pamaltsat - Man Page

increase or decrease the saturation of an image using one of several alternative methods.


pamaltsat [-method name] [-strength number] [-linear] [infile]


This program is part of Netpbm(1).

pamaltsat decreases or increases the saturation of a Netpbm image by one of various non-standard (alternative) methods.

The input is a Netpbm image from Standard Input or a file named by the arguments.  The output is a Netpbm image in the same format written to Standard Output.

The most conventional way to change the saturation of an image is what pambrighten does.


To increase saturation by a factor of 2.1 using the logarithmic method:

     pamaltsat -method log -strength 2.1 test.ppm

To convert a color image to grayscale:

    pamaltsat -strength 0 test.ppm

Saturation Methods

The following saturation methods are available.

Logarithmic Method

This saturation model is inspired by the concept of color integrity(1), which works with color in terms of intensity ratios, where intensity is a  value of the luminosity function , rather than brightness, or the numerical value of the sample in the image file.  From this viewpoint, it is natural to define the saturation of a color as the ratio of maximum and minimum intensities of its primary components. In order, however, to make saturation an additive value and to endow the -strength parameter with the semantics of a multiplier, it is convenient to operate on the logarithm of that ratio.  The addition of such saturations acquires physical sense, and multiplication corresponds to the raising of intensity to the power of the multiplier.

With this method, pamaltsat raises the intensity of each component to the power of the strength value. Since the total intensity of the resulting color will differ from that of the original, it is necessary to restore the intensity by multiplying the component intensities of the saturated color by the ratio of the intensity of the original color to that of the saturated color.

Although it is always possible to decrease saturation by any given factor, there are two cases where it cannot be increased.  When the total intensity (or brightness) of a color is too high for the desired saturation, pamaltsat applies the maximum possible saturation that keeps the original intensity.  For example, any color with at least one component at the maxiumum is already fully saturated.  When one of the primary components is zero, the definition of saturation given above no longer works because of a zero in the denominator.  pamaltsat offers no special treatment of this situation because it does not create discontinuities and therefore produces no visible defects at reasonable strength levels.  When, however, strength approaches infinity, each color tends to its primary component with the highest intensity.

This method was invented by Anton Shepelev.

Spectral Method

This is the default method.  It treats color as a spectrum with three bands: one for the intensity of each primary component.  Since neutral gray has a uniform (constant) spectrum, saturation can be measured as the difference of the spectrum of the given color from the uniform spectrum of the same total intensity.  The spectral method uses one of the simplest measures of such a difference: the difference between the highest and lowest component intensities, which is an additive value and therefore amenable to multiplication with good physical sense.  Although a complete hue-saturation model can be dervied from this approach, pamaltsat need not concern itself with it because it always preserves both hue and total intensity.

In order to change saturation, pamaltsat first multiplies the intensity of each component by the desired strength.  The saturation of the result is the strength times the saturation of the original, and likewise the total intensity, but it is then restored by subtraction of the neutral gray with a suitable intensity.

The effect of this method on each component intensity may be expressed in the following equation:

<span style="font-family: monospace">
    sat = orig * strength - Iorig * (strength - 1)

where <span style="font-family: monospace">sat</span> is the saturated sample, <span style="font-family: monospace">orig</span> the original sample, and <span style="font-family: monospace">Iorig</span> the total intensity of the original color.

The method is also related to color integrity because both its operations are part of that concept: multiplication of component intensities by the same quotient is an important operation because changes brightness but keeps color balance, and subtraction of a constant from all component intensities is described by the inventor of color integrity as 'subtraction of white.'

This procedure may produce both negative and over-unity component intensities.  For such samples, pamaltsat decreases the strength to the highest value that keeps the resulting color in range.

This method was invented by Anton Shepelev.


In addition to the options common to all programs based on libnetpbm (most notably -quiet, see Common Options ), pamaltsat recognizes the following command line options:

-method method

specifies the saturation method to use:

The default is spectrum

-strength strength

This specifies a real nonnegative factor whereby to modify saturation.  A value greater than unity will increase saturation, whereas a value less than unity will decrease it. Unity will leave the image unchanged, and zero will produce greyscale output according to Rec 709.
  pamaltsat preserves the total intensity of each pixel and never affects neutral gray pixels.

This option is mandatory.


This tells pamaltsat that the input is the intensity-linear variation of a Netpbm image forat, in which the samples are proportional to light intensity rather than to brightness, as they are in true-or gamma-adjusted- Netpbm image formats.

Usage Notes

Since pamaltsat does not affect neutral colors, you should adjust the color balance before saturation. You can do this with pamlevels.



pamaltsat is written with an eye to extending it with new saturation methods, which programmers are welcome to contribute.  The only requirement is that every new method depend on a single strength parameter with the semantics described under the -strength command-line option.

See Also

pambrighten(1), ppmflash(1),


This program was first submitted by Anton Shepelev (


pamaltsat was new in Netpbm 10.84 (September 2018).

Table Of Contents

Document Source

This manual page was generated by the Netpbm tool 'makeman' from HTML source.  The master documentation is at

Referenced By


14 September 2018 netpbm documentation