Using the Image Manager

When you add an element to a diagram, it is rendered according to the standard UML notation. However, you can replace that representation with an image. For example, you could add a custom background image to a diagram, or display an image of a Router or PC on a UML element. You import, store and select these alternative images using the Image Manager. You can apply the image either as a:

  • Default image, which displays on all instances of the element in diagrams across the model, or
  • An alternative image, which displays only for the specific instance of the element to which it is applied, and which overrides the default image for that instance

Access Right-click on an element within a diagram | Appearance | Select Alternate Image (Ctrl+Shift+W) or

Right-click on an element within a diagram | Appearance | Select Default Image, or

Click on element | Element | Appearance | Select Alternate Image

To locate and display an image, click on individual image filenames, or press ↑ and ↓ to scroll through the list of images. As you highlight each image filename, the 'Preview' panel changes to reflect the image. Double-click on the required image filename to display the image in full size.

Image Manager Options

On the Image Manager, these buttons are available:



See also


Click on this button to display the selected image in full size.

Shortcut: Alt+V


Click on this button to display the 'Element Usage' dialog, which lists the diagrams in which the selected image is used.

Element Usage


Click on this button to change the filename of the selected image.

The option first warns you that the change would impact the other elements that use this image, and prompts you to confirm that you want to go ahead with the name change.

If you continue, a prompt displays for you to enter the new filename.

Add New

Click on this button to display options for importing images from a file system or from the clipboard.

  • From File - select this option to display a browser through which you can search appropriate directories to locate and import new images
    You can import images in .bmp, .png, .emf, .wmf, .tga, .pcx or .jpg format
  • From Clipboard - select this option to download the image from the clipboard into the Image Manager (not via a diagram)

Internally, the images are stored in .png or metafile format to conserve space.

You can also add images by:

  • Importing a library of alternative images from the Sparx Systems website
  • Copying the Image Library from another model using the 'Export Reference Data' and 'Import Reference Data' facilities, and
  • Capturing images from other sources into the clipboard and applying them to an element in a diagram, which automatically adds the image as an autonamed file to the Image Library

If necessary, you can change the file name using the 'Rename' option.

Shortcut: Alt+A

Changing Element Appearance Export Reference Data Import Image Library Import Reference Data

Update Selected

Click on this button to refresh the selected image; for example, after it has been modified.

A browser screen displays for you to select the updated image file from its parent directory.

Shortcut: Alt+U


(Not available for an image from a deployed MDG technology.)

Click on this button to delete the selected image.

A message displays to indicate how many elements use the image. Click on the Yes button to delete information about the image from those elements, which then revert to their previous appearance.

Shortcut: Alt+D


Click on this button to close the Image Manager.


Click on this button to confirm selection of the alternative image for the element selected in the diagram.

Shortcut: Alt+O


  • If you do not want an element to continue to have a default image or an alternative image, assign it the '--NONE--' option in the image list
  • In the Corporate, Business and Software Engineering, Systems Engineering and Ultimate editions of Enterprise Architect, if security is enabled you must have 'Configure Images' permission to configure alternative element images
  • For elements with Lifelines, such as those used on Sequence diagrams, the Lifeline must remain intact so that messages can be created between the elements; therefore such elements cannot have alternative images
  • There are two categories of image available through the Image Manager:
         -  Images that have been imported into the model and are stored in the model
         -  Images that are incorporated into a deployed MDG Technology, which are not copied into the current
            model but are held in memory; the technology images can be identified by the Technology name
            followed by the image file name, such as 'MDGFrame::ovalshape.emf', but can also be accessed by
            their short form (the name minus the technology name)
  • If you are creating many elements of the same type that have a particular image, you should use a custom stereotype with an associated metafile
  • If an element has an image, the element name is likely to be hidden; you can display the name underneath the image by right-clicking on the element and selecting 'Appearance | Show Name Under Image', and hide it again by selecting 'Appearance | Hide Name Under Image'
  • You can transport image files between models, using the 'Export Reference Data' and 'Import Reference Data' options

Learn more