At the lowest level, pyglet uses OpenGL to draw graphics in program windows. The OpenGL interface is exposed via the module (see The OpenGL interface).

Using the OpenGL interface directly, however, can be difficult to do efficiently. The module provides a simpler means for drawing graphics that uses vertex arrays and vertex buffer objects internally to deliver better performance.

Drawing primitives

The module draws the OpenGL primitive objects by a mode denoted by the constants


See the OpenGL Programming Guide for a description of each of mode.

Each primitive is made up of one or more vertices. Each vertex is specified with either 2, 3 or 4 components (for 2D, 3D, or non-homogeneous coordinates). The data type of each component can be either int or float.

Use to directly draw a primitive. The following example draws two points at coordinates (10, 15) and (30, 35):,,
    ('v2i', (10, 15, 30, 35))

The first and second arguments to the function give the number of vertices to draw and the primitive mode, respectively. The third argument is a “data item”, and gives the actual vertex data.

However, because of the way the graphics API renders multiple primitives with shared state, GL_POLYGON, GL_LINE_LOOP and GL_TRIANGLE_FAN cannot be used — the results are undefined.

Alternatively, the NV_primitive_restart extension can be used if it is present. This also permits use of GL_POLYGON, GL_LINE_LOOP and GL_TRIANGLE_FAN. Unfortunately the extension is not provided by older video drivers, and requires indexed vertex lists.

Because vertex data can be supplied in several forms, a “format string” is required. In this case, the format string is "v2i", meaning the vertex position data has two components (2D) and int type.

The following example has the same effect as the previous one, but uses floating point data and 3 components per vertex:,,
    ('v3f', (10.0, 15.0, 0.0, 30.0, 35.0, 0.0))

Vertices can also be drawn out of order and more than once by using the function. This requires a list of integers giving the indices into the vertex data. The following example draws the same two points as above, but indexes the vertices (sequentially):,,
    [0, 1],
    ('v2i', (10, 15, 30, 35))

This second example is more typical; two adjacent triangles are drawn, and the shared vertices are reused with indexing:,,
    [0, 1, 2, 0, 2, 3],
    ('v2i', (100, 100,
             150, 100,
             150, 150,
             100, 150))

Note that the first argument gives the number of vertices in the data, not the number of indices (which is implicit on the length of the index list given in the third argument).

When using GL_LINE_STRIP, GL_TRIANGLE_STRIP or GL_QUAD_STRIP care must be taken to insert degenerate vertices at the beginning and end of each vertex list. For example, given the vertex list:

A, B, C, D

the correct vertex list to provide the vertex list is:

A, A, B, C, D, D

Vertex attributes

Besides the required vertex position, vertices can have several other numeric attributes. Each is specified in the format string with a letter, the number of components and the data type.

Each of the attributes is described in the table below with the set of valid format strings written as a regular expression (for example, "v[234][if]" means "v2f", "v3i", "v4f", etc. are all valid formats).

Some attributes have a “recommended” format string, which is the most efficient form for the video driver as it requires less conversion.

Attribute Formats Recommended
Vertex position "v[234][sifd]" "v[234]f"
Color "c[34][bBsSiIfd]" "c[34]B"
Edge flag "e1[bB]"  
Fog coordinate "f[1234][bBsSiIfd]"  
Normal "n3[bsifd]" "n3f"
Secondary color "s[34][bBsSiIfd]" "s[34]B"
Texture coordinate "[0-31]?t[234][sifd]" "[0-31]?t[234]f"
Generic attribute "[0-15]g(n)?[1234][bBsSiIfd]"  

The possible data types that can be specified in the format string are described below.

Format Type Python type
"b" Signed byte int
"B" Unsigned byte int
"s" Signed short int
"S" Unsigned short int
"i" Signed int int
"I" Unsigned int int
"f" Single precision float float
"d" Double precision float float

The following attributes are normalised to the range [0, 1]. The value is used as-is if the data type is floating-point. If the data type is byte, short or int, the value is divided by the maximum value representable by that type. For example, unsigned bytes are divided by 255 to get the normalised value.

  • Color
  • Secondary color
  • Generic attributes with the "n" format given.

Texture coordinate attributes may optionally be preceded by a texture unit number. If unspecified, texture unit 0 (GL_TEXTURE0) is implied. It is the application’s responsibility to ensure that the OpenGL version is adequate and that the specified texture unit is within the maximum allowed by the implementation.

Up to 16 generic attributes can be specified per vertex, and can be used by shader programs for any purpose (they are ignored in the fixed-function pipeline). For the other attributes, consult the OpenGL programming guide for details on their effects.

