OpenGL Programming

Welcome to the OpenGL Programming book. OpenGL is an API used for drawing 3D graphics. OpenGL is not a programming language; an OpenGL application is typically written in C or C++. What OpenGL does allow you to do is draw attractive, realistic 3D graphics with minimal effort. The API is typically used to interact with a GPU, to achieve hardware-accelerated rendering.

You are free, and encouraged, to share and contribute to this wikibook: it is written in the spirit of free documentation, that belongs to humanity. Feel free to make copies, teach it in school or professional classes, improve the text, write comments or even new sections.

We're looking for contributors. If you know about OpenGL, feel free to leave comments, expand TODO sections and write new ones!



Setting Up OpenGLEdit

Modern OpenGLEdit

"Modern" OpenGL is about OpenGL 2.1+, OpenGL ES 2.0+ and WebGL, with a programmable pipeline and shaders.

The basics arcEdit

OpenGL Tutorial Triangle.png
Tutorial 01: newcomer's introduction, first dive into shaders 02
OpenGL Tutorial Triangle interleaved.png
Tutorial 02: adding more robustness to our code, transparency
OpenGL Tutorial Triangle alpha-blending.png
Tutorial 03: passing information to shaders: attributes, varying and uniforms 04
OpenGL Tutorial Triangle rotating.png
Tutorial 04: transformation matrices: positioning and rotating
OpenGL Tutorial Cube primary colors.png
Tutorial 05: adding the 3rd dimension: a cube, plus a camera 06
OpenGL Tutorial Cube textured.png
Tutorial 06: textures: displaying a wooden cube
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
OBJ format: loading Suzanne the monkey from Blender 08
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Navigation: navigate in 3D space and manipulate objects in our model viewer

Tutorial_drafts: ideas and notes for upcoming tutorials

The lighting arcEdit

This series of tutorials is a C++ port of the GLSL wikibook Basic Lighting tutorials.

OpenGL Tutorial Lightning Diffuse.png
Diffuse Reflection: about per-vertex diffuse lighting and multiple light sources of different kinds 02
OpenGL Tutorial Suzanne specular.png
Specular Highlights: about per-vertex lighting
OpenGL Tutorial LIghtning two-sided.png
Two-Sided Surfaces (about two-sided per-vertex lighting) 04
OpenGL Tutorial Lighting Phong.png
Smooth Specular Highlights (about per-pixel lighting)
OpenGL Tutorial Lighting Phong two-sided.png
Two-Sided Smooth Surfaces (about two-sided per-pixel lighting) 06
OpenGL Tutorial Lighting Phong multi-lights.png
Multiple Lights (about for-loops for handling multiple light sources)

This series of tutorials is a C++ port of the GLSL wikibook Basic Texturing tutorials.

OpenGL Tutorial Textured Spheres.jpg
Textured Spheres: about texturing a sphere 02
OpenGL Tutorial Lighting Textured Surfaces.jpg
Lighting Textured Surfaces: about textures for diffuse lighting
OpenGL Tutorial Glossy Textures.jpg
Glossy Textures: about gloss mapping 04
OpenGL Tutorial Transparent Textures.jpg
Transparent Textures: about using alpha textures for discarding fragments, alpha testing, and blending
OpenGL Tutorial Layers of Textures.jpg
Layers of Textures: about multitexturing

This series of tutorials is a C++ port of the GLSL wikibook tutorials about Textures in 3D.

OpenGL Tutorial Lighting of Bumpy Surfaces.jpg
Lighting of Bumpy Surfaces: about normal mapping 02
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Projection of Bumpy Surfaces: about parallax mapping
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Cookies: about projective texture mapping for shaping light 04
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Light Attenuation: about texture mapping for light attenuation and lookup tables in general
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Projectors: about projective texture mapping for projectors

There are more tutorials to port at the GLSL wikibook!

The scientific arcEdit

OpenGL Tutorial Graph 01.png
Graph 01: plotting a simple function, using vertex buffer objects and point sprites 02
OpenGL Tutorial Graph 02.png
Graph 02: plotting a graph from data in a texture
OpenGL Tutorial Graph 03.png
Graph 03: plotting borders and axes, clipping 04
OpenGL Tutorial Graph 04.png
Graph 04: plotting a three-dimensional graph
OpenGL Tutorial Graph 05.png
Graph 05: plotting a surface with hidden line removal

And more to come.

