Memory occupied by GL_LUMINANCE with 1 component


I am using a grayscale texture as an alpha map, and
I store the texture in OpenGL with 1 component and image format
as GL_LUMINANCE. This is working fine. When I tested this
in NVIDIA Cg and performed a texture fetch, I’m able to access the
alpha map with the r, g, b components.

What I was wondering is: Does OpenGL use 3 components memory internally, even though I specified 1 component? Or do shaders generally work this way?

If it uses 3 components internally, is there any way to make it use 1 component internally? (So that less memory is used?)

Thanks in advance.

Conversion to RGB
This step is applied only if the format is LUMINANCE or LUMINANCE ALPHA. If the
format is LUMINANCE, then each group of one element is converted to a group of
R, G, and B (three) elements by copying the original single element into each of
the three new elements. If the format is LUMINANCE ALPHA, then each group of
two elements is converted to a group of R, G, B, and A (four) elements by copying
the first original element into each of the first three new elements and copying the
second original element to the A (fourth) new element.

To answer your question. It uses 1 component internally but when accessing the texture it performs the conversion.

Thank you

To give you a bit of background info:

GL_LUMINANCE and GL_ALPHA both use 1 component. However, when accessing a GL_LUMINANCE texture, all channels (R, G, B and A) do return the luminance value.
When accessing a GL_ALPHA texture, R,G and B return 0 (or 1, not sure), and only the alpha-channel returns the value in the texture.

This behaviour made sense back in the days, when we only had the fixed function pipeline.

BTW: This is standard-behaviour with all textures. You can always read all 4 channels (RGBA), no matter, whether the texture has those channels, and the texture-fetch-unit will either reproduce one of the other channels values, or give you a default-value. E.g. when accessing the alpha-channel of an RGB texture, you will always get the value 1.


Didn’t you mean GL_INTENSITY in the above quote. With GL_LUMINANCE, all channels (R, G, B) except alpha return the luminance value.

kinds regards,
Nicolai de Haan Brøgger

Yeah, i think you are correct. My point was just to explain why there are different formats, that seem to be identical.