Loading raster data into PostGIS from the Command Line

PostGIS provides a raster2pgsql tool for converting raster data sources into database tables. This section describes how to use this tool to load a single or multiple raster files.


This section uses the command line utility raster2pgsql and optionally the graphical utility pgAdmin. raster2pgsql is included with the Boundless Server PostGIS package. pgAdmin is provided as part of Boundless Desktop.

How It Works

raster2pgsql converts a raster file into a series of SQL commands that can be loaded into a database–it does not perform the actual loading. The output of this command may be captured into a SQL file, or piped to the psql command, which will execute the commands against a target database.


Since raster2pgsql is compiled as part of PostGIS, the tool will support the same raster types as those compiled in the GDAL dependency library.


  1. Select the raster file(s) you wish to load.
  2. Identify the SRID (“projection”) of your data. If available, this information is accessed via the layer metadata in GeoServer.
  3. Either identify the target database where you would like to load the data, or create a new database.

Loading data

  1. Open a terminal or command line window.


    If the path to the raster2pgsql and psql commands haven’t been included in your PATH system variable, you may wish to add them now. Please consult your operating system help for information on how to change the PATH variable.

  2. Confirm PostGIS is responding to requests. The quickest way to test this is to run a psql query.

    psql -c "SELECT PostGIS_Version()"


    These examples use the default port (5432), but substitute your own PostGIS port if different with the -p option.

  3. To see a list of the supported raster formats, use raster2pgsql with the -G option.

    raster2pgsql -G
    Available GDAL raster formats:
      Virtual Raster
      National Imagery Transmission Format
      Raster Product Format TOC format
      ECRG TOC format
      Erdas Imagine Images (.img)
      CEOS SAR Image
      CEOS Image
      JAXA PALSAR Product Reader (Level 1.1/1.5)
      Ground-based SAR Applications Testbed File Format (.gff)
      Arc/Info Binary Grid
      Arc/Info ASCII Grid
      GRASS ASCII Grid
      SDTS Raster
      DTED Elevation Raster
      Portable Network Graphics
  4. To convert and load a raster file into the target database in one step, run the raster2pgsql command and pipe the output into the psql command. The recommended syntax is:

    raster2pgsql -I -C -s <SRID> <PATH/TO/RASTER FILE> <SCHEMA>.<DBTABLE> | psql -d <DATABASE>

    The command parameters are:

    • <SRID>—Spatial reference identifier
    • <PATH/TO/RASTER FILE>—Full path to the raster file (such as C:\MyData\land\landuse.tif)
    • <SCHEMA>—Target schema where the new raster table will be created
    • <DBTABLE>—New database table to be created (usually the same name as the source raster file)
    • <DATABASE>—Target database where the table will be created

    The following example uses raster2pgsql to create an input file and upload it into 100x100 tiles. The -I option will create a spatial GiST index on the raster column after the table is created. This is strongly recommended for improved performance. The -C option will apply the raster constraints (SRID, pixel size and so on) to ensure the new raster table is correctly registered in the raster_columns view.

    raster2pgsql -s 4236 -I -C -M *.tif -F -t 100x100 public.demelevation | psql -d gisdb


    If you omit the name of the schema and use demelevation instead of public.demelevation, the raster table will be created in the default schema of the database or user.


    For more information about raster2pgsql command options, please refer to the Loading and Creating Rasters section of the PostGIS Documentation.

    To capture the SQL commands, pipe the output to a file:

    raster2pgsql -s 4236 -I -C -M *.tif -F -t 100x100 public.demelevation > elev.sql
    psql -U postgres -d gisdb -f elev.sql

Batch Loading

Although it is feasible to run the raster2pgsql command as many times as required, it may be more efficient to create a batch file to load a number of raster files.

Windows Command (Batch)


This script assumes all the files have the same projection.

Create a batch file, for example loadfiles.cmd, in the same directory as the raster files to be loaded. Add the following commands and provide the missing parameters:

for %%f in (*.tif) do raster2pgsql -I -s <SRID> %%f %%~nf > %%~nf.sql
for %%f in (*.sql) do psql -d <DATABASE> -f %%f

Run this batch file to load all the selected raster files into the database.


