A modern rendering of the Utah teapot, an iconic model in 3D computer graphics created by Martin Newell in 1975.
A modern rendering of the Utah teapot, an iconic model in 3D computer graphics created by Martin Newell in 1975.

Computer graphics is a sub-field of computer science which studies methods for digitally synthesizing and manipulating visual content. Although the term often refers to the study of three-dimensional computer graphics, it also encompasses two-dimensional graphics and image processing.


Computer graphics studies manipulation of visual and geometric information using computational techniques. It focuses on the mathematical and computational foundations of image generation and processing rather than purely aesthetic issues. Computer graphics is often differentiated from the field of visualization, although the two fields have many similarities.

Connected studies include:

Applications of computer graphics include:


See also: History of computer animation and Computer graphics § History

There are several international conferences and journals where the most significant results in computer graphics are published. Among them are the SIGGRAPH and Eurographics conferences and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Transactions on Graphics journal. The joint Eurographics and ACM SIGGRAPH symposium series features the major venues for the more specialized sub-fields: Symposium on Geometry Processing,[1] Symposium on Rendering, Symposium on Computer Animation,[2] and High Performance Graphics.[3]

As in the rest of computer science, conference publications in computer graphics are generally more significant than journal publications (and subsequently have lower acceptance rates).[4][5][6][7]


A broad classification of major subfields in computer graphics might be:

  1. Geometry: ways to represent and process surfaces
  2. Animation: ways to represent and manipulate motion
  3. Rendering: algorithms to reproduce light transport
  4. Imaging: image acquisition or image editing


Successive approximations of a surface computed using quadric error metrics
Successive approximations of a surface computed using quadric error metrics

The subfield of geometry studies the representation of three-dimensional objects in a discrete digital setting. Because the appearance of an object depends largely on its exterior, boundary representations are most commonly used. Two dimensional surfaces are a good representation for most objects, though they may be non-manifold. Since surfaces are not finite, discrete digital approximations are used. Polygonal meshes (and to a lesser extent subdivision surfaces) are by far the most common representation, although point-based representations have become more popular recently (see for instance the Symposium on Point-Based Graphics).[8] These representations are Lagrangian, meaning the spatial locations of the samples are independent. Recently, Eulerian surface descriptions (i.e., where spatial samples are fixed) such as level sets have been developed into a useful representation for deforming surfaces which undergo many topological changes (with fluids being the most notable example).[9]

Geometry subfields include:


The subfield of animation studies descriptions for surfaces (and other phenomena) that move or deform over time. Historically, most work in this field has focused on parametric and data-driven models, but recently physical simulation has become more popular as computers have become more powerful computationally.

Animation subfields include:


Indirect diffuse scattering simulated using path tracing and irradiance caching.
Indirect diffuse scattering simulated using path tracing and irradiance caching.

Rendering generates images from a model. Rendering may simulate light transport to create realistic images or it may create images that have a particular artistic style in non-photorealistic rendering. The two basic operations in realistic rendering are transport (how much light passes from one place to another) and scattering (how surfaces interact with light). See Rendering (computer graphics) for more information.

Rendering subfields include:

Notable researchers

Applications for their use

Bitmap Design / Image Editing

Vector drawing


Video editing

Sculpting, Animation, and 3D Modeling

Digital composition


Other applications examples

See also


  1. ^ "geometryprocessing.org". geometryprocessing.org. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  2. ^ [1] Archived March 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "High Performance Graphics". highperformancegraphics.org.
  4. ^ "Best Practices Memo". Cra.org. Archived from the original on 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  5. ^ "Choosing a venue: conference or journal?". People.csail.mit.edu. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  6. ^ "Graphics/vision publications acceptance rates statistics". vrlab.epfl.ch. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  7. ^ An extensive history of computer graphics can be found at this page Archived April 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Point Based Graphics 2007 - PBG07". Graphics.ethz.ch. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  9. ^ "Ron Fedkiw". graphics.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  10. ^ [2] Archived February 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ CS 598: Digital Geometry Processing (Fall 2004) Archived 2004-10-25 at archive.today
  12. ^ "Digital Geometry Processing". cs.ubc.ca. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  13. ^ "Discrete Differential Geometry". ddg.cs.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2014-05-01.

Further reading


Industrial labs doing "blue sky" graphics research include:

Major film studios notable for graphics research include: