How to Use PNG and JPG Images with SDL2 Images on Windows

Simple and functional way to compile your Games!

How to Use PNG and JPG Images with SDL2 Images on Windows


The SDL2, natively, image formats png and jpg/jpeg are not supported, only ` bmp`.

However, there is an additional package made available by the SDL2 development team itself that allows you to use PNG and JPG in your games.

In this article we will see how to use these formats in SDL2 on Windows.


First, first of all, you must have GCC MinGW properly installed on your Windows, see the article below to see how to do this:

How to Install GCC/G++ MinGW on Windows

After properly installed on your system and working correctly, download SDL2 at this link, choose version SDL2-devel-X.XX.X, where X.XX.X is the latest version number.

According to the publication date of this article, the latest version is 2.26.4, if you want to download it directly from here, just click the button below:

Once downloaded, right-click and select Extract here (needs Winrar installed).

I renamed the folder that was unzipped to SDL2 only, it’s easier when we use it.

Now cut or copy this folder to your project.

Using SDL2_image

Now let’s download the SDL2_image. Access this address: and select the latest version of SDL2_image, according to the publication date of this article is 2.6.3 .

Download the package:, where X.X.X is the version, if you want the one according to this article click on the button below:

Unzip the downloaded file (right mouse button: Extract here), enter the unzipped folder and copy the SDL_image.h file and paste it in the path corresponding to the SDL2 folder you have pasted in your project.

Its path would be: SDL2_image\x86_64-w64-mingw32\include\SDL2\SDL2_image.h and paste it in SDL2\x86_64-w64-mingw32\include\SDL2\, where there will be other files.

Do the same, but this time for ALL FILES in the bin and lib folder in SDL2_image and paste them in the corresponding paths in SDL2, example:

All files inside the bin folder: SDL2_image\x86_64-w64-mingw32\bin for ``SDL2\x86_64-w64-mingw32\bin`

All files inside the lib folder: SDL2_image\x86_64-w64-mingw32\lib for ``SDL2\x86_64-w64-mingw32\lib`

To finish this step of the copies, also copy the file: SDL2_image.dll which is in SDL2_image\x86_64-w64-mingw32\bin\SDL2_image.dll to the “root” of your project.

TIP: If you want, make a backup of this SDL2 folder that already has all the SDL2_image files somewhere else to always use them in possible new projects and save time.


To run our example we will use this PNG image below:

Pikachu SDL2 image Windows

Save it inside your project!

Now copy the code below and paste it inside a main.cpp file (Do not use Notepad to create it, use a code editor: VS Code, for example).

Of course, in the same place as the SDL2 folder (with the files copied from SDL2_image) and the image.

#include <SDL2/SDL.h>
#include <SDL2/SDL_image.h>

int main(int argc, char** argv) {

  SDL_Window* window = SDL_CreateWindow(
      "SDL2 Image on Windows",
      50, 30,
      1280, 720,

  SDL_Renderer * renderer = SDL_CreateRenderer(window, -1, 0);
  SDL_Texture * img = IMG_LoadTexture(renderer, "pikachu.png"); 

  SDL_Rect rect, rect2;
  rect.x = 50;
  rect.y = 20;
  rect.w = 400;
  rect.h = 400;

  rect2.x = 800;
  rect2.y = 20;
  rect2.w = 300;
  rect2.h = 300;

    SDL_Event event;
      if( event.type == SDL_QUIT ){
      }else if( event.type == SDL_MOUSEBUTTONDOWN ){
        rect2.x -= 20;

    SDL_SetRenderDrawColor(renderer, 240, 250, 50, 255);
    SDL_RenderFillRect(renderer, &rect2);
    SDL_SetRenderDrawColor(renderer, 9, 20, 33, 255);
    SDL_RenderCopy(renderer, img, NULL, &rect);

  return 0;

Note that in this code we have 4 fundamental lines to read and display the image correctly, they are the lines:

// Include the SDL2_image
#include <SDL2/SDL_image.h>

// Read the image: pikachu.png
SDL_Texture * img = IMG_LoadTexture(renderer, "pikachu.png");

// Display our image
// NOTE that: the `rect` will "snap" the image
SDL_RenderCopy(renderer, img, NULL, &rect);

// Free up the space used by the image in memory

Compile via command line

To compile the command is similar to what we did in the video, there is only one difference, add the flag: -lSDL2_image at the end, example:

g++ main.cpp -I SDL2\x86_64-w64-mingw32\include -L SDL2\x86_64-w64-mingw32\lib -lmingw32 -lSDL2main -lSDL2 -lSDL2_image

Now just run with the command:


SDL2_image on Windows

If it doesn’t work it’s because you must have ′′ skipped ′′ some step, review all of them!

Using a Makefile

To speed it up and type less when compiling, you can create a file (no extension, again don’t use Notepad) named Makefile and insert this content below:

	g++ .\main.cpp -I .\SDL2\x86_64-w64-mingw32\include\ -L .\SDL2\x86_64-w64-mingw32\lib\ -lmingw32 -lSDL2main -lSDL2

Remember: A Makefile must respect the tabs as the code is here, otherwise it won’t work.

After saving, still inside your project folder, such as PowerShell or CMD, run the command:

Also remember to have previously renamed the mingw32-make file to just make in the path: C:\mingw64\bin\


Using a script Lua

The cool thing about using a script from some scripting language, is that you can check if files exist and with that it helps you debug which step you forgot.

If you want to use a script: Python, Batch, … feel free!

In this example I used Lua, to find out how to install Lua on Windows see the file: How to install Lua on Windows 10(Article in Portuguese)

Create a file named build.lua still inside your project and insert the code below:

function file_exists(name)
  local f =, "r")
  return f ~= nil and io.close(f)

if(file_exists("SDL2.dll")) then
  os.execute("g++ main.cpp -I SDL2\\x86_64-w64-mingw32\\include -L SDL2\\x86_64-w64-mingw32\\lib -lmingw32 -lSDL2main -lSDL2 -lSDL2_image")
  print("It needs the SDL2.dll file to compile.")
  print("To get in: SDL2\\x86_64-w64-mingw32\\bin")
  return 1

This script checks if you didn’t forget to copy the SDL2.dll file into your project, you can still improve and also include the SDL2_image.dll file. In Lua you need to escape the backslash with another backslash, eg \\.

And to run:

lua build.lua

Any questions comment on the SDL2 video on the channel: .

See too

windows sdl2 gamedev