Finding Contours in Images with OpenCV

In this tutorial, let’s see how easy to find all contours in an image with OpenCV APIs.


Finding contours is a useful task during image processing. The relevant OpenCV functions are as follows:

  • Find contours in a binary image.
    void findContours(InputOutputArray image, OutputArrayOfArrays contours, OutputArray hierarchy, int mode, int method, Point offset=Point())
  • Draw contour outlines or fill contours.
    void drawContours(InputOutputArray image, InputArrayOfArrays contours, int contourIdx, const Scalar& color, int thickness=1, int lineType=8, InputArray hierarchy=noArray(), int maxLevel=INT_MAX, Point offset=Point() )
  • Calculates a contour perimeter or a curve length.
    double arcLength(InputArray curve, bool closed)
  • Calculates a contour area.
    double contourArea(InputArray contour, bool oriented=false )
  • Calculates the upright bounding rectangle of a point set.
    Rect boundingRect(InputArray points)
  • Find a rotated rectangle of the minimum area enclosing the input 2D point set.
    RotatedRect minAreaRect(InputArray points)
  • Find a circle of the minimum area enclosing a 2D point set.
    void minEnclosingCircle(InputArray points, Point2f& center, float& radius)

Building Contour Demo with Visual Studio 2013

  1.  Make sure to prepare your OpenCV environment successfully. If you want to make OpenCV library by yourself, please refer to blog Building OpenCV with CMake on Windows.
  2. Create a win32 console project “FindContourDemo”.
  3. Add include directories of OpenCV for project:
  4. Add library directories of OpenCV for project:
  5. Find Post-Build Event and add the following commands to copy relevant OpenCV DLLs:
    copy "F:\opencv\build\x86\vc12\bin\opencv_core2410.dll" $(OutDir)
    copy "F:\opencv\build\x86\vc12\bin\opencv_imgproc2410.dll" $(OutDir)
    copy "F:\opencv\build\x86\vc12\bin\opencv_highgui2410.dll" $(OutDir)
  6. Edit the main function like this:
    #include "opencv2/imgproc/imgproc.hpp"
    #include "opencv2/highgui/highgui.hpp"
    #ifdef _DEBUG
    #pragma comment(lib, "opencv_core2410d.lib")
    #pragma comment(lib, "opencv_imgproc2410d.lib")
    #pragma comment(lib, "opencv_highgui2410d.lib")
    #pragma comment(lib, "opencv_core249.lib")
    #pragma comment(lib, "opencv_imgproc249.lib")
    #pragma comment(lib, "opencv_highgui249.lib")
    using namespace cv;
    using namespace std;
    int main( int, char** argv )
    	const char * file_name = "shape.png";
    	Mat src_mat, gray_mat, canny_mat;
    	Mat contour_mat;
    	Mat bounding_mat;
    	const char* src_name = "Source";
    	const char* contours_name = "Contours";
    	const char* bounding_name = "Bounding";
    	//1.Read image file & clone.
    	src_mat = imread( file_name );
    	contour_mat = src_mat.clone();
    	bounding_mat = src_mat.clone();
    	//2. Convert to gray image and apply canny edge detection
    	cvtColor( src_mat, gray_mat, COLOR_RGB2GRAY );
    	Canny(gray_mat, canny_mat, 30, 128, 3, false);
    	//3. Find & process the contours
    	//3.1 find contours on the edge image.
    	vector< vector< cv::Point> > contours;
    	findContours(canny_mat, contours, RETR_EXTERNAL, CHAIN_APPROX_SIMPLE);
    	//3.2 draw contours & property value on the source image.
    	double area, length;
    	drawContours(contour_mat, contours, -1, cv::Scalar(0), 2);	//draw contours on the image
    	for(int i = 0; i < contours.size(); ++i)
    		Point2f center;
    		float radius;
    		area = contourArea(contours[i]);
    		length = arcLength(contours[i], true);
    		minEnclosingCircle(contours[i], center, radius);
    		//draw contour property value at the contour center.
    		char buffer[64] = {0};		
    		sprintf(buffer, "Area: %.2lf", area);
    		putText(contour_mat, buffer, center, FONT_HERSHEY_SIMPLEX, .6, Scalar(0), 1);
    		sprintf(buffer, "Length: %.2lf", length);
    		putText(contour_mat, buffer, Point(center.x,center.y+20), FONT_HERSHEY_SIMPLEX, .6, Scalar(0), 1);
    	//3.3 find bounding of each contour, and draw it on the source image.
    	for(int i = 0; i < contours.size(); ++i)
    		Point2f points[4];
    		Point2f center;
    		float radius;
    		Rect rect;
    		RotatedRect rotate_rect;
    		//compute the bounding rect, rotated bounding rect, minum enclosing circle.
    		rect = boundingRect(contours[i]);
    		rotate_rect = minAreaRect(contours[i]);
    		minEnclosingCircle(contours[i], center, radius);
    		vector< vector< Point> > polylines;
    		for(int j = 0; j < 4; ++j)
    		//draw them on the bounding image.
    		cv::rectangle(bounding_mat, rect, Scalar(0,0,255), 2);
    		cv::polylines(bounding_mat, polylines, true, Scalar(0, 255, 0), 2);
    		cv::circle(bounding_mat, center, radius, Scalar(255, 0, 0), 2);
    	//4. show window
    	namedWindow( src_name, WINDOW_AUTOSIZE );
    	namedWindow( contours_name, WINDOW_AUTOSIZE );
    	namedWindow( bounding_name, WINDOW_AUTOSIZE );
    	imshow(src_name, src_mat);
    	imshow(contours_name, contour_mat);
    	imshow(bounding_name, bounding_mat);
    	return 0;
  7. Build and run.
    • Here is the source image.
      contour source
    • The found contour property values are displayed as follows.
      contour property
    • This image shows the results of the bounding rectangle, rotated bounding rectangle and minimum enclosing circles.
      (Red: bounding rectangle; Green: rotated bounding rectangle; Blue: minimum enclosing circle)
      contour results

Source Code