Installing the Python Imaging Library on Mac OS X Leopard

Posted by Thomas Sutton on March 30, 2009

Like many other developers, I work on a variety of UNIX-like operating systems including Linuxen, BSDs, and Mac OS X. While it’s generally pretty easy to build and install new software on Linux and BSD-based systems, it can be something of a pain in the arse to get some things to build on OS X, particularly when the multiple-architectures stuff comes into play. The most recent trouble I’ve had is in installing Python Imaging Library (henceforth PIL).

*[PIL]: Python Imaging Library

Thankfully, it’s not too hard to figure out the problems and get it built, installed and passing the tests. This post provides a few pointers to getting PIL working on OS X 10.5.6 with the Python 2.6 package and a bunch of libraries installed using Macports.

The first thing to do is download the source code from the PIL download page. Unpack it as usual and then try to build it in the usual distutils fashion:

tar xzf Imaging-1.1.6.tar.gz && \
cd Imaging-1.1.6 && \
python2.6 build

If your system is like mine, the build process will error out like this:

ld: in /opt/local/lib/libxml2.2.dylib, file is not of required architecture for architecture ppc

collect2: ld returned 1 exit status

lipo: can’t open input file: /var/folders/nk/nka0oBX-Gsy7r+w2hIFEfk+++TI/-Tmp-//ccMSWw7I.out (No such file or directory)

error: command ‘gcc’ failed with exit status 1

This is a relatively straight-forward error: it’s complaining that a library it needs doesn’t support an architecture that it’s trying to compile for, namely PPC. There are two ways to fix this:

  1. Build this file manually without support for PPC (quick and easy); or
  2. Install universal versions of all of the libraries that PIL depends on (likely to be slow and tedious but not particularly difficult).

Building manually

The first option is the quickest, so I’ll describe it first. Simply copy the gcc command that failed (it starts “gcc” and wraps over the next five lines) and paste it into your Terminal. Then delete the -arch ppc (if you’re on an x86 machine) or the -arch i386 (if you’re on a PPC) and run the edited command. When it completes, simply run python2.6 build again and it’ll take up where it left off and you’ll soon be ready to python2.6 install.

Installing universal libraries

The second option is a little bit more painful, because there are a number of libraries that you may need to reinstall as Universal. I’ll give instructions that I used and for [Macports][macports]. If you use something else, you’ll need to figure it out yourself.

Installing a universal version of a Macports package is pretty easy. All you need to do is add the +universal variant to it like so:

sudo port install apackage +universal

Updating an already installed package as a universal is similar:

sudo port upgrade apackage +universal

I had to update the following packages (in order) before PIL would build:

  1. libxml2; and
  2. zlib

But you may also need to reinstall:

  1. jpeg; and
  2. freetype2

With that done, should be able to build and install PIL.

The complete set of commands then is:

sudo port upgrade libxml2 +universal
sudo port upgrade zlib +universal
sudo port upgrade jpeg +universal
sudo port upgrade freetype +universal
tar xzf Imaging-1.1.6.tar.gz
cd Imaging-1.1.6/
python2.6 build
sudo python2.6 install

With luck, you should now be ready to go!


I used the following references in tracking this information down:

  1. a comment on a blog post about Installing PIL on OS X 10.5.3.
  2. a message by Christopher Barker to the Image-SIG list.
  3. If you’re a fink person, you might find Kill PIL - The Python Imaging Library Headache or Building PIL on Mac OS X helpful.

This post was published on March 30, 2009 and last modified on October 4, 2021. It is tagged with: .