The VertexArray class (like its lower level counterpart, the VertexArrayObject) manages an "array" of values ("buffers") that will be made available as input data to shaders during a draw call. For each WebGL Buffer, the VertexArray also stores some additional information about how that data in the buffer should be accessed, such as offsets, strides, etc, and whether the attribute is instanced.

The VertexArray class provides the following features on top of the lower level VertexArrayObject class:

  • Reads a "program configuration", enabling attributes to be set using names instead of locations

  • Avoids duplicating information already specified in shaders, such as size and type of attributes.

  • Automatic deduction of draw parameters from currently set attributes

  • Handles the "constant attribute 0" complication that is common on desktop WebGL browsers.

  • Can generated debug output of attribute bank

  • Can fall back to sharing single VertexArrayObject across all VertexArray objects.

The VertexArray is a wrapper class around the VertexArrayObject class which encapsulates the underlying WebGL object. The VertexArrayObject class has a number of complications that the VertexArray takes care of.

It is usually not necessary to create VertexArray instances in applications. The application can just supply a map of attributes to the Model class, and rely on that class to automatically manage the vertex attributes array and supply it to any draw calls (e.g. when rendering, picking etc). Still, it can be useful to review this documentation to better understand how attributes are handled.

For more information on the WebGL VertexArrayObject, see the OpenGL Wiki.


Import the VertexArray class so that your app can use it:

import {VertexArray} from '';

Create a new VertexArray

const vao = new VertexArray(gl);

Deleting a VertexArray


Adding attributes to a VertexArray: without program metadata, buffers must be specified using location indices

const vertexArray2 = new VertexArray(gl);
  0: new Buffer({data: new Float32Array([...]), ...})

Adding attributes to a VertexArray: adding a program configuration enables setting attributes by name

// Register attribute info extracted from program shaders
const program = new Program(gl, ...);
const vertexArray = new VertexArray(gl, {program});

// Now it is possible to set buffers using attribute names
  aColor: new Buffer(gl, new Uint8Array([...]))

Setting a set of attributes and an elements array

const vertexArray = new VertexArray(gl, {
  attributes: {
    elements: new Buffer(gl, {target: GL.ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER, data: new Uint32Array([...])}),
  	positions: new Buffer(gl, {data: new Float32Array([...])})

Setting a constant vertex attribute

import {VertexArray} from '';
const vao = new VertexArray(gl);
vao.setConstant(0, [0, 0, 0]);


VertexArray(gl : WebGLRenderingContext, props : Object)

Creates a new VertexArray

  • props (Object) - passed through to Resource superclass constructor and to initialize it.


initialize(props : Object) : VertexArray

Reinitializes a VertexArray.

  • attributes={} (Object) - map of attributes, can be keyed by index or names, can be constants (small arrays), Buffer, arrays or typed arrays of numbers, or attribute descriptors.
  • elements=null (Buffer) - optional buffer representing elements array (i.e. indices)
  • program - Transfers information on vertex attribute locations and types to this vertex array.

setAttributes(attributes : Object) : VertexArray

Sets named uniforms from a map.

program.setAttributes(attributes : Object);
  • attributes - (object) An object with key value pairs matching a buffer name and its value respectively.

Attributes is an object with key-value pairs: {nameOrLocation: value, ....}.

  • nameOrLocation - (string|number) The name of the attribute as declared in the shader, or the location specified by a layout qualifier in the shader. The name can contain an offset to the actual location in the format of name__LOCATION_0. This is useful for setting mat type attributes. See the section at the bottom for more details.
  • value - (Buffer|Array|typed array) An attribute value must be a Buffer or a typed array.

Each value can be an a Buffer, an Array starting with a Buffer or a typed array.