When using the and related functions, attribute data is specified alongside the vertex position data. The following example reproduces the two points from the previous page, except that the first point is blue and the second green:,,
    ('v2i', (10, 15, 30, 35)),
    ('c3B', (0, 0, 255, 0, 255, 0))

It is an error to provide more than one set of data for any attribute, or to mismatch the size of the initial data with the number of vertices specified in the first argument.

Vertex lists

There is a significant overhead in using and due to pyglet interpreting and formatting the vertex data for the video device. Usually the data drawn in each frame (of an animation) is identical or very similar to the previous frame, so this overhead is unnecessarily repeated.

A VertexList is a list of vertices and their attributes, stored in an efficient manner that’s suitable for direct upload to the video card. On newer video cards (supporting OpenGL 1.5 or later) the data is actually stored in video memory.

Create a VertexList for a set of attributes and initial data with The following example creates a vertex list with the two coloured points used in the previous page:

vertex_list =,
    ('v2i', (10, 15, 30, 35)),
    ('c3B', (0, 0, 255, 0, 255, 0))

To draw the vertex list, call its draw() method:


Note that the primitive mode is given to the draw method, not the vertex list constructor. Otherwise the function takes the same arguments as, including any number of vertex attributes.

Because vertex lists can reside in video memory, it is necessary to call the delete method to release video resources if the vertex list isn’t going to be used any more (there’s no need to do this if you’re just exiting the process).

Updating vertex data

The data in a vertex list can be modified. Each vertex attribute (including the vertex position) appears as an attribute on the VertexList object. The attribute names are given in the following table.

Vertex attribute Object attribute
Vertex position vertices
Color colors
Edge flag edge_flags
Fog coordinate fog_coords
Normal normals
Secondary color secondary_colors
Texture coordinate tex_coords [1]
Generic attribute Inaccessible

In the following example, the vertex positions of the vertex list are updated by replacing the vertices attribute:

vertex_list.vertices = [20, 25, 40, 45]

The attributes can also be selectively updated in-place:

vertex_list.vertices[:2] = [30, 35]

Similarly, the color attribute of the vertex can be updated:

vertex_list.colors[:3] = [255, 0, 0]

For large vertex lists, updating only the modified vertices can have a perfomance benefit, especially on newer graphics cards.

Attempting to set the attribute list to a different size will cause an error (not necessarily immediately, either). To resize the vertex list, call VertexList.resize with the new vertex count. Be sure to fill in any newly uninitialised data after resizing the vertex list.

Since vertex lists are mutable, you may not necessarily want to initialise them with any particular data. You can specify just the format string in place of the (format, data) tuple in the data arguments vertex_list function. The following example creates a vertex list of 1024 vertices with positional, color, texture coordinate and normal attributes:

vertex_list =, 'v3f', 'c4B', 't2f', 'n3f')

Data usage

By default, pyglet assumes vertex data will be updated less often than it is drawn, but more often than just during initialisation. You can override this assumption for each attribute by affixing a usage specification onto the end of the format string, detailed in the following table:

Usage Description
"/static" Data is never or rarely modified after initialisation
"/dynamic" Data is occasionally modified (default)
"/stream" Data is updated every frame

In the following example a vertex list is created in which the positional data is expected to change every frame, but the color data is expected to remain relatively constant:

vertex_list =, 'v3f/stream', 'c4B/static')

The usage specification affects how pyglet lays out vertex data in memory, whether or not it’s stored on the video card, and is used as a hint to OpenGL. Specifying a usage does not affect what operations are possible with a vertex list (a static attribute can still be modified), and may only have performance benefits on some hardware.

Indexed vertex lists

IndexedVertexList performs the same role as VertexList, but for indexed vertices. Use to construct an indexed vertex list, and update the indices sequence to change the indices.

[1]Only texture coordinates for texture unit 0 are accessible through this attribute.

Batched rendering

For optimal OpenGL performance, you should render as many vertex lists as possible in a single draw call. Internally, pyglet uses VertexDomain and IndexedVertexDomain to keep vertex lists that share the same attribute formats in adjacent areas of memory. The entire domain of vertex lists can then be drawn at once, without calling draw() on each individual list.

It is quite difficult and tedious to write an application that manages vertex domains itself, though. In addition to maintaining a vertex domain for each set of attribute formats, domains must also be separated by primitive mode and required OpenGL state.

The Batch class implements this functionality, grouping related vertex lists together and sorting by OpenGL state automatically. A batch is created with no arguments:

batch =

Vertex lists can now be created with the add() and add_indexed() methods instead of and functions. Unlike the module functions, these methods accept a mode parameter (the primitive mode) and a group parameter (described below).

