Introduction to the ggimg Package

  eval = TRUE,
  fig.height = 4,
  fig.width = 7,
  dpi = 125,
  fig.align = "center"


The ggplot2 R package provides over 50 types of geometry layers, with many of these internally built up from a small set of primitive graphic types such as geom_polygon and geom_rect. Putting these elements together provides the ability to create a wide variety of data visualizations. Curiously, however, there is currently no default layer for displaying a collection of images. The function geom_raster allows for displaying a grid as an image and annotation_raster makes it possible to add a single to a plot. But what if we have an image associated with each row of our dataset and want to display these on the plot? Some other packages, such as ggimage, provide a complete set of functions for working with images, however they require additional external dependencies and are not convenient for quick tinkering, hands-on workshops, or as dependencies for other packages.

The package ggimg provides two new geometries, geom_rect_img and geom_point_img, that display one image for each row in the corresponding dataset. The function similarly to geom_rect and geom_point, but have an additional aesthetic "img" that specifies the image to display for each row in one of three ways:

There are many possibilities for extending the package to deal with other image types, different ways of defining the image region and many kinds of image preprocessing that can be done. However, as mentioned above, this package for the moment is intended to only provide a low-level interface that can be easily maintained in used in down-stream scripts and packages. For example, check out my package ggmaptile which uses geom_img to display slippy map tiles underneath geospatial datasets.

Example Usage

As an example of how to use the geom_rect_img layer, we will use some data about the 50 highest grossing animated U.S. films and their movie posters. The data is included with the package, along with a thumbnail image of each movie's poster.

To start, we read in the dataset, which includes one row for each movie along with a path to the movie poster and some additional metadata. We will also add a column containing the full path to the images, which are installed in the same location as the package.


posters <- mutate(posters,
  path = file.path(system.file("extdata", package="ggimg"), img)
# A tibble: 50 x 12
    year title img   rating_count  gross genre rating runtime stars metacritic
   <dbl> <chr> <chr>        <dbl>  <dbl> <chr> <chr>    <dbl> <dbl>      <dbl>
 1  2018 Incr… 2018…       226170 6.09e8 Anim… PG         118   7.6         NA
 2  2019 The … 2019…       168828 5.40e8 Anim… PG         118   6.9         55
 3  2016 Find… 2016…       224980 4.86e8 Anim… PG          97   7.3         NA
 4  2004 Shre… 2004…       398797 4.36e8 Anim… PG          93   7.2         NA
 5  2019 Toy … 2019…       159927 4.33e8 Anim… G          100   7.8         NA
 6  2010 Toy … 2010…       719003 4.15e8 Anim… G          103   8.3         NA
 7  2013 Froz… 2013…       545450 4.01e8 Anim… PG         102   7.5         NA
 8  2003 Find… 2003…       903078 3.81e8 Anim… G          100   8.1         NA
 9  2016 The … 2016…       173603 3.68e8 Anim… PG          87   6.5         NA
10  2013 Desp… 2013…       355343 3.68e8 Anim… PG          98   7.3         NA
# … with 40 more rows, and 2 more variables: description <chr>, path <chr>

Let's plot the year each film was released along the x-axis and its score on IMDb on the y-axis. We will set the height and with of the images to be one unit by off-setting the year and stars variable by plus or minus one half.

ggplot(posters) +
    xmin = year - 0.5,
    xmax = year + 0.5,
    ymin = stars - 0.5,
    ymax = stars + 0.5,
    img = path
  )) +

The output looks nice without much more work! Notice that because our layer does not have an explicit 'x' or 'y' variable axis labels need to be input manually with labs, if needed.

Alternatively, we could plot the images as points by specifying their x and y locations. The plot will automatically keep the correct aspect ratio of the images. You may need to play around with the size aesthetic to get this looking as you want it:

ggplot(posters) +
    x = year,
    y = stars,
    img = path
  ), size = 1) +

Notice that the point geometry does include automatic axis labels, but does not automatically expand to capture every single part of each image (this is similar to the behaviour of geom_text). Perhaps the biggest different between the rect and points result when resizing the plot window. The rectangles with always respect their bounding boxes, whereas the points will stay the same shape and size.

A Longer Example

As a more flexible option, we can load the images into R directly and store them as a list column in our dataset. This allows us to do all kinds of pre- and post-processing, working with different data types, and showing images that are created or modified within R. As an example, we can read our movie posters into R using the readJPEG function:


posters$img_array <- lapply(
  posters$path, function(path) readJPEG(path)

We can post-processing the images by putting a black border around each image:

posters$img_array <- lapply(
  posters$img_array, function(img) {
    img[c(1, 2, nrow(img) - 1, nrow(img)), , ] <- 0
    img[, c(1, 2, ncol(img) - 1, ncol(img)), ] <- 0

Here, to show more of the things that are made possible with the library, we convert each image into its hue, saturation, and value and extract the average saturation (how rich the colors look) and value (how bright the image is).

posters$hsv <- lapply(
  posters$img_array, function(img) {
      maxColorValue = 1

posters$avg_sat <- sapply(posters$hsv, function(mat) mean(mat[2,]))
posters$avg_val <- sapply(posters$hsv, function(mat) mean(mat[3,]))

And then we will put this into our geom_img by passing the img_array parameter to the img aesthetic.

ggplot(posters) +
    x = avg_sat,
    y = avg_val,
    img = img_array
  )) +

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ggimg documentation built on May 7, 2021, 1:06 a.m.