One of the features of the <canvas> element is the possibility of using images. These can be used for different purposes. You can use external images in any format supported by the browser (e.g., PNG, GIF, or JPEG). As a source, you can also use the image created by other canvas elements.

Importing images into a canvas is a two-step process:

  1. Get a reference to another canvas element or an HTMLImageElement object as a source.
  2. Draw an image on the canvas with the drawImage() function.

As an image source, the canvas API can use any of the following data types:

Data Type Description
HTMLImageElement These are images created with the Image() constructor, or any <img> element.
SVGImageElement These are images embedded with the <image> element.
HTMLVideoElement An HTML <video>  element as an image source takes the current frame from the video and uses it as an image.
HTMLCanvasElement As an image source, you can use another <canvas> element.

These sources together are referred to by the type CanvasImageSource.

There are many ways to get images for use on canvas.

Using images from the same page

You can get a reference to images on the same page with the canvas with one of the following:

  • The document.images collection
  • The document.getElementsByTagName() method
  • The document.getElementById() method if you know the ID of the image you want to use

Using images from other domains

Using the <img> element with the download attribute, you can ask permission to load an image from another domain to use in the call to drawImage(). If the hosting domain allows cross-domain access, you can use the image in your canvas without tainting it.

Using other canvas elements

Other canvas elements can be accessed using either the document.getElementById() or document.getElementsByTagName() method.

Embedding an image via data: URL

Data URLs allow specifying an image as a Base64 encoded string of characters directly in the code. The data URL’s advantage is that the resulting image is available immediately. It is also possible to wrap all your CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and images in one file.

However, there is also a disadvantage: the image is not cached, and the encoded url can be too long for larger images.

Creating an image from scratch

You can also create a new HTMLImageElement object in your script. For this, use Image() constructor:

var img = new Image(); // Create new img element
img.src = 'myImage.png'; // Set source path

The image will start loading when this script is executed. The script will not do anything if you call drawImage() before the image has finished loading.

The drawImage() function

Once a reference to the source object image is available, you can use the drawImage() method. This method has the following variants:

  • drawImage(image, x, y),
  • drawImage(image, x, y, width, height),
  • drawImage(image, sx, sy, sWidth, sHeight, dx, dy, dWidth, dHeight).

The basic form is drawImage(image, x, y).

In the following example, we use the document.getElementById() method to get a reference to the image and then use the drawImage() function to draw the image.

Example of drawing an image with the drawImage() function:

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>Title of the document</title>
    <img id="photo" src="/uploads/media/default/0001/01/25acddb3da54207bc6beb5838f65f022feaa81d7.jpeg" alt="Aleq" width="200" height="185">
    <h2>Image with canvas:</h2>
    <canvas id="exampleCanvas" width="240" height="225" style="border:2px solid #cccccc;">
      Your browser doesn't support the canvas tag.
      window.onload = function() {
        var canvas = document.getElementById("exampleCanvas");
        var ctx = canvas.getContext("2d");
        var img = document.getElementById("photo");
        ctx.drawImage(img, 20, 20);
SVG images must define the width and height in the root <svg> element.

Using frames from a video

It is also possible to use frames from a video that is presented by a <video> element, even when the video is not visible. E.g., if you have a <video> element with the ID "videoCanvas", do the following:

Example of drawing a video with canvas:

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>Title of the document</title>
    <video controls id="videoCanvas" controls width="350" autoplay>
      <source src="/build/videos/" type="video/mp4">
    <h2>Canvas  draws the current video:</h2>
    <canvas id="exampleCanvas" width="310" height="190" style="border:1px solid #d3d3d3;">
      Your browser doesn't support the canvas tag.
      var v = document.getElementById("videoCanvas");
      var c = document.getElementById("exampleCanvas");
      var ctx = c.getContext("2d");
      var i;
      v.addEventListener("play", function() {
        i = window.setInterval(function() {
          ctx.drawImage(v, 5, 5, 300, 180)
        }, 10);
      }, false);
      v.addEventListener("pause", function() {
      }, false);
      v.addEventListener("ended", function() {
      }, false);

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