I need to convert my LaTeX documents into PNG. The problem is, I also need the resulting image to be as short as possible (height-wise). I've tried latex followed by dvipng, but the result is always the size of a page. For instance, take a .tex file containing:

Hello. This is a test.
  L = 2                                                                     

If I compile it with latex, and then run dvipng, I get a PNG file that's the size of a full page. What I need is for the PNG file to be only as tall as needed for everything to fit. So the image would end immediately after the equation. The image still needs to have full width (because of the equation numbering).

Is there a way to achieve that?

13 Answers 13

up vote 254 down vote accepted

You can use the standalone class for this. It loads the preview package automatically to crop the resulting PDF to the content. This makes the usage of pdfcrop unnecessary.

Simply exchange the article class with standalone. (It uses article internally but another class can be specified using the class option.) Note that since v1.0 the default option has been changed from preview to crop. The latter is better for pictures etc. but doesn't support line breaks. Either select preview manually or use the varwidth option.

Hello. This is a test.
L = 2

There is a border class option which sets the border around the content (the default is 0.5bp). This option excepts either one (border for all sides), two (left/right, top/bottom) or four values (left, bottom, right, top).

To convert it to a PNG I recommend to use the convert command of Image Magick:

pdflatex file
convert -density 300 file.pdf -quality 90 file.png

Here the density is 300 DPI which can be adapted to your needs. The quality setting selects the compression level and other things and 90 is AFAIK the optimum.

You can also select the DPI resolution for X and Y separately and also resize the resulting image, e.g.:

convert -density 600x600 file.pdf -quality 90 -resize 1080x800 file.png

Update 2011/12/21:

The new version 1.0 standalone now has the ability to call the above command line (and others) automatically, e.g.:


or simply (using default setting 300dpi, no resizing, PNG):


This needs the -shell-escape compiler option to allow the execution of the conversion program from within the LaTeX document.

  • 2
    Matin, this seem extremely useful. Any idea as to when this will be released? I'd like to do something very similar, except only specify a minimum height for the page (and allow it to grow beyond that if needed), I still want the width of the PNG fixed. – Peter Grill May 5 '11 at 6:20
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    Great answer, thanks! I wrote a shellscript that takes care of all the repetitive wrapping and conversion stuff. Find it here and do whatever GPL3 allows you to do with it. – Raphael Mar 29 '12 at 11:41
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    @Raphael: Thanks! That sounds great. I might update the question and add a link to your script. – Martin Scharrer Mar 29 '12 at 12:45
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    @Pygmalion: Not a bug but a documented choice. convert is actually the Windows build-in to convert FAT32 to NTFS, so for safety I named it imgconvert and state in the manual that you need to rename the .exe of ImageMagick or the setting in standalone. – Martin Scharrer Sep 20 '15 at 15:32
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    I generally get better results with poppler's pdftoppm, the anti-aliasing is way better. pdftoppm -png -r 600 out.pdf > out.png – MaxNoe Feb 24 '16 at 11:24

One thing that's easy to miss is page numbers. The page number restricts the height of the final image so it's best to leave it out. An easy way to do that is to use the empty page style.

What I do when doing images for this place is to have a document a bit like:

Hello. This is a test.
L = 2

Then run pdflatex on it to get a PDF; next run pdfcrop (comes with TeXLive) to make it as small as possible; finally convert it to PNG using the NetPBM library tools. (This is on a Unix machine.) So my workflow is:

pdflatex document.tex
pdfcrop document.pdf
pdftoppm document-crop.pdf|pnmtopng > document.png

et voila:

small png

  • Is there a way to fine tune the resolution in the third command? – Malabarba Feb 23 '11 at 18:40
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    @Bruce: The manpage for pdftoppm says that you can specify the resolution by using the argument -r RES. The default is 150DPI so experiment with that to find one that you like. – Loop Space Feb 23 '11 at 22:04
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    You can merge the last two commands: pdftopnm doc.pdf | pnmcrop | pnmtopng > doc.png. – Paul Gaborit Aug 10 '12 at 0:14
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    @egreg Minimal class? What minimal class? But seriously, this was written over 5 years ago (and a year before the "universal" question about the minimal class was asked) when I was young and naïve. In this modern era, I use the standalone class for this task. Anyway, I've editted it to use the empty page style instead. Happy now?? – Loop Space Nov 15 '16 at 18:07
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    @DiaaAbidou The correct command is pdftoppm (instead of pdftopnm). To install it, you can read How to install Poppler on Windows. – Paul Gaborit Jan 22 at 5:47

If you have a dvi file file.dvi, running dvipng -T tight file.dvi will produce a png with the image automatically cropped as much as possible. (You might also want to set the output resolution using the -D flag, as in dvipng -T tight -D 150 file.dvi for 150 dots per inch.)

