Useful Links



JavaScript (JS), the primary language students will use in this course, is a highly-flexible, interpreted scripting language and is well-known for powering the front-end infrastructure of the Web. The JavaScript language is prototype-based, multi-paradigm, single-threaded, and dynamic; it supports object-oriented, imperative, and declarative (e.g. functional programming) programming styles.

Because of its widespread use, the specifications for JavaScript, known as the ECMAScript specifications, continue to improve and alter with time. The official resource for JavaScript documentation in this course are Mozilla’s MDN JavaScript Docs. Students who are unfamiliar language might also find MDN’s JavaScript examples helpful.

As with any language, poor JavaScript style can make code hard to read and can even introduce bugs. For this course, we recommend the Airbnb JS Style Guide, but students may conform to any modern ES6+ styling standards. As an aside, it is recommended that all students read through Airbnb JS Style Guide to pick up on useful JavaScript shorthands, such as Object deconstruction.


OpenGL is an open-source API that allows application developers to communicate with graphics acceleration hardware such as the GPU. In particular, OpenGL specification describes an abstract API for drawing 2D and 3D graphics, and it is designed to be implemented mostly or entirely in hardware.

Part of the OpenGL specification is the OpenGL Shading Language (GLSL). GLSL is a C/C++ flavored programming language and is used to write simple shaders that execute directly on the GPU.

Following increasing demands for hardware-accelerated graphics content on the Web, the Google Chrome team (subsequently followed by the other major browser developers) adapted the native-based OpenGL API into the browser-based WebGL JavaScript API. The latest major release of WebGL, WebGL 2.0, exposes the OpenGL ES 3.0 API, and allows website developers to include GPU-accelerated rendering, physics, image processing, and other effects in HTML5 canvas elements. One of the most appealing features of WebGL is that it ensures cross-browser and cross-platform support for WebGL-based graphics project.


Although the WebGL API makes web-based graphics possible, the API is relatively inaccessible to the general application developer who has no industry or graduate experience in low-level graphics programming. This is where ThreeJS, as well as other WebGL frameworks, come in.

ThreeJS is a well-documented open-sourced JavaScript library that integrates with WebGL and provides hundreds of useful graphics primitives to the application developer. In this class, ThreeJS provides the backbone for our 3D assignment frameworks, and it is often used by students to build their final projects. For a showcase of what ThreeJS can do, visit the project’s examples page.


JavaScript Editor

Because JavaScript assignments in this course are compiled just-in-time by the web-browser and executed therein, we recommend that students use relatively lightweight IDEs or code editors to compose their assignment solutions. While any editor (even a simple text editor) is fine, students in previous iterations of this course have favored Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code (NB: this is not the same as Visual Studio, a professional-class IDE), GitHub’s JavaScript-based Atom, and the lightweight Sublime Text.

Both Visual Studio Code and Atom are feature-rich and have fantastic package support; however, they suffer in performance and occasionally crash. Conversely, Sublime is blazing fast and fairly reliable; however, its package management is atrocious, and as of Sublime Text 3.0, vanilla Sublime is not provide many features beyond syntax-highlighting.

Browser DevTools

All major browsers contain a robust set of developer tools, often referred to as DevTools. In Chromium based browsers, the DevTools can be accessed by left-clicking an HTML element in the browser window and selecting “Inspect” in the dropdown. The DevTools panel can also be opened through the keyboard shortcut Command + Option + C on Mac, and Command + Shift + C on Windows.

The most useful DevTools for students will be the Console pane and the Sources pane. One common strategy for debugging assignments in this class is to print trace statements out to the Console via console.log(). A second and more-productive debugging strategy is to set breakpoints in the code via the breakpoint keyword, which opens the browser’s JavaScript debugger in the Sources pane when executed. It is recommended that students use this second debugging strategy over the first in this class.

We highly recommend that students read through Google’s guide on debugging JavaScript through Chrome DevTools.

ThreeJS Editor

The ThreeJS project recently released a browser-based editor to build ThreeJS scenes through a visual interface, rather than directly through code. Students exploring ideas for their final project may find this tool useful for quickly demoing and playing around with ideas, before committing them to code.


JavaScript and Websites

For JavaScript beginners, the full language documentation is generally not a great place to start. Thankfully, there are fantastic online resources for learning web-development. In particular, we recommend the Mozilla JavaScript guide, as well as W3Schools’ guides on JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

Web-development is outside the scope of this course, however students who wish to learn more about the field after finishing the above tutorials are encouraged to follow them up with the ReactJS tutorial.

ThreeJS and Shaders

Because ThreeJS provides myriad features, and yet dictates no structure for organizing them, many developers find that the library has a steep learning curve. During previous iterations of this course, students have found it productive to peruse our 3D assignment framework code, read through the ThreeJS docs, view source code for the ThreeJS examples, as well as watch videos and read other third-party ThreeJS tutorials in order to acclimate themselves with the library. The threejsfundamentals tutorial, in particular, is fantastic and highly recommended.

Unfortunately, while shading languages like GLSL have incredible expressive capacity, they also tend to have steep learning curves. One possible resource for learning GLSL is the Learn OpenGL tutorial. We also recommend the wonderful, aesthetically pleasing, and interactive Book of Shaders, from which past students have occasionally drawn to inspire their art projects. If you are looking for more examples, check out Shadertoy, which not only contains a library of thousands of community-built shaders, but also provides a WebGL sandbox for building and editing shaders in real-time.

Additional Readings

The field of Computer Graphics is as expansive as it is fascinating. Try as we might, there is no way to squeeze the entire field into a semester-long course. Thus, as a supplement to the lecture slides, precept slides, and official course readings, we recommend the following webpages for students’ perusal. These readings are not necessary to perform well in this course, but rather are provided for the convenience of the eager and enthusiastic student. Additionally, students may find these readings helpful in clarifying complicated, confusing, or complex topics from class.

This is a growing list, so expect more links to appear here as the semester continues.

Color theory
Image Processing
Meshes & Modeling