WebGL - Drawing a Triangle


In the previous chapter (Chapter 11), we discussed how to draw three points using WebGL. In Chapter 5, we took sample application to demonstrate how to draw a triangle. In both the examples, we have drawn the primitives using only vertices.

To draw more complex shapes/meshes, we pass the indices of a geometry too, along with the vertices, to the shaders. In this chapter, we will see how to draw a triangle using indices.

Steps Required to Draw a Triangle

The following steps are required to create a WebGL application to draw a triangle.

Step 1 − Prepare the Canvas and Get WebGL Rendering Context

In this step, we obtain the WebGL Rendering context object using getContext().

Step 2 − Define the Geometry and Store it in Buffer Objects

Since we are drawing a triangle using indices, we have to pass the three vertices of the triangle, including the indices, and store them in the buffers.

var vertices = [
indices = [0,1,2]; 

Step 3 − Create and Compile the Shader Programs

In this step, you need to write vertex shader and fragment shader programs, compile them, and create a combined program by linking these two programs.

  • Vertex Shader − In the vertex shader of the program, we define the vector attribute to store 3D coordinates and assign it to gl_position.

var vertCode =
   'attribute vec3 coordinates;' +
   'void main(void) {' +
      ' gl_Position = vec4(coordinates, 1.0);' +
  • Fragment Shader − In the fragment shader, we simply assign the fragment color to the gl_FragColor variable.

var fragCode = 'void main(void) {' +
   ' gl_FragColor = vec4(1, 0.5, 0.0, 1);' +

Step 4 − Associate the Shader Programs to the Buffer Objects

In this step, we associate the buffer objects and the shader program.

Step 5 − Drawing the Required Object

Since we are drawing a triangle using indices, we will use drawElements(). To this method, we have to pass the number of indices. The value of the indices.length signifies the number of indices.

gl.drawElements(gl.TRIANGLES, indices.length, gl.UNSIGNED_SHORT,0);

Example – Drawing a Triangle

The following program code shows how to draw a triangle in WebGL using indices −

Live Demo
<!doctype html>
      <canvas width = "570" height = "570" id = "my_Canvas"></canvas>

         /*============== Creating a canvas ====================*/
         var canvas = document.getElementById('my_Canvas');
         gl = canvas.getContext('experimental-webgl');
         /*======== Defining and storing the geometry ===========*/

         var vertices = [
         indices = [0,1,2];
         // Create an empty buffer object to store vertex buffer
         var vertex_buffer = gl.createBuffer();

         // Bind appropriate array buffer to it
         gl.bindBuffer(gl.ARRAY_BUFFER, vertex_buffer);
         // Pass the vertex data to the buffer
         gl.bufferData(gl.ARRAY_BUFFER, new Float32Array(vertices), gl.STATIC_DRAW);

         // Unbind the buffer
         gl.bindBuffer(gl.ARRAY_BUFFER, null);

         // Create an empty buffer object to store Index buffer
         var Index_Buffer = gl.createBuffer();

         // Bind appropriate array buffer to it
         gl.bindBuffer(gl.ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER, Index_Buffer);

         // Pass the vertex data to the buffer
         gl.bufferData(gl.ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER, new Uint16Array(indices), gl.STATIC_DRAW);
         // Unbind the buffer
         gl.bindBuffer(gl.ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER, null);

         /*================ Shaders ====================*/
         // Vertex shader source code
         var vertCode =
            'attribute vec3 coordinates;' +
            'void main(void) {' +
               ' gl_Position = vec4(coordinates, 1.0);' +
         // Create a vertex shader object
         var vertShader = gl.createShader(gl.VERTEX_SHADER);

         // Attach vertex shader source code
         gl.shaderSource(vertShader, vertCode);

         // Compile the vertex shader

         //fragment shader source code
         var fragCode =
            'void main(void) {' +
               ' gl_FragColor = vec4(0.0, 0.0, 0.0, 0.1);' +
         // Create fragment shader object
         var fragShader = gl.createShader(gl.FRAGMENT_SHADER);

         // Attach fragment shader source code
         gl.shaderSource(fragShader, fragCode); 
         // Compile the fragmentt shader

         // Create a shader program object to store
         // the combined shader program
         var shaderProgram = gl.createProgram();

         // Attach a vertex shader
         gl.attachShader(shaderProgram, vertShader);

         // Attach a fragment shader
         gl.attachShader(shaderProgram, fragShader);

         // Link both the programs

         // Use the combined shader program object

         /*======= Associating shaders to buffer objects =======*/

         // Bind vertex buffer object
         gl.bindBuffer(gl.ARRAY_BUFFER, vertex_buffer);

         // Bind index buffer object
         gl.bindBuffer(gl.ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER, Index_Buffer);
         // Get the attribute location
         var coord = gl.getAttribLocation(shaderProgram, "coordinates");

         // Point an attribute to the currently bound VBO
         gl.vertexAttribPointer(coord, 3, gl.FLOAT, false, 0, 0); 
         // Enable the attribute

         /*=========Drawing the triangle===========*/

         // Clear the canvas
         gl.clearColor(0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.9);

         // Enable the depth test

         // Clear the color buffer bit

         // Set the view port

         // Draw the triangle
         gl.drawElements(gl.TRIANGLES, indices.length, gl.UNSIGNED_SHORT,0);

If you run this example, it will produce the following output −

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