Addressing FPS Drops in Tkinter with create_image()

What will you learn?

In this comprehensive guide, you will delve into resolving unexpected frame rate drops encountered when utilizing the create_image() method in Python’s Tkinter library. Gain insights into the root cause of performance issues and discover effective solutions to optimize your Tkinter applications.

Introduction to Problem and Solution

When developing GUIs with Tkinter, encountering performance challenges, particularly regarding frame rates when using create_image(), is not uncommon. These fluctuations can hinder user experience, emphasizing the importance of addressing them promptly. This guide aims to elucidate why FPS drops occur with create_image() and offers practical strategies to enhance performance.

The solution involves refining image management techniques and streamlining canvas updates within Tkinter widgets. By grasping Tkinter’s rendering mechanisms, you can implement efficient practices that reduce unnecessary computational overhead on your application, leading to significant performance improvements.


from tkinter import Tk, Canvas
from PIL import ImageTk

def update_canvas(image_path):
    global photo  # Retain a reference!
    img =
    photo = ImageTk.PhotoImage(img)
    canvas.create_image(20, 20, anchor='nw', image=photo)
    root.after(1000 // 60, update_canvas)  # Update at ~60 FPS

root = Tk()
canvas = Canvas(root, width=400, height=400)



# Copyright PHD


  • Global Reference: Maintaining a global reference (global photo) for the ImageTk.PhotoImage object is crucial to prevent premature disposal by Python’s garbage collector.
  • Efficient Redrawing: By scheduling updates with root.after(1000 // 60, update_canvas), the canvas refreshes approximately every 16 milliseconds (~60 frames per second), ensuring smooth animations.
  • PIL for Image Handling: Leveraging Pillow (from PIL import ImageTk) facilitates efficient image file management before integration into Tkinter widgets.

This approach optimizes memory usage and minimizes redundant redraw operations, effectively mitigating FPS drops.

    1. What causes FPS drops when using create_image()?

      • FPS drops often result from inefficient redrawing or loading methods within the event loop that burden the CPU/GPU.
    2. Why is a global reference necessary for PhotoImage objects?

      • Without a persistent reference like a global variable, Python’s garbage collection may prematurely remove the image object, preventing it from displaying.
    3. Can alternative libraries be used for image handling instead of PIL/Pillow?

      • While PIL/Pillow is recommended for its efficiency and compatibility with Tkinter, other libraries like OpenCV can be explored with potential adjustments for compatibility.
    4. Is there an optimal target FPS for applications?

      • Aiming for around 60 FPS ensures smooth visuals for most users; however, specific project requirements and hardware capabilities may dictate varying needs.
    5. How does frequent updating impact applications?

      • Excessive GUI updates can unnecessarily drain system resources leading to overall sluggishness or input latency within the application.

By comprehending the inner workings of methods such as create_image() in Tkinter applications, you can effectively troubleshoot performance issues like frame rate drops. Implementing resource management best practices and strategic update intervals based on insights from this guide enhances visual experiences in your Tkinter projects.

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