Saving canvas data to an image file with JavaScript and PHP

Saving HTML canvas element data to an image in a user friendly manner is a tricky problem. Let’s look at one way to solve it.

First Attempt

We could always open our canvas in a new browser tab (or window) with the toDataURL JavaScript method.

window.location.href = canvas.toDataURL("image/png");

Unfortunately this requires the user to use the file menu or the right-click button to save the image from the newly opened browser tab. I wouldn’t call this user friendly.

Second Attempt

After some investigation I came across Nihilogic’s Canvas2Image JavaScript package. This package presents a Dialog Box to the user allowing them to save the image. This would solve my problem except the downloaded filename has the format 8iqALWM5.part . If my mom encountered a filename like that she wouldn’t know what to do with it. Still not user friendly.

Final Attempt

What to do? Enter PHP.

Permadi presents a technique using PHP and AJAX that is exactly what I need. After some tweaking here’s what I came up with.


The first PHP file saves the passed in canvas data to the server at a random location determined by the md5(uniqid())  method.

$data = $_POST['data'];
$file = md5(uniqid()) . '.png';

// remove "data:image/png;base64,"
$uri =  substr($data,strpos($data,",") 1);

// save to file
file_put_contents($file, base64_decode($uri));

// return the filename
echo json_encode($file);

We would call this via JQuery with the $.post method, filling the data parameter using the toDataURL method.

$.post("save.php", {data: canvas.toDataURL("image/png")})


Now we can use PHP to force the download of the saved image data. You can read more about this in the PHP Manual.

$file = trim($_GET['path']);

// force user to download the image
if (file_exists($file)) {
    header('Content-Description: File Transfer');
    header('Content-Type: image/png');
    header('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename='.basename($file));
    header('Content-Transfer-Encoding: binary');
    header('Expires: 0');
    header('Cache-Control: must-revalidate, post-check=0, pre-check=0');
    header('Pragma: public');
    header('Content-Length: ' . filesize($file));
else {
    echo "$file not found";

We can use the return value of our first AJAX request as input to download.php to provide the filename.

$("#save").click(function () {
    $.post("save.php", {data: G_cv.toDataURL("image/png")}, function (file) {
        window.location.href =  "download.php?path="  file});

Now when the Save link is clicked a dialog box will be presented to the user asking them to save their image.

User friendly?

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