As Andrew points out in his answer, getting rid of the page numbers is a good idea.

I had a few issues using the standalone package and ImageMagick. Running the

pdflatex -shell-escape file.tex

command did not generate the png file. I fixed this in two steps:

  1. Renaming the "convert.exe" file to "imgconvert.exe" in the ImageMagick folder (C:\Program Files\ImageMagick-6.9.0-Q16).
  2. Installing a newer version of Ghostview (direct link: http://sourceforge.net/projects/ghostscript/files/GPL%20Ghostscript/9.01/gs901w32.exe/download)

Before I did this I got errors saying that no conversion had happened:

Class standalone Warning: Conversion unsuccessful!
(standalone)              There might be something wrong with your
(standalone)              conversation software or the file permissions!

Earlier in the compilation was a line saying imgconvert was not a recognized command so that suggests that the standalone package expects the convert.exe file to be renamed (found that solution here:Conversion problem using standalone and imagemagick).

Renaming the file connected the standalone package and ImageMagick, but the Ghostview file "gswin32c.exe" stopped working every time I attempted a conversion. Installing a newer version solved that problem, as described here: http://freewarestyle.blogspot.com/2011/04/gswin32cexe-gswin32cexe-error-cutepdf.html

Just thought this could be useful for somebody else.

Edit If I may, I add that it might not be sufficient/necessary for the first step to rename the "convert.exe" file, you alternatively can add the directory within your editor search path where your ImageMagick is installed.

For example for TexStudio users, this is done by clicking on "Options -> Configure TexStudio" then click on tab "Build" and add the directory to the "Commands($PATH)".


then dvipng crops the whitespace on top and bottom

  • is this a standard package or is there additional installation required? – baxx Oct 23 '16 at 12:07
  • pst-pdf is a standard package and dvipng comes with every TeX distribution. – Herbert Oct 23 '16 at 12:24

i use this technique to prepare examples for posting to tex.sx, but it could presumably be used for any situation in which a small .png file is needed.

  • create a dedicated input file, limiting the input to exactly what should be in the example. be sure to specify \thispagestyle{empty} (after \begin{document}).
    the input file i use is just a cut-down version of whatever document the example is extracted from; i haven't had good luck with standalone or other "minimal" classes.
  • run pdflatex.
  • pdfcrop -margin 3 in-name.pdf out-name.pdf
  • convert -trim -density 200 out-name.pdf out-name.png
    (this requires imagemagick).

this requires two "external" programs, and can probably be scripted.

Without using standalone, I used to transform my .pdf output in a .png file by an online converter (I don't give the link because I don't know if it is reliable, however, you can easily find it googling around) but since I installed arara package I've done this conversion more quickly.

I have Windows 10 but I think this works with every operating system, you only need to have ImageMagick (it's free) and arara package installed.

Modifying the animate rule provided by cmhughes, which creates a .gif file, I have created a convert.yaml rule and put in ...\MiKTeX 2.9\scripts\arara\rules (the path varies according to which operating system and TeX distribution you are using, I have MiKTeX):

# Convert .pdf to any format file allowed by ImageMagick convert command (the default is png)
# author: CarLaTeX
# last edited by: CarLaTeX, Dicember 26th 2016
# requires arara 3.0+
# Sample usage: 
# - these both create a .png file
# % arara: convert
# % arara: convert: {format: png}
# - this creates a .gif file with red background
# % arara: convert: {format: gif, background: red}
# - this creates a .png file with a trimmed image 
#   (use the parameter "otheroptions" to add any option not already explicitly considered by the rule, 
#   that is any option different from -background, -alpha, -density and -quality}
# % arara: convert: {otheroptions: -trim +repage}
# This rule is really just a shortcut for commands like the following:
#  convert -density 300 myfile.pdf myfile.png
# which will output myfile.png
identifier: convert
name: convert
- <arara> @{ isWindows( "cmd /c convert", "convert" ) } -background @{background} -alpha @{alpha} -density @{density} @{otheroptions} "@{ getBasename(file) }.pdf" -quality @{quality} "@{ getBasename(file) }.@{format}"
- identifier: density
  flag: <arara> @{parameters.density}
  default: 150
- identifier: otheroptions
  flag: <arara> @{parameters.otheroptions}
- identifier: quality
  flag: <arara> @{parameters.quality}
  default: 100
- identifier: background
  flag: <arara> @{parameters.background}
  default: white
- identifier: alpha
  flag: <arara> @{parameters.alpha}
  default: remove
- identifier: format
  flag: <arara> @{parameters.format}
  default: png

(Take into account that I'm not an expert, maybe this could be done better).

