tiny, fast bitmap (.bmp) image file loader
C Makefile
Latest commit fd27648 Jul 16, 2016 @chazomaticus Bump version
I'm calling this 2.1.  Even though it's a fairly major overhaul, it's
still backwards-compatible, interface-wise, with 2.0.
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INSTALL Better "install" docs Sep 23, 2012
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TODO Update docs with test info May 8, 2016
bmpread.c Bump version Jul 19, 2016
bmpread.h Bump version Jul 19, 2016



libbmpread is a tiny, fast bitmap (.bmp) image file loader, written from scratch in portable C (see below), with no dependencies. Its default behavior is compatible with OpenGL texture functions, making it ideal for use in simple games. It handles uncompressed monochrome, 16- and 256-color, and 24-bit bitmap files of any size (no RLE support yet).



To use, simply copy bmpread.c and bmpread.h into your project and add them to the build.

See bmpread.h for thorough documentation of the interface. The main points are:

  • bmpread_t - struct that holds bitmap data
  • bmpread() - read bitmap data from disk into a bmpread_t
  • bmpread_free() - free memory allocated in bmpread()


Here's a code snippet showing how libbmpread might be used to create an OpenGL texture from a bitmap file on disk:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <GL/gl.h>
#include "bmpread.h"

/* Load the specified bitmap file from disk and copy it into an OpenGL texture.
 * Return the GLuint representing the texture.
GLuint LoadTexture(const char * bitmap_file)
    GLuint texture = 0;
    bmpread_t bitmap;

    if(!bmpread(bitmap_file, 0, &bitmap))
        fprintf(stderr, "%s: error loading bitmap file\n", bitmap_file);

    /* At this point, bitmap.width and .height hold the pixel dimensions of the
     * file, and bitmap.rgb_data holds the raw pixel data in RGB triplets.

    glGenTextures(1, &texture);
    glBindTexture(GL_TEXTURE_2D, texture);

    glTexImage2D(GL_TEXTURE_2D, 0, 3, bitmap.width, bitmap.height, 0,
                 GL_RGB, GL_UNSIGNED_BYTE, bitmap.rgb_data);


    return texture;

void SomeInitFunction(void)
    GLuint tex1 = LoadTexture("texture1.bmp");
    // ...

See also the example directory for a full, compiling example that displays a bitmap named on the command line on an OpenGL quad using GLUT. To build and run:

cd example
./bmpread-example <bmpfile>

Some example bitmap files are included there as well.

Portability/Security Notes

libbmpread is written to be maximally ANSI C (C89/C90) portable, minimizing undefined and implementation-defined behavior. It's also written to be able to be compiled as C++, so it can be used in C++ projects with a minimum of fuss. It should work in most environments--I believe there are only two assumptions the code makes that aren't guaranteed by the C standard: 1) CHAR_BIT == 8 (note: if this is violated, compilation will fail), and 2) two's complement integer storage; deviations from these assumptions are extremely rare in the wild. I've also made use of <stdint.h> and ptrdiff_t, which I believe are technically C99 features, but are common in practice even for non-compliant compilers.

I've taken every precaution to prevent common bugs that can have security impact, such as integer overflows that might lead to buffer overruns. I believe it's impossible to cause libbmpread to do anything besides properly load a file or fail with error, even on maliciously crafted files. I haven't done a thorough audit, nor am I an expert at writing hardened "C/C++" code, so take my belief with a grain of salt.


To run the test suite:

cd test

The last line will read All tests passed! if everything was ok. Be patient: I test an unoptimized function over its entire 32-bit numeric range, so it can take a minute or two to finish.

There are some basic unit tests, but more work is needed to test the behavior of the public API. The tests are compiled as both portable C and portable C++ code to cover compilation in each, and each resulting test binary is run to check its runtime behavior.