I've created a raster object x in R, which is a categorical classification. I've used levels(x) <- RAT with a properly formatted raster attribute table to give the categories names, and then used writeRaster to export to GeoTIFF.

Running gdalinfo on the tiff, I can see the categories in the band information. Looks like:

Band 1 Block=799x5 Type=Int16, ColorInterp=Gray
  Min=1.000 Max=5.000
  Minimum=1.000, Maximum=5.000, Mean=2.364, StdDev=2.147
  NoData Value=-9999
    1: typeA
    2: typeB
    3: typeC
    4: typeD
    5: typeE

So that's great, but QGIS can't seem to access that category info when I'm styling the layer. Is that even possible? They should act as legend labels.


2 Answers 2


Although QGIS reads the category names, I don't think using them in symbology directly is currently possible.

For example (using python), I set some category names:


GDAL shows the categories:

$ gdalinfo test.tif
Driver: GTiff/GeoTIFF
Files: test.tif
Size is 512, 512
Coordinate System is `'
Image Structure Metadata:
Corner Coordinates:
Upper Left  (    0.0,    0.0)
Lower Left  (    0.0,  512.0)
Upper Right (  512.0,    0.0)
Lower Right (  512.0,  512.0)
Center      (  256.0,  256.0)
Band 1 Block=512x16 Type=Byte, ColorInterp=Gray
      0: a
      1: b
      2: c

In the QGIS layer properties, the category names show in the metadata section, but aren't available in the symbology section.

enter image description here


If I set a Colour Table (again using python rather than r, but concept is the same):


I can see the category names in the symbology:

enter image description here

Note: I haven't tried getting rid of/not showing the unused colour table entries, I don't know if it's possible.

  • Looks like you've replicated exactly what I did in Python, cool. I don't think setting categories either way we've tried counts as a true RAT though - ArcGIS can't use them in its Build Attribute Table tool.
    – obrl_soil
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 23:48
  • Not exactly. I also set the colour table, which then uses the category names in the symbology and the legend which is what I thought you were trying to do.
    – user2856
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 23:50
  • @obrl_soil If you build a RAT (even just 2 columns, value and category) using GDAL, ArcGIS will use the entries in a unique values renderer by default. QGIS though can't read RATs at all, so you'd need to use a colour table like I suggest in my answer.
    – user2856
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 0:20
  • Looks like I'd have to move away from GeoTIFF to get support for RATs anyway.
    – obrl_soil
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 0:53
  • @obrl_soil lack of RAT support is a QGIS issue not a geotiff issue.
    – user2856
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 0:58

You could also do that by creating a virtual raster file (.vrt) in QGIS and editing it manually in any text editor.

All classes and colors will be interpreted from 0 on, thus I include NoData here as a hint to that.

<VRTDataset rasterXSize="109300" rasterYSize="89999">
  <VRTRasterBand dataType="Byte" band="1">
      <Entry c1="255" c2="255" c3="255" c4="0"/>
      <Entry c1="204" c2="11" c3="30" c4="255"/>
      <Entry c1="187" c2="174" c3="108" c4="255"/>
      <Entry c1="21" c2="182" c3="103" c4="255"/>

If you export this VRT to a new GeoTiff (Right Click-> Export -> Save As...) you will end up with the colors encoded in the .tif and the classes in the associated .aux.xml

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