Of course, you have to do this once for all, then it is sufficient to put:

% arara: pdflatex               (or any other command you are using to compile)
% arara: ...                    (possible other commands)
% arara: convert

at the beginning of your document and compile it with arara.

For example, if you have this myfile.tex:

% arara: pdflatex
% arara: convert

and you run arara myfile.tex, you will get a myfile.pdf and a myfile.png.

For an analogous solution using Ghostscript, see this answer of mine.

  • How could you change the output format? For example if I want density of 300 with jpg format, what should I write? – Diaa Jan 21 at 13:53
  • 1
    @DiaaAbidou % arara: convert: {format: jpg, density: 300} should work... – CarLaTeX Jan 21 at 16:53

If you have access to an Apple computer, I highly recommend LaTeXiT, which exports formulas as PNG. If you're on a Mac it's included in MacTeX...

  • Not only exports, it saves the code inside the image so you can import them back to LaTeXiT to edit the image. – Manuel Jan 21 '14 at 13:08
  • @Manuel, sure there's even more to it. – Habi Jan 21 '14 at 14:52

Another approach with preview package directly.

% host.tex

% this is main.tex
Hello. This is a test.
L = 2

\immediate\write18{pdflatex main.tex}
\immediate\write18{convert -density 100  main.pdf main.png}
The following  is a PNG image.\newline

enter image description here


  • ImageMagick must be installed on your machine.
  • Compile the host.tex with pdflatex -shell-escape host.tex.
  • Certainly the best answer! Works like a charm out of the box. – exchange Jun 15 at 17:31

The answers here are pretty great if you just have a single equation you'd like to export. What if you have a list of equations in some file that you'd like to export?

% equation 1 %
\[ y = mx + b \]

% equation 2 %
e = \lim_{n \rightarrow \infty} \left ( 1 + \frac{1}{n} \right )^n

You'd like to automatically export each of these equations to a separate image file. I would suggest one of the following two approaches.

Approach #1 (not so good, but easy) - Use matplotlib, which can render basic equations using the plt.text() command. Here is a snippet of code that handles some nice formatting (centering and padding for the equation: https://gist.github.com/ahwillia/c7e54f875913ebc3de3852e9f51ccc69

The main formatting trick is to use the get_window_extent() function as suggested in this StackOverflow discussion, and then set the size of the figure appropriately.

Approach #2 (more powerful) - Use a python script to make a bunch of temporary .tex files following the various templates suggested in this thread. And the use the subprocess module to compile the latex, rename to an appropriate filename and delete .log and .aux files.

I have a basic script that works for my needs here: https://gist.github.com/ahwillia/ce9a842f122757518c65d0bd545f28c1#file-equations-tex-L2

There is also a more polished package called texscrap, though I haven't tried it extensively yet. It accepts a text file of one-liner equations as input, but I'm not sure if there are edge cases it fails on. Seem very promising though.

  • does this extend to using aligned environments , multiline equations and such? – baxx Oct 23 '16 at 12:35
  • Yes I've successfuly done (with my janky code) e.g. - jcnts.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/… – Alex Williams Oct 24 '16 at 0:20
  • That doesn't seem to use matplotlib at all? – baxx Oct 24 '16 at 0:21
  • Sorry - I thought you meant approach #2. The matplotlib approach is pretty limited. Don't think that you can do multiline. I'll edit the answer to reflect that. – Alex Williams Oct 24 '16 at 0:24

If you only want to use the PNG image to include it into MS Word you can choose among several programs that will greatly simplify your task. By hand you have to go through the whole process every time you modify the LaTeX part of your document.

As far as I know there is:

They all have different properties, some are freeware, shareware or opensource but it improves your workflow quite a bit if you can simply change the figure in Word directly and use LaTeX in the background for nice typesetting. Internally they all use some VBA or .NET code to connect the LaTeX, dvips, convert toolchain to MS Word.

You can install TikzEDT which has a stanalone feature. From here you can directly export you picture into .pdf,.jpg,.png etc without any trouble.

I failed all suggested methods for getting png. The simplest way to get (quite good) png file of the pdf file of a TikZ picture for me so far is the following: Use Miktex/Texmaker to get a pdf file with build-in pdf viewer (Option/Configure Texmaker/Quick Build/, then select build-in viewer in PDF VIEWER); after compiling and getting pdf, just right click to the pdf picture and choose: Convert page to a PNG picture.

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