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Esteban Hernandez
Esteban Hernandez

Three.js: How to Use WebGPU, SVG, and CSS3D Renderers


Introduction




Have you ever wanted to create stunning 3D graphics and animations for your website or web application? If so, you might have heard of three.js, a popular JavaScript library that makes it easy to create and display 3D content in the browser. But what is three.js exactly, and how can you use it to enhance your web design and user experience? In this article, we will answer these questions and more. We will cover:




three.js


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  • What is three.js and why use it?



  • How to get started with three.js?



  • What can you do with three.js?



  • Resources for learning three.js



By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of what three.js is, how it works, and what it can do for your web projects. You will also learn where to find more information and examples to help you master this powerful tool.


What is three.js?




Three.js is a cross-browser JavaScript library that allows you to create and display animated 3D computer graphics in a web browser using WebGL, CSS3D or SVG. The aim of the project is to create an easy to use, lightweight, cross-browser, general purpose 3D library. The current builds only include a WebGL renderer but WebGPU (experimental), SVG and CSS3D renderers are also available as addons.


Why use three.js?




There are many benefits of using three.js for your web design and user experience. Here are some of them:


  • Flexibility and adaptability: Three.js's flexibility and adaptability are significant factors contributing to its popularity. You can use it to create simple 3D elements, complex 3D interactions, and creative animated games. You can also customize it to suit your needs and preferences by using different renderers, materials, shaders, loaders, effects, and more.



  • Robustness and efficiency: Efficiency and robustness are at the heart of three.js. It handles many low-level operations for you, such as creating buffers, shaders, textures, geometries, lights, cameras, etc., so you can focus on the high-level logic and creativity of your project. It also optimizes the performance of your 3D graphics by using techniques such as frustum culling, occlusion culling, level of detail (LOD), instancing, etc.



  • Extensive support and documentation: The success of a development tool often depends on the support and resources it offers developers. Three.js has a large and active community of developers who contribute to its development and improvement. It also has a comprehensive official documentation that covers everything from basic concepts to advanced topics. Additionally, there are many tutorials, courses, books, blogs, forums, and examples available online that can help you learn and master three.js .



How to get started with three.js?




Getting started with three.js is relatively easy and straightforward. You just need to follow these steps:


Setting up the environment




The first step is to set up your development environment. You will need a text editor, a web browser, and a web server. You can use any text editor you like, such as Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, Atom, etc. You can also use any web browser that supports WebGL, such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, etc. For the web server, you can either use a local server, such as XAMPP, WAMP, MAMP, etc., or an online server, such as GitHub Pages, Netlify, etc.


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The next step is to download or link to the three.js library. You can either download the latest version from the official website or use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to link to it directly in your HTML file. For example, you can use this script tag to link to the latest version of three.js from jsDelivr CDN:


<script src="


Alternatively, you can also use a module bundler, such as Webpack, Rollup, Parcel, etc., to import three.js as a module in your JavaScript file. For example, you can use this import statement to import three.js from npm:


import * as THREE from 'three';


For more information on how to set up your environment and use different methods to include three.js in your project, you can refer to the official documentation or this tutorial.


Creating a basic scene




The next step is to create a basic scene with three.js. A scene is a container that holds all the objects, lights, cameras, and other elements that you want to render on the screen. To create a scene, you need to use the THREE.Scene constructor and assign it to a variable. For example:


const scene = new THREE.Scene();


Then, you need to create a renderer that will display your scene on the canvas element in your HTML file. A renderer is an object that handles the rendering process of your scene using WebGL or other methods. To create a renderer, you need to use one of the renderer constructors provided by three.js and assign it to a variable. For example:


const renderer = new THREE.WebGLRenderer();


You also need to set some properties of your renderer, such as the size, the color, and the pixel ratio. For example:


renderer.setSize(window.innerWidth, window.innerHeight); // set the size of the renderer to match the window size renderer.setClearColor(0x000000); // set the background color of the renderer to black renderer.setPixelRatio(window.devicePixelRatio); // set the pixel ratio of the renderer to match the device pixel ratio


Finally, you need to append your renderer's domElement (the canvas element) to your HTML document's body element. For example:


document.body.appendChild(renderer.domElement);


Adding objects, lights, and cameras




The next step is to add some objects, lights, and cameras to your scene. Objects are the visible elements that make up your 3D scene, such as geometries, materials, meshes, sprites, etc. Lights are the sources of illumination that affect the appearance and shading of your objects. Cameras are the devices that capture and display your scene from a certain perspective.


To add an object to your scene, you need to create it using one of the constructors provided by three.js and assign it to a variable. For example, to create a cube object, you need to use the THREE.BoxGeometry and THREE.MeshBasicMaterial constructors to create a geometry and a material for the cube, and then use the THREE.Mesh constructor to create a mesh that combines them. For example:


const geometry = new THREE.BoxGeometry(1, 1, 1); // create a box geometry with width, height, and depth of 1 const material = new THREE.MeshBasicMaterial(color: 0xff0000); // create a basic material with red color const cube = new THREE.Mesh(geometry, material); // create a mesh that combines the geometry and the material


Then, you need to add your object to your scene using the scene.add() method. For example:


scene.add(cube); // add the cube to the scene


You can also set some properties of your object, such as its position, rotation, scale, etc. For example:


cube.position.set(0, 0, 0); // set the position of the cube to the origin cube.rotation.set(Math.PI / 4, Math.PI / 4, 0); // set the rotation of the cube to 45 degrees on x and y axes cube.scale.set(2, 2, 2); // set the scale of the cube to 2 on all axes


To add a light to your scene, you need to create it using one of the constructors provided by three.js and assign it to a variable. For example, to create a directional light that simulates sunlight, you need to use the THREE.DirectionalLight constructor and pass in a color and an intensity as parameters. For example:


const light = new THREE.DirectionalLight(0xffffff, 1); // create a directional light with white color and full intensity


Then, you need to add your light to your scene using the scene.add() method. For example:


scene.add(light); // add the light to the scene<


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