Am importing a RGB TIFF into QGIS 3.4 and when I zoom in I can see the image properly, however, when I zoom out the layer turns black (most of it) and red (a small portion). After doing some search I found this, which suggests that this problem is caused by issues with pyramids and statistics with the layer. There is some support there but that is for ArcGIS. I tried building the pyramids in QGIS Raster-->Miscellaneous-->Build Overviews (Pyramids) (I have done it in the past for .asc files), but got the following error

ERROR 1: TIFFAppendToStrip:Maximum TIFF file size exceeded. Use BIGTIFF=YES creation option.
ERROR 1: An error occurred while writing a dirty block from GDALRasterBand::RasterIO

Does anyone know how I could to build pyramids for a TIFF in QGIS?

If so, what "Overview levels" should I select?

Or does anyone know how to solve this issue for my RGB TIFF?

  • 2
    Can you use command line? If so use GDALAddO gdal.org/gdaladdo.html first with -clean to get rid of existing pyramids then use the same command with -ro so as not to internalize the pyramids. Depending on the size of your raster levels should be 4 8 16 32 64 but if very large add 128 256 to the levels. The problem comes from your GeoTIFF not being a large GeoTIFF and you're exceeding the 4GiB limit by internalizing your pyramids, specifying -ro will force GDALAddO to write the overviews to a separate file, thus not increasing your existing file size. Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 3:33
  • @Michael Stimson, I think your comment is worthy of posting as an answer!
    – Ben W
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 3:41

1 Answer 1


This error is because you're building pyramids internally (default) on a GeoTIFF file which is not a big TIFF. The pyramids are being appended to the existing file which makes the resultant file exceed the 4 GiB limit. This is evident by the error message Maximum TIFF file size exceeded.

From here you have some options, the error message indicates using BIGTIFF=YES which you can do from QGIS with Raster::Translate, writing a new file which can exceed the 4 GiB limit, for example this post describes the process.

Or if you're comfortable with the CMD tools you can attempt repair the existing TIFF file in a two step process:

  1. Remove the existing bad pyramids with GDALAddO -clean option. It is important to remove the existing internal pyramids before creating new external pyramids as this would create a conflict of which pyramids to use; I would think that the internal pyramids would take precedence but that's an assumption - I haven't tried this to prove which takes precedence.
  2. Create new external pyramids with GDALAddO -ro option which will force the creation of an OVR or RRD (–config USE_RRD YES) file to contain the pyramids. For most rasters levels of 4 8 16 32 64 (5 levels of pyramid) is sufficient but if your file is especially large use 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 to create 7 levels.

This may not work if the file is already too broken to fix, if this is the case your only option is to translate the file to a new raster.

  • Thanks a lot for this, I managed to solve the issue in both ways, by using a bigTiff but also using the command line. Thanks!
    – Juan Ossa
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 6:59

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