I've compiled opencv from source and installed it on a rpi3 Jessie (full) and I decided to do the same on a new rpi3 but with Jessie light this time. However when I try to run some of the examples, I am being told:

error: Gtk-WARNING **: cannot open display

(I run the pi with keyboard and a screen for this).

I have installed libgtk2.0-dev and opencv was built with the option WITH_GTK=ON.

Is it possible to have a frame to open in Jessie Light from within the console? What do I need for this? If it's not possible, what should I install to have my application to show in a frame: do I have to install a full GUI?

As a small step forward I have installed lightdm, xorg and xinit and now I have a small white terminal frame which opens at the top left of my 21" monitor, and now I can run my opencv application which opens within that frame.

  • Do you use the opencv you compiled on the other system?
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 11:34
  • Cannot open display is indeed a message from a standard GUI application looking for an Xorg server.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 13:37
  • @Philippos no I compiled it directly on the pi.
    – calocedrus
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 0:05
  • @goldilocks that explains then the absence of the message after I've installed Xorg, but the result is less than satisfying (small terminal and the graphical opencv application opens in and partially overlaps the terminal).
    – calocedrus
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 0:09
  • That's why people generally run a window manager or desktop environment on top of X. Bare X is very minimal. This doesn't mean you can't do it that way, just you will have to dig in to figure out how. -> unix.stackexchange.com
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


As far as i know, you can't run OpenCV, nor GTK, in graphical mode from console mode.

GTK needs to be run on X11 or Wayland.
OpenCV can work with other display manager, but no one of them will be windowsed when launched from console.

For python : you can use pygame, pythonic bindings of SDL1.2, able to display graphics and manage user events in console mode.

A simple conversion from openCV frame to pygame surface will allow you to manage and display OpenCV frames on screen :
pygameSurface = pygame.surfarray.make_surface(CVframe.swapaxes(0, 1))

Note that this approach is quite easy to implement, but can be a bit slow if you work with video in high definitions.

For C++ : you can work with SDL, OpenGL, openMax, or dispmanx.
I only worked with SDL :
- allow user event management
- not accelerated
- well documentated
and dispmanx :
- no user event management
- GPU accelerated, provide multiple layer display
- less documentated

  • That depends. The gtk-examples rely on X11, I think, thus the "cannot open display" message. But we have an opencv application streaming the output to the framebuffer without X11.
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 11:41
  • If you show us your method, you'll get my vote :) Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 12:19
  • 1
    It's a qt5 application running with QT_QPA_PLATFORM=linuxfb:fb=/dev/fb0. The cv::Mats retrieved from the camera are filtered and converted to QImage to be displayed. But this is not what the OP wants, having a "light" distribution by replacing X11 and gtk with qt5 ... (-;
    – Philippos
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 13:33
  • @Philippos "having a "light" distribution by replacing X11 and gtk with qt5" indeed this wasn't my purpose, and moreover I didn't build opencv with Qt support (so i'd have to recompile opencv, > 60mn each time!)
    – calocedrus
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 0:12
  • @Technico.top that's a solution, but not if I use opencv with C++ programs. And i'm using 3.6, haven't checked pygame on this (should work though)
    – calocedrus
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 2:59

You need an X enviroment to use these OpenCV features , so install it :

sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-core xserver-xorg-input-all \
xserver-xorg-video-fbdev libx11-6 x11-common \
x11-utils x11-xkb-utils x11-xserver-utils xterm lightdm openbox

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