4. Paths

With Pygame and Python there are two concepts of paths that are in use. Working directory and relative directory to python file. Many times both are the same but it’s not guaranteed and this is known to create issues where to place your game assets like music and images.

4.1. Relative to working directory

Working directory is the directory which you started up your python application. It might be the same directory where your application is located or it might be something else depending on how you started your application.

The most important thing is that your working directory is not guaranteed to be anything specific.

If you load your assets using the following code:

surface = pygame.image.load("image/foo.png")

This is relative path to your working directory which might not be the same directory where that particular python file is.

4.2. Relative to program code file

Given the problematic situation with working directory Python offers way to use relative paths correctly.

import os

BASE_PATH = os.path.dirname(os.path.abspath(__file__))
image_path = os.path.join(BASE_PATH, "assets/image.png")

In the above code BASE_PATH is set to a same path as your .py file is. Python special __file__ attribute is used to get the directory where .py file is located. Since __file__ can be a relative path os.path.abspath function converts relative path to a absolute path. os.path.dirname strips last component from path which is filename in this case and we don’t want to have that with BASE_PATH. Finally absolute base path is joined to relative image path with os.path.join function to join paths correctly.

This now will guarantee that your image is loaded from correct path regardless of working directory.

4.3. Pathlib

Python has modern object oriented library for paths called pathlib.

from pathlib import Path

BASE_PATH = Path(__file__).absolute().parent
image_path = BASE_PATH.joinpath("assets/image.png")
image_path2 = BASE_PATH / "assets" / "image.png"

The above is equivalent to code in previous section where os.path was used.

image_path2 is equivalent to image_path which is using division operator to join paths instead of joinpath method.


Prior Pygame 2.0.1 there was no support for Path objects. Pygame 2.0.1 has full support to Path objects.

To overcome this issue in older Pygame than 2.0.1 you have to cast Path to string: pygame.image.load(str(image_path))