I want to create two polygons.

  1. One is of the rectangular extents of my raster. I know I can obtain the extent of the raster using r <- raster("band5.tif") e <- extent(r) plot(e) gives me this: enter image description here

  2. How can I create ONE polygon of the boundary of the raster as shown below?

This is what my raster looks like:raster("band5.tif")

1 Answer 1


Here is an example.

# example data
x <- raster(system.file("external/test.grd", package="raster"))

To get the rectangular extent

e <- extent(x)
# coerce to a SpatialPolygons object
p <- as(e, 'SpatialPolygons')  

To get a polygon that surrounds cells that are not NA

# make all values the same. Either do
r <- x > -Inf
# or alternatively
# r <- reclassify(x, cbind(-Inf, Inf, 1))

# convert to polygons (you need to have package 'rgeos' installed for this to work)
pp <- rasterToPolygons(r, dissolve=TRUE)

# look at the results
plot(p, lwd=5, border='red', add=TRUE)
plot(pp, lwd=3, border='blue', add=TRUE)

Five years later: Nowadays I would use terra, which does this much faster.

z <- rast(system.file("external/test.grd", package="raster"))
pe <- as.polygons(ext(z))
pr <- as.polygons(z > -Inf)

plot(pe, lwd=5, border='red', add=TRUE)
plot(pr, lwd=3, border='blue', add=TRUE)
  • I can't seem to find documentation on the r <- r > -Inf part. What is it exactly doing? And how different is it from values(r)[!is.na(values(r))] <- 1 (which sets all locations that are not NA in r to 1).
    – csheth
    Apr 2, 2016 at 18:53
  • 3
    r > -Inf is basic R . Do c(1,NA,3,NA) > -Inf to see how it works. I have added an alternative (reclassify). Your alternative works but it is not a good one for large objects. Apr 2, 2016 at 19:08
  • I'm just waiting for my computer to process the rasterToPolygons() part, and thereupon I shall evaluate your answer. Thanks for the -Inf bit its going to be very useful!
    – csheth
    Apr 2, 2016 at 21:22
  • 1
    For a very large raster this will take a while, or may even fail. In that case you could consider first using aggregate as you would not see the difference anyway. Apr 3, 2016 at 3:59
  • Even with only 100 cells after running the aggregate() on r, it has not processed (computer equipped with 16 GB RAM). Problem is I need to keep the boundary as native as I can, since a DEM needs to be extracted from the resultant polygon. If I further down-sample my raster I will loose that boundary. Any work around?
    – csheth
    Apr 5, 2016 at 10:09

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