How to save an HTML5 Canvas as an image on a server?

I'm working on a generative art project where I would like to allow users to save the resulting images from an algorithm. The general idea is:

  • Create an image on an HTML5 Canvas using a generative algorithm
  • When the image is completed, allow users to save the canvas as an image file to the server
  • Allow the user to either download the image or add it to a gallery of pieces of produced using the algorithm.

However, I’m stuck on the second step. After some help from Google, I found this blog post, which seemed to be exactly what I wanted:

Which led to the JavaScript code:

function saveImage() {
  var canvasData = canvas.toDataURL("image/png");
  var ajax = new XMLHttpRequest();"POST", "testSave.php", false);
  ajax.onreadystatechange = function() {
  ajax.setRequestHeader("Content-Type", "application/upload");
  ajax.send("imgData=" + canvasData);

and corresponding PHP (testSave.php):

if (isset($GLOBALS["HTTP_RAW_POST_DATA"])) {
  $imageData = $GLOBALS['HTTP_RAW_POST_DATA'];
  $filteredData = substr($imageData, strpos($imageData, ",") + 1);
  $unencodedData = base64_decode($filteredData);
  $fp = fopen('/path/to/file.png', 'wb');

  fwrite($fp, $unencodedData);

But this doesn’t seem to do anything at all.

More Googling turns up this blog post which is based off of the previous tutorial. Not very different, but perhaps worth a try:

$data = $_POST['imgData'];
$file = "/path/to/file.png";
$uri = substr($data,strpos($data, ",") + 1);

file_put_contents($file, base64_decode($uri));
echo $file;

This one creates a file (yay) but it’s corrupted and doesn’t seem to contain anything. It also appears to be empty (file size of 0).

Is there anything really obvious that I’m doing wrong? The path where I’m storing my file is writable, so that isn’t an issue, but nothing seems to be happening and I’m not really sure how to debug this.


Following Salvidor Dali’s link I changed the AJAX request to be:

function saveImage() {
  var canvasData = canvas.toDataURL("image/png");
  var xmlHttpReq = false;

  if (window.XMLHttpRequest) {
    ajax = new XMLHttpRequest();
  else if (window.ActiveXObject) {
    ajax = new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP");
  }"POST", "testSave.php", false);
  ajax.setRequestHeader("Content-Type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded");
  ajax.onreadystatechange = function() {
  ajax.send("imgData=" + canvasData);

And now the image file is created and isn’t empty! It seems as if the content type matters and that changing it to x-www-form-urlencoded allowed the image data to be sent.

The console returns the (rather large) string of base64 code and the datafile is ~140 kB. However, I still can’t open it and it seems to not be formatted as an image.

Here is an example how to achieve what you need:

1) Draw something (taken from canvas tutorial)

<canvas id="myCanvas" width="578" height="200"></canvas>
    var canvas = document.getElementById('myCanvas');
    var context = canvas.getContext('2d');

    // begin custom shape
    context.moveTo(170, 80);
    context.bezierCurveTo(130, 100, 130, 150, 230, 150);
    context.bezierCurveTo(250, 180, 320, 180, 340, 150);
    context.bezierCurveTo(420, 150, 420, 120, 390, 100);
    context.bezierCurveTo(430, 40, 370, 30, 340, 50);
    context.bezierCurveTo(320, 5, 250, 20, 250, 50);
    context.bezierCurveTo(200, 5, 150, 20, 170, 80);

    // complete custom shape
    context.lineWidth = 5;
    context.fillStyle = '#8ED6FF';
    context.strokeStyle = 'blue';

2) Convert canvas image to URL format (base64)

var dataURL = canvas.toDataURL();

3) Send it to your server via Ajax

  type: "POST",
  url: "script.php",
  data: { 
     imgBase64: dataURL
}).done(function(o) {
  // If you want the file to be visible in the browser 
  // - please modify the callback in javascript. All you
  // need is to return the url to the file, you just saved 
  // and than put the image in your browser.

3) Save base64 on your server as an image (here is how to do this in PHP, the same ideas is in every language. Server side in PHP can be found here):

I played with this two weeks ago, it's very simple. The only problem is that all the tutorials just talk about saving the image locally. This is how I did it:

1) I set up a form so I can use a POST method.

2) When the user is done drawing, he can click the "Save" button.

3) When the button is clicked I take the image data and put it into a hidden field. After that I submit the form.

document.getElementById('my_hidden').value = canvas.toDataURL('image/png');

4) When the form is submited I have this small php script:

$upload_dir = somehow_get_upload_dir();  //implement this function yourself
$img = $_POST['my_hidden'];
$img = str_replace('data:image/png;base64,', '', $img);
$img = str_replace(' ', '+', $img);
$data = base64_decode($img);
$file = $upload_dir."image_name.png";
$success = file_put_contents($file, $data);
header('Location: '.$_POST['return_url']);

I think you should tranfer image in base64 to image with blob, because when you use base64 image, it take a lot of log lines or a lot of line will send to server. With blob, it only the file. You can use this code bellow:

dataURLtoBlob = (dataURL) ->
  # Decode the dataURL
  binary = atob(dataURL.split(',')[1])
  # Create 8-bit unsigned array
  array = []
  i = 0
  while i < binary.length
    array.push binary.charCodeAt(i)
  # Return our Blob object
  new Blob([ new Uint8Array(array) ], type: 'image/png')

And canvas code here:

canvas = document.getElementById('canvas')
file = dataURLtoBlob(canvas.toDataURL())

After that you can use ajax with Form:

  fd = new FormData
  # Append our Canvas image file to the form data
  fd.append 'image', file
    type: 'POST'
    url: '/url-to-save'
    data: fd
    processData: false
    contentType: false

This code using CoffeeScript syntax.

if you want to use javascript, please paste the code to

Send canvas image to PHP:

var photo = canvas.toDataURL('image/jpeg');                
  method: 'POST',
  url: 'photo_upload.php',
  data: {
    photo: photo

Here's PHP script:


    $data = $_POST['photo'];
    list($type, $data) = explode(';', $data);
    list(, $data)      = explode(',', $data);
    $data = base64_decode($data);

    mkdir($_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] . "/photos");

    file_put_contents($_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] . "/photos/".time().'.png', $data);

If you want to save data that is derived from a Javascript canvas.toDataURL() function, you have to convert blanks into plusses. If you do not do that, the decoded data is corrupted:

  $encodedData = str_replace(' ','+',$encodedData);
  $decocedData = base64_decode($encodedData);

I've worked on something similar. Had to convert canvas Base64-encoded image to Uint8Array Blob.

function b64ToUint8Array(b64Image) {
   var img = atob(b64Image.split(',')[1]);
   var img_buffer = [];
   var i = 0;
   while (i < img.length) {
   return new Uint8Array(img_buffer);

var b64Image = canvas.toDataURL('image/jpeg');
var u8Image  = b64ToUint8Array(b64Image);

var formData = new FormData();
formData.append("image", new Blob([ u8Image ], {type: "image/jpg"}));

var xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();"POST", "/api/upload", true);

In addition to Salvador Dali's answer:

on the server side don't forget that the data comes in base64 string format. It's important because in some programming languages you need to explisitely say that this string should be regarded as bytes not simple Unicode string.

Otherwise decoding won't work: the image will be saved but it will be an unreadable file.