Selected topicsEdit

OpenGL Tutorial Arcball concept.png
Arcball: intuitive object rotation with the mouse 02
OpenGL Tutorial Bounding box.png
Bounding box: draw a cube around your object for editing or debugging purposes
OpenGL Tutorial WIP.png
2D-on-3D: hardware-accelerated 2D programming 04 Video Capture: capture your animation using apitrace (C++) or JavaScript (WebGL)
OpenGL Tutorial Teapot control points.png
Tea time: generating an HD teapot from Bézier surfaces 06
OpenGL Tutorial Stencil.png
Stencil buffer: masking and combining
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Quadrics: creating simple shapes with a bit of maths 08
OpenGL Tutorial Text 01.png
Basic text: rendering text using the FreeType library
OpenGL Tutorial Text 01.png
Optimized text rendering: using a texture atlas containing all glyphs 10
OpenGL Tutorial Object Selection.png
Object selection: unprojecting coordinates and object identification using the stencil buffer
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Anti-Aliasing: smoothing lines 12
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Particle systems: differents kinds of particle systems

The post-processing arcEdit

OpenGL Tutorial Post-processing Water.png
Concepts: how to perform full-screen post-processing, first example with a simple animated wave 02
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
???: next effect to be decided!


This series shows how to implement a teleportation system similar to Valve's Portal, step-by-step, using OpenGL.

OpenGL Tutorial Mini-Portal Non-Recursive.png
Mini-Portal: a first working see-through portal 02
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Mini-Portal Smooth: smooth transition, understanding the camera
OpenGL Tutorial Mini-Portal.png
Mini-Portal Recursive: recursive portals - display portals within portals 04
OpenGL Tutorial WIP.png
Mini-Portal Optimization: optimization with scissors


This series shows how to render a voxel based world, similar to Minecraft.

OpenGL Tutorial Glescraft 1.png
Glescraft 1: basic voxel rendering 02
OpenGL Tutorial Glescraft 3.png
Glescraft 2: removing unnecessary voxel faces
OpenGL Tutorial Glescraft 6.png
Glescraft 3: texturing, lighting, fog, transparency 04
OpenGL Tutorial Glescraft 7.png
Glescraft 4: first person camera controls
OpenGL Tutorial WIP.png
Glescraft 5: drawing only what is on screen 06
OpenGL Tutorial WIP.png
Glescraft 6: adding and removing voxels
OpenGL Tutorial WIP.png
Glescraft 7: using geometry shaders

Using the accumulation bufferEdit

OpenGL Tutorial Glescraft-mb.png
Tutorial 01: motion blur 02
OpenGL Tutorial Glescraft-nodof-aa.png
Tutorial 02: full-screen supersampling anti-aliasing
OpenGL Tutorial Glescraft-dof-middle.png
Tutorial 03: depth of field 04
OpenGL Tutorial Glescraft-trans-side.png
Tutorial 04: order-independent transparency

Note: not all videocards support accumulation buffer

Cutting-edge OpenGLEdit

If you do not need to target mobile devices or the web, you can upgrade to OpenGL 4.x. It notably introduces 3 new kinds of shaders: Geometry, Tessellation Control and Tessellation Evaluation.

OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Tutorial 01: modify and create vertices on the fly with geometry shaders 02
OpenGL Tutorial TODO.png
Tutorial 02: dynamic mesh quality with tesselation

and lots of other features.

Code qualityEdit

OpenGL Tutorial WIP.png
Debugging: tips to help debug your OpenGL code 02
OpenGL Tutorial WIP.png
Performance: measuring and improving your application performance.


Legacy OpenGL 1.xEdit

External linksEdit


Related WikiBooks:

  • GLSL Programming : wikibook on the use of the OpenGL Shading Language (GLSL) in Unity 3 and Blender 2.5, with much information on lighting and texturing
  • Blender 3D: Noob to Pro: comprehensive book on using the Blender 3D modeling environment
  • an open source, cross-platform IDE's for exploring pixel based graphics on the GPU using GLSL :


The following websites provide conversion of the tutorials to other programming languages or platforms:

Freely-licensed documentation and samplesEdit

Non-freely-licensed documentationEdit


Further readingEdit

  • OpenGL Architecture Review Board, et al: OpenGL Programming Guide: The Official Guide to Learning OpenGL, Version 2, Fifth Edition, Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0-321-33573-2
  • OpenGL Architecture Review Board, et al: OpenGL Reference Manual: The Official Reference Document to OpenGL, Version 1.4, Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0-321-17383-X
  • Wright, Richard S. Jr and Lipchak, Benjamin: OpenGL SuperBible, Third Edition, Sams Publishing, ISBN 0-672-32601-9

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