  • Typed Array - Sets a constant value as if .setConstant(value) was called.
  • Buffer - Binds the atttribute to a buffer, using buffer's accessor data as if .setBuffer(value) was called.
  • Array - Binds the atttribute to a buffer, with extra accessor data overrides. Expects a two element array with [buffer : Buffer, accessor : Object]. Binds the attribute to the buffer as if .setBuffer(buffer, accessor) was called.

setConstant(value : Array [, accessor : Object]) : VertexArray

Sets a constant value for a vertex attribute. When this VertexArray is used in a Program.draw() call, all Vertex Shader invocations will get the same value.

VertexArray.setConstant(location, array);

  • gl (WebGLRenderingContext) - gl context
  • location (GLuint) - index of the attribute

WebGL APIs: vertexAttrib4[u]{f,i}v

setBuffer(nameOrLocation, buffer : Buffer [, accessor : Object]) : VertexArray

Binds the specified attribute in this vertex array to the supplied buffer

  • Set a location in vertex attributes array to a buffer, specifying
  • its data layout and integer to float conversion and normalization flags

setBuffer(location, buffer); setBuffer(location, buffer, {offset = 0, stride = 0, normalized = false, integer = false});

  • location (GLuint | String) - index/ordinal number of the attribute
  • buffer (WebGLBuffer|Buffer) - WebGL buffer to set as value

gl.vertexAttrib{I}Pointer, gl.vertexAttribDivisor

setElementBuffer(buffer : Buffer [, accessor : Object]) : VertexArray

Binds the supplied buffer as index buffer (GL.ELEMENT_ARRAY_BUFFER).

Attribute Accessors

When setting Buffer attributes, additional data can be provided to specify how the buffer should be accessed. This data can be stored directly on the Buffer accessor or supplied to .setBuffer.

  • (GLuint, ) - which target to bind to

  • size (GLuint) - number of values (components) per element (1-4)

  • type (GLuint) - type of values (e.g. gl.FLOAT)

  • normalized (boolean, false) - normalize integers to [-1,1] or [0,1]

  • integer (boolean, false) - WebGL 2 disable int-to-float conversion

  • stride (GLuint, 0) - supports strided arrays

  • offset (GLuint, 0) - supports strided arrays

  • layout.normalized=false (GLbool) - normalize integers to [-1,1], [0,1]

  • layout.integer=false (GLuint) - WebGL 2 only, disable int-to-float conv.

  • divisor - Sets the frequency divisor used for instanced rendering (instances that pass between updates of attribute). Usually simply set to 1 or 0 to enable/disable instanced rendering. 0 disables instancing, >=1 enables it.

Notes about Integer Attributes

  • The application can enable normalization by setting the normalized flag to true in the setBuffer call.
  • WebGL 2 The application can disable integer to float conversion when running under WebGL 2, by setting the integer flag to true.
  • glVertexAttribIPointer specifies integer data formats and locations of vertex attributes. Values are always left as integer values. Only accepts the integer types gl.BYTE, gl.UNSIGNED_BYTE, gl.SHORT, gl.UNSIGNED_SHORT, gl.INT, gl.UNSIGNED_INT

Notes about Instanced Rendering

  • About setting divisor in attributes: Instanced attributes requires WebGL 2 or a (widely supported) WebGL 1 extension. Apps can use the feature detection system to determine if instanced rendering is available, though the extension is so ubiquitously supported that many apps just make the assumption: instanced_arrays.
  • An attribute is referred to as instanced if its divisor value is non-zero.
  • The divisor modifies the rate at which vertex attributes advance when rendering multiple instances of primitives in a single draw call.
  • If divisor is zero, the attribute at slot index advances once per vertex.
  • If divisor is non-zero, the attribute advances once per divisor instances of the set(s) of vertices being rendered.

Notes about setting mat type attributes

  • Setting a mat type in the shader requires to manually add an offset to the location.
  • This can be done by using special name format name__LOCATION_0. This will add 0 to the LOCATION resulting in no change. name__LOCATION_1 will add 1.
  • For example:
    • if we have the following declaration in the shader:
attribute mat4 matrix;
  • We should specify matrix__LOCATION_0, matrix__LOCATION_1, matrix__LOCATION_2 and matrix__LOCATION_3 as vec4.