A Look Inside The Smallest Possible PNG File

What’s inside a PNG file? Graphics, sure. But how is that graphic encoded? [Evan Hahn] shows you what goes into a single black pixel inside a 67-byte file. Why so many bytes? Well, that is exactly what the post is about.

You had to guess there is some overhead, right? There is an 8-byte header. Next up is a 25-byte metadata block. That single pixel takes 22 bytes, and then there is a 12-byte marker for the end of file. Turns out, you could put a bit more in the file, and would still take 67 bytes. The metadata is in a chunk — a block of data with a type, length, and CRC. That’s why it takes 25 bytes to store the dimensions of the image. A chunk has to be at least 12 bytes long. The metadata includes the image dimensions, the bit depth, and so on.

The next chunk, of course, is the data. The data is compressed, but in the case of one pixel, compression is a misnomer. There will be ten data bytes in the data chunk. That doesn’t include the 12 bytes of the chunk overhead so that one pixel takes a whopping 22 bytes.

The end of file marker is another chunk with no data. The total? 67 bytes. However, you can add more than one bit and still wind up with 67 bytes. For all the details, check out the post.

Luckily, it is easy to pronounce PNG. You can even use the format for circuit simulation.

PNG Image Decoding Library Does It With Minimal RAM

Want to display a PNG file on a display attached to an Arduino or other microcontroller board? You’ll want to look at [Larry Bank]’s PNGdec, the Arduino-friendly PNG decoder library which makes it much easier to work with PNG files on your chosen microcontroller.

The PNG image format supports useful features like lossless compression, and was generally developed as an improved (and non-patented) alternative to GIF files. So far so great, but it turns out that decoding PNG files on a microcontroller is a challenge due to the limited amount of memory compared to desktop machines. When the PNG specification was developed in the 90s, computers easily had megabytes of memory to work with, but microcontrollers tend to have memory measured in kilobytes, and lack high-level memory management. [Larry]’s library addresses these issues.

PNGdec is self-contained and free from external dependencies, and also has some features to make converting pixel formats for different display types easy. It will run on any microcontroller that can spare at least 48 K of RAM, so if that sounds useful then check out the GitHub repository for code and examples.

We’ve seen [Larry]’s wonderful work before on optimizing GIF playback as well as rapid JPEG decoding, and these libraries have increasing relevance as hobbyists continue to see small LCD and OLED-based displays become ever more accessible and affordable.

[PNG logo: PNG Home Site]