I want to write a binary raster to disk. I have the numpy array whose dtype is:


I try to open a GTiff for writing:

img_output = rasterio.open(
            width = self.raster.width,
            dtype = binary_raster.dtype,

But I end up with:

TypeError: invalid dtype: 'bool'

I have also tried things like:

dtype = bool
dtype = 'bool'
dtype = "bool"

What is the problem with this? According to the docs, dtype can be any numpy dtype. How do I write a binary raster?

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can write a one bit raster with rasterio*.

You need to:

  1. write to a format that supports a 1bit dataset, such as GeoTIFF;
  2. ensure your numpy array is np.uint8/ubyte so rasterio doesnt raise the TypeError: invalid dtype: 'bool' exception; and
  3. pass the NBITS=1 creation option to tell the underlying GDAL GeoTIFF driver to create a one bit file.
import numpy as np
import rasterio as rio

with rio.open('test_byte.tif') as src:
    data = src.read()
    profile = src.profile

with rio.open('test_bit.tif', 'w', nbits=1, **profile) as dst:
    # If your array is not a byte dtype, you need to cast it as ubyte/uint8
    # dst.write(data.astype(np.uint8))

Checking output file size

$ ls -sh test_bit.tif
228K test_bit.tif

$ ls -sh test_byte.tif
1.8M test_byte.tif

$ gdalinfo test_bit.tif
Driver: GTiff/GeoTIFF
Files: test_bit.tif
Size is 1588, 1167
Band 1 Block=1588x41 Type=Byte, ColorInterp=Palette
  Image Structure Metadata:

$ gdalinfo test_byte.tif
Driver: GTiff/GeoTIFF
Files: test_byte.tif
Size is 1588, 1167
Band 1 Block=1588x5 Type=Byte, ColorInterp=Gray


If you call rasterio.dtypes.check_dtype(np.bool_) you'll see that it's not a known dtype, because gdal doesn't support a true 1-bit dtype. GDT_Byte is the smallest. The list that rasterio is checking against is:

dtype_fwd = {
0: None,            # GDT_Unknown
1: ubyte,           # GDT_Byte
2: uint16,          # GDT_UInt16
3: int16,           # GDT_Int16
4: uint32,          # GDT_UInt32
5: int32,           # GDT_Int32
6: float32,         # GDT_Float32
7: float64,         # GDT_Float64
8: complex_,        # GDT_CInt16
9: complex_,        # GDT_CInt32
10: complex64,      # GDT_CFloat32
11: complex128}    # GDT_CFloat64

uint8 and int8 are mapped to the ubyte, as seen here:


  • 1
    ah, okay, thanks. do you perhaps have any suggestion how to store a binary raster then?
    – Jan Pisl
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 19:57
  • i might be missing something but it seems very strange to me that bool dtype is not an option. surely, storing a boolean raster must be a common task.
    – Jan Pisl
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 20:05
  • 3
    I'd just save it as a byte raster only containing the values {0,1}. You can use your_array.astype(np.uint8) before saving it out, and then if you load it later you can do the reverse if necessary, your_array.astype(np.bool_). I'm not sure of the exact reasons behind gdal not having a 1-bit data type, but it potentially it has to do with the fact that a byte is the minimum addressable unit of data on most computer systems, so it's common to use a whole byte to store a boolean value. Doing so is less memory efficient but more computationally efficient.
    – mikewatt
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 20:34
  • 2
    This is generally correct, except that the underlying GDAL GeoTIFF driver can write datasets with nbits < 8, see my answer for details.
    – user2856
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 23:18
  • Oh neat, I never noticed that creation option
    – mikewatt
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 0:27

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