What Is gfx-hal

The gfx-hal crate is a cross platform graphics API that attempts to be a minimal wrapping of the "modern, low level" graphics APIs (DX12, Vulkan, and Metal).

To quote Icefox (lead of the GGEZ project):

I think of Vulkan as basically being GPU assembly language, at least in terms of level of abstraction. Which is to say, there is very little abstraction: it gives you the parts that you have to work with, it has nothing stopping you from doing whatever you feel like with those parts, now go write stuff with it. No, there's no memory allocator. I just told you to go write stuff, didn't I? Write it. Comparatively, OpenGL is like GPU Javascript: It starts out convenient, but it's old, wacky, clunky, weird, has a million evolutionary versions and odd edge cases, and it’s not really a convenient model for computation these days. Sure you can make it fast if you try, but you have to jump through lots of hoops to do so.

So this will be a very long style of tutorial, because we'll have to be doing oh-so-many little steps and configurations by hand as we learn to do each new thing. If that's not your scene then sorry I guess, this tutorial might not be for you.


I assume that you have basic familiarity with Rust. So go read The Rust Book if you haven't ever done that.

We will also be touching upon elements of unsafe Rust, and so you should also read The Rustonomicon if you have not. Actually, that's a mild lie, most of gfx-hal-0.1.0 doesn't define any of its safety limits anyway (not beyond "whatever Vulkan say is okay"), so it's all a shot in the dark no matter what you do. Even if you're using a backend that isn't Vulkan.

I don't assume you have any prior graphics programming skills. I sure don't have much myself. I drew a quad once in OpenGL, but that's it. We'll be learning and reviewing all that stuff together.

The code all assumes that you're using Rust 2018.

When first writing this document I was using my personal rustfmt.toml file, which mostly means 2 space tabs. When this book was transitioned to long term maintenance mode I was encouraged to change to 4 space tabs because this is more normal for the rust ecosystem. The actual source of the examples has been updated, but the example blocks in the markdown files were left as is. So there's a mild difference in the layout, but the code is the same.

NOTE: Recently grx-hal 0.2 came out, and at some point the book will get updates, but it's a lot of text to update carefully, so for now you'll have to transition from 0.1 to 0.2 yourself. The gfx-hal devs tell me that 0.2 is slightly breaking but not too breaking, and that it shouldn't be difficult for people to figure out. If you want the book fixed faster, PRs accepted!