If you are running the Boundless Server virtual machine on Windows, connect to the virtual machine and follow the Bash instructions.



This script also assumes all the files have the same projection.

Create a shell script file, for example loadfiles.sh, in the same directory as the raster files to be loaded. Add the following commands and provide the missing parameters:


for f in *.tif
    raster2pgsql -I -s <SRID> $f `basename $f .tif` > `basename $f .tif`.sql

for f in *.sql
    psql -d <DATABASE> -f $f

Creating Raster Tables in the Database

You can also add rasters and raster tables directly to the database. A typical workflow is as follows:

  1. Create a table with a raster column.

    CREATE TABLE myRaster(rid serial primary key, rast raster);
  2. Populate the table with some raster data by either creating empty rasters or creating rasters from other geometries.

    • To create an empty raster, use ST_MakeEmptyRaster().

      INSERT INTO myRasterTable(rid,rast)
      VALUES(3, ST_MakeEmptyRaster( 100, 100, 0.0005, 0.0005, 1, 1, 0, 0, 4326) );
    • To use an existing raster as a template for a new raster, execute the following:

      INSERT INTO myRasterTable(rid,rast)
      SELECT 4, ST_MakeEmptyRaster(rast)
        FROM myRasterTable WHERE rid = 3;

      Confirm the successful insertion of the two rasters and display the raster metadata with ST_MetaData():

      SELECT rid, (md).*
        FROM (SELECT rid, ST_MetaData(rast) As md
                    FROM myRasterTable
                    WHERE rid IN(3,4)) As foo;
      3  | 0.0005   | 0.0005   | 100 | 100  | 1    | 1    | 0   | 0   |4326| 0
      4  | 0.0005   | 0.0005   | 100 | 100  | 1    | 1    | 0   | 0   |4326| 0
    • To create a raster from an existing geometry, use ST_AsRaster().

      CREATE TABLE myNewRaster AS
        SELECT 1 AS rid, ST_AsRaster((
             FROM myGeomTable
             ), 1000.0, 1000.0 )
        AS rast;
    • To create a new raster table based on an existing raster table but with a different projection, use ST_Transform(). If no projection algorithm is specified, NearestNeighbor is used by default. The following example will use the Bilinear algorithm.


      Algorithm options are: NearestNeighbor, Bilinear, Cubic, CubicSpline, and Lanczos.

      SELECT ST_Width(myNewRaster) As w_before, ST_Width(wgs_84) As w_after,
        ST_Height(myNewRaster) As h_before, ST_Height(wgs_84) As h_after
                 ( SELECT rast As myNewRaster, ST_Transform(rast,4326) As wgs_84,
               ST_Transform(rast,4326, 'Bilinear') AS wgs_84_bilin
                     FROM aerials.o_2_boston
                               WHERE ST_Intersects(rast,
                                      ST_Transform(ST_MakeEnvelope(-71.128, 42.2392,-71.1277,
                                           42.2397, 4326),26986) )
                         LIMIT 1) As foo;
      w_before | w_after | h_before | h_after
      ------ --+-------- +----------+---------
      200      |  228    | 200      | 170
  3. To optimize query performance for the raster table, create a spatial index on the raster column.

    CREATE INDEX myRasterTable_rast_st_convexhull_idx ON myRasterTable USING gist(ST_ConvexHull(rast));


    Pre-2.0 versions of PostGIS raster were based on the envelope rather than the convex hull. To ensure spatial indexes work correctly in PostGIS 2.0, drop any existing envelope indexes and replace them with convex hull based indexes.

Enabling GDAL inside PostGIS

By default, PostGIS is not setup to use the GDAL libraries. To enable it;


  1. Edit the /var/lib/pgsql/.bash_profile file

  2. Add the following lines;

  3. Restart postgresql

    service postgresql-9.6 restart


  1. Edit the /etc/postgresql/9.6/main/environment file

  2. Add the following lines;

  3. Restart postgresql

    service postgresql restart

To verify that this is working, execute “SELECT st_GDALDrivers();”. This should give you a long list of supported GDAL format drivers.