Integrating PySDL2

PySDL2 consists of two packages, sdl2, which is a plain 1:1 API wrapper around the SDL2 API, and sdl2.ext, which offers enhanced functionality for sdl2.

The sdl2 package is implemented in a way that shall make it easy for you to integrate and deploy it with your own software projects. You can rely on PySDL2 as third-party package, so that the user needs to install it before he can use your software. Alternatively, you can just copy the whole package into your project to ship it within your own project bundle.

Bundling SDL2 with pysdl2-dll

The sdl2 package relies on an external SDL2 library for creating the wrapper functions. This means that the user needs to have SDL2 installed or that you ship a SDL2 library with your project.

For macOS, Windows, and most distributions of x86 and ARM64 Linux, the easiest and most flexible way to bundle and install the SDL2 binaries with your project is via the pysdl2-dll package on PyPI, which pysdl2 will load automatically if available. This approach allows you to add the SDL2 binaries as a dependency for your project in a requirements.txt file, a file, a Pipfile, or any other form of Python dependency tracking. You can also specify a minimum version of the SDL2 binaries for your project using this mechanism if your project depends on a function not available in earlier versions of SDL2.

For platforms without any available pysdl2-dll binaries (e.g. Alpine Linux, ARM32 Linux, BSD), PySDL2 will still work as long as a recent version of SDL2 is installed using the system’s package manager. Additionally, pysdl2-dll will still install successfully on unsupported platforms as an empty pacakge with no binaries, making it safe to add as a dependency for cross-platform projects.

Bundling SDL2 without pysdl2-dll

If the user has a SDL2 library installed on the target system, the ctypes hooks of sdl2 try to find it in the OS-specific standard locations via ctypes.util.find_library(). If you are going to ship your own SDL2 library with the project or cannot rely on the standard mechanism of ctypes, it is also possible to set the environment variable PYSDL2_DLL_PATH, which shall point to the directory of the SDL2 library or consist of a list of directories, in which the SDL2 libraries can be found.


PYSDL2_DLL_PATH is preferred over the standard mechanism. If the module finds a SDL2 library in PYSDL2_DLL_PATH, it will try to use that one in the first place, before using any SDL2 library installed on the target system.

Let’s assume you ship your own library SDL2.dll within your project location fancy_project/third_party. You can set the environment variable PYSDL2_DLL_PATH before starting Python.

# Win32 platforms
set PYSDL2_DLL_PATH=C:\path\to\fancy_project\third_party

# Unix/Posix-alike environments - bourne shells
export PYSDL2_DLL_PATH=/path/to/fancy_project/third_party

# Unix/Posix-alike environments - C shells
setenv PYSDL2_DLL_PATH /path/to/fancy_project/third_party

# Define multiple paths to search for the libraries - Win32
set PYSDL2_DLL_PATH=C:\first\path;C:\second\path

You also can set the environment variable within Python using os.environ.

dllpath = os.path.join('path', 'to', 'fancy_project', 'third_party')
os.environ["PYSDL2_DLL_PATH"] = dllpath


If you aim to integrate sdl directly into your software and do not want or are not allowed to change the environment variables, you can also change the os.getenv("PYSDL2_DLL_PATH") query within the sdl2/ (or sdl2/, sdl2/, sdl2/ file to point to the directory, in which you keep the DLL.

Using different SDL2 versions

PySDL2 tries to provide interfaces to the most recent versions of the SDL2 libraries. Sometimes this means that PySDL2 tries to test for functions that might not be available for your very own project or that are not available on the target system due to a version of the specific library.

If a PySDL2 function is called that requires a newer version of a binary than the one currently being used, it will raise a RuntimeWarning indicating the minimum version of SDL2 (or SDL2_mixer, or SDL2_ttf, etc.) required to use the called function. Additionally, if you already know what minimum versions your project needs, you can check the linked binary versions at runtime:

if not (sdl2.dll.version >= 2008 and sdl2.sdlttf.dll.version >= 2015):
  err = ("This project requires SDL2 >= 2.0.8 and SDL2_ttf >= 2.0.15. "
   "Please update your SDL2 binaries and relaunch.")
  raise RuntimeError(err)

Binary version numbers are stored as 4-digit integers, with the first digit being the major release, the second digit being the minor release, and the last two digits indicating the patch level. Thus, SDL2 2.0.10 would be version 2010 and SDL2 2.0.6 would be 2006.

Known problems with SDL2 binaries

The SDL2 libraries are designed to be highly consistent across platforms, but there are some occasional bugs/issues with certain common binaries that can result in unexpected problems. Here are the ones we are currently aware of:

Support for XCF images broken in SDL2_image
Affects: official 32-bit Windows SDL2_image 2.0.5 binaries, all official macOS SDL2_image binaries
Support for FLAC and MP3 missing by default in SDL2_mixer
Affects: SDL2_mixer installed with Homebrew on macOS
Support for FLAC/MP3/OGG/MID/MOD broken in SDL2_mixer
Affects: official SDL2_mixer 2.0.2 binaries for macOS and Windows (fixed in 2.0.4)