The two coloured points from previous pages can be added to a batch as a single vertex list with:

vertex_list = batch.add(2,, None,
    ('v2i', (10, 15, 30, 35)),
    ('c3B', (0, 0, 255, 0, 255, 0))

The resulting vertex_list can be modified as described in the previous section. However, instead of calling VertexList.draw to draw it, call Batch.draw() to draw all vertex lists contained in the batch at once:


For batches containing many vertex lists this gives a significant performance improvement over drawing individual vertex lists.

To remove a vertex list from a batch, call VertexList.delete(). If you don’t need to modify or delete vertex lists after adding them to the batch, you can simply ignore the return value of the add() and add_indexed() methods.

Setting the OpenGL state

In order to achieve many effects in OpenGL one or more global state parameters must be set. For example, to enable and bind a texture requires:

from import *

before drawing vertex lists, and then:


afterwards to avoid interfering with later drawing commands.

With a Group these state changes can be encapsulated and associated with the vertex lists they affect. Subclass Group and override the Group.set_state and Group.unset_state methods to perform the required state changes:

class CustomGroup(
    def set_state(self):

    def unset_state(self):

An instance of this group can now be attached to vertex lists in the batch:

custom_group = CustomGroup()
vertex_list = batch.add(2,, custom_group,
    ('v2i', (10, 15, 30, 35)),
    ('c3B', (0, 0, 255, 0, 255, 0))

The Batch ensures that the appropriate set_state and unset_state methods are called before and after the vertex lists that use them.

Hierarchical state

Groups have a parent attribute that allows them to be implicitly organised in a tree structure. If groups B and C have parent A, then the order of set_state and unset_state calls for vertex lists in a batch will be:

# Draw A vertices
# Draw B vertices
# Draw C vertices

This is useful to group state changes into as few calls as possible. For example, if you have a number of vertex lists that all need texturing enabled, but have different bound textures, you could enable and disable texturing in the parent group and bind each texture in the child groups. The following example demonstrates this:

class TextureEnableGroup(
    def set_state(self):

    def unset_state(self):

texture_enable_group = TextureEnableGroup()

class TextureBindGroup(
    def __init__(self, texture):
        super(TextureBindGroup, self).__init__(parent=texture_enable_group)
        assert = GL_TEXTURE_2D
        self.texture = texture

    def set_state(self):

    # No unset_state method required.

    def __eq__(self, other):
        return (self.__class__ is other.__class__ and
       == and
       == and
                self.parent == other.parent)

    def __hash__(self):
        return hash((,

batch.add(4, GL_QUADS, TextureBindGroup(texture1), 'v2f', 't2f')
batch.add(4, GL_QUADS, TextureBindGroup(texture2), 'v2f', 't2f')
batch.add(4, GL_QUADS, TextureBindGroup(texture1), 'v2f', 't2f')

Note the use of an __eq__ method on the group to allow Batch to merge the two TextureBindGroup identical instances.

Sorting vertex lists

VertexDomain does not attempt to keep vertex lists in any particular order. So, any vertex lists sharing the same primitive mode, attribute formats and group will be drawn in an arbitrary order. However, Batch will sort Group objects sharing the same parent by their __cmp__ method. This allows groups to be ordered.

The OrderedGroup class is a convenience group that does not set any OpenGL state, but is parameterised by an integer giving its draw order. In the following example a number of vertex lists are grouped into a “background” group that is drawn before the vertex lists in the “foreground” group:

background =
foreground =

batch.add(4, GL_QUADS, foreground, 'v2f')
batch.add(4, GL_QUADS, background, 'v2f')
batch.add(4, GL_QUADS, foreground, 'v2f')
batch.add(4, GL_QUADS, background, 'v2f', 'c4B')

By combining hierarchical groups with ordered groups it is possible to describe an entire scene within a single Batch, which then renders it as efficiently as possible.

Batches and groups in other modules

The Sprite, Label and TextLayout classes all accept batch and group parameters in their constructors. This allows you to add any of these higher-level pyglet drawables into arbitrary places in your rendering code.

For example, multiple sprites can be grouped into a single batch and then drawn at once, instead of calling Sprite.draw() on each one individually:

batch =
sprites = [pyglet.sprite.Sprite(image, batch=batch) for i in range(100)]


The group parameter can be used to set the drawing order (and hence which objects overlap others) within a single batch, as described on the previous page.

In general you should batch all drawing objects into as few batches as possible, and use groups to manage the draw order and other OpenGL state changes for optimal performance. If you are creating your own drawable classes, consider adding batch and group parameters in a similar way.