\n')
        f.write(str(int(max_ph - range_ph/len(colors))) +
                ' ' + colors[-1] + '\n')
    return temp_file

if __name__ == '__main__':
    input_file = sys.argv[1]
    color_file = sys.argv[2]
    output_file = sys.argv[3]
    if color_file == 'auto':
        print '\nauto generating color file'
        color_file = gen_color_file(input_file)
    with open(color_file, 'r') as f:
        print '\ncolor file contents'
        print '='*50
        for l in f.readlines():
            print l
    print '='*50
    main(input_file, color_file, output_file)

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