The function DominantColors is a simple function but runs incredibly slow when the number n of dominant colors to find is large - it is currently the biggest bottleneck in my code:

tst = ExampleData[{"TestImage", "Lena"}];
gr = ListDensityPlot[SeedRandom[1]; RandomReal[{}, {4000, 3}], 
  InterpolationOrder -> 0, Frame -> False, Mesh -> All, 
  ImageSize -> 475]
polys = Cases[Normal@gr, _Polygon, \[Infinity]];
vpolys = Polygon[#[[1]], VertexTextureCoordinates -> #[[1]]] & /@ 
pieces = Table[Graphics[{Texture[tst], p}], {p, vpolys}];
colors = Table[
   RandomChoice[DominantColors[p, 5][[2 ;;]]], {p, pieces}];
cpolys = Map[{#[[2]], Polygon[#[[1, 1]]]} &, Thread@{polys, colors}];
gcp = Graphics[cpolys]

Mathematica graphics

Has anyone any ideas to reimplement it to be faster?

Motivation & Clarification

I use mathematica to do explorative art. I'm using this subroutine DominantColors as a tool in my various software art projects for example: enter image description here I don't need someone to implement a specific image effect, rather I need a faster dominant-n-colors-finder. I'm thinking of using cudalink...

  • $\begingroup$ Show your slow code, please. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 '15 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidG.Stork Sure, I'll post the code I have for context, but I have zero code for the topic of the question - I don't know where to start on the actual reimplementation here. $\endgroup$
    – M.R.
    Apr 14 '15 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Off to the races everyone! $\endgroup$
    – M.R.
    May 1 '15 at 0:21
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I wonder how much of that slowdown is due to Mathematica trying to convert the simple input into Entity["Lena", Entity["ImageData", {{Entity["Color", {Entity["Red", Quantity[...]}], ...}, ...}]] and choking on its own vomit :D $\endgroup$
    – rm -rf
    May 1 '15 at 3:49

The function domCol below is about 100 times faster than DominantColors.

Basic plan: Create enough color bins throughout the color space occupied by the image; count the number of pixels in each bin; return the sorted colors. The function works in the LAB color space so we can use EuclideanDistance for the distance between colors. The centers of the bins are jiggled by a random offset each call, so that the return value is not deterministic. The option "RandomSeed" can be used to give a reproducible result.


domCol[ExampleData[{"TestImage", "Mandrill"}], 20] // AbsoluteTiming

Mathematica graphics

domCol[ExampleData[{"TestImage", "Lena"}], 20] // AbsoluteTiming

Mathematica graphics

It seems to find similar colors to the ones found by DominantColors, although in a different order here and there.

Mathematica graphics


Suppose DominantColors spends some time fiddling with constructing an optimal set of color bins, which seems a reasonable hypothesis. This approach does not, but uses a simple heuristic to get a binning that's likely to do a pretty good job. That seems the probable reason for the difference in performance. The function domCol uses a face-center cubic close-packing of spheres, with slightly larger spheres that overlap a little (radius 0.55 dx where dx is the diameter determined by the heuristic). Some of the space is not covered. (Technically, they're not really bins.) The distance can be set explicitly by the option MinColorDistance, which in this case will actually determine the exact color distance between adjacent bins, but the option exists already (for DominantColors). One could make the 0.55 fudge factor an option, too, for more control. With this approach Nearest is a convenient and efficient way to do the bin counts.

Options[domCol] = {"RandomSeed" -> Automatic, MinColorDistance -> Automatic};
domCol[img_, n_, OptionsPattern[]] := 
 Module[{idata, nf, bounds, basis, points, colorbins, intensity},
  idata = Flatten[ImageData@ColorConvert[img, "LAB"], 1];
  nf = Nearest@idata;
  bounds = MinMax /@ Transpose@idata;
  With[{dx = 
     OptionValue[MinColorDistance] /.
      Automatic -> (Times @@ Flatten[Differences /@ bounds]/n)^(1/3)/4},
   basis = LatticeData["FaceCenteredCubic", "Basis"];
   If[IntegerQ@OptionValue["RandomSeed"] || 
   points = Tuples[Range[# - dx + RandomReal[{-dx, dx}/2], #2 + dx, dx] & @@@
      (Sort /@ (Inverse@Transpose[basis].bounds))].basis;
   colorbins = Select[points, Length@nf[#, {1, dx}] >= 1 &];
   intensity = Length@nf[#, {All, 0.55 dx}] & /@ colorbins
  LABColor /@ colorbins[[Ordering[intensity, -Min[n, Length@colorbins]]]] // Reverse

The use of the "FaceCenteredCubic" lattice is based in part on this answer by s0rce: Using LatticeData to fill a space with spheres in a face-centered cubic (fcc) lattice packing arrangement


Use of ColorQuantize Much faster. Not exactly the same, but close and for an art project is OK I think.

i = ExampleData[{"TestImage", "Lena"}];

QuaCol[i_, n_] := RGBColor /@ Union[Flatten[ImageData[ColorQuantize[i, n]], 1]]

enter image description here


The problem is not with DominantColors

Try varying the number of colours selected by running this snippet. I vary the number of selected colours from 1 to 10, and measure the time to calculate DominantColours ten times:

     Table[DominantColors[p, i], {p, RandomChoice[pieces, 10]}]
 , {i, 10}]

(* {6.544491, 7.658153, 6.025185, 7.401227, 6.483151,
    9.054305, 8.664255, 11.058545, 13.238622, 13.285135} *)

Empirically, the time increases linearly with the number of colours, but the constant overhead is very high --- basically the time your code requires has almost nothing to do with the number of colours selected.

The problem seems to be that each element of pieces is a complex image - it contains the whole Lena image for starters. Each element of pieces is 780 kB in size and - not knowing about how it works - it's unsurprising to me that it takes some time to compute.

If you try this with a bigger image than Lena you'll just run into more problems--- especially if you try to generate more than 4000 pieces because you're manipulating a bigger image. The solution is to not to fix DominantColors but to come up with a colour selection routine that isn't so memory intensive. If you rewrite the question with that in mind, I think a good answer could be found.

  • $\begingroup$ I suspect you can avoid DominantColors altogether by sampling just the color of the center of each "piece." For large number of pieces (Voronoi cells) that color will suffice. $\endgroup$ May 1 '15 at 0:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree. The question has little to do with DominantColors. The problem is the basic algorithm which makes too many copies of the image--- it presumably can't be adapted to bigger images, as the complexity is at least proportional to the size of the basic image (Lena is small) and the number of pieces; and it already takes 3.5 GB RAM. $\endgroup$
    – djp
    May 1 '15 at 0:30

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