Introduction to Vulkan

Vulkan Logo

Vulkan is an advanced graphics API developed by the Khronos group. Other graphics APIs (like OpenGL and Direct3D) require the driver to perform the necessary translations from the high-level API into something suitable for the hardware. The intent at the time was to keep developers from having to manage the more complex details of the graphics hardware.

As those older graphics APIs continued to evolve, they slowly exposed more and more low-level hardware functionality directly to the programmers. The programmers demanded lower-level access to the hardware, trading off the convenience and safety of the hand-holding functions that had higher overhead and lower performance.

Vulkan was designed to avoid the higher overhead found in higher-function APIs. As a result, the Vulkan programmer needs to take care of many more details when building a Vulkan application. But this allows the programmer to manage the application resources and the GPU hardware more efficiently. This is because the programmer has more knowledge of the application's resource usage patterns and so doesn't have to make the costly assumptions that other APIs are forced to make.

Additionally, Vulkan also aims to be a more cross-platform API than other graphics APIs by targeting not only high-end systems, but also low-end mobile devices.

About this Tutorial


The purpose of this tutorial is to step you through the process of creating a simple Vulkan application, learning the basics of Vulkan along the way. This tutorial is synchronized with the code making up the samples progression developed by LunarG. As you work through this tutorial, you are pointed to the actual code in these sample programs that illustrate each of the steps needed to develop a simple Vulkan application. At the end of the tutorial, you will have a complete Vulkan program that you can use as a starting point for learning more about Vulkan.

To get an idea of what this samples progression looks like, please visit the LunarG Samples Progression Index.

How to use the Samples Tutorial

This tutorial is most effective when it is used side-by-side with the code in the samples progression. We suggest that you set up your development environment to enable you to download and build the LunarG Vulkan Samples GitHub repository. Please use the instructions in the top-level README file in that repository to install the necessary tools and packages to build the samples. The samples are found in the API-Samples folder of the repository. Once you have the samples built and running, you can proceed with this tutorial.

It is also useful to be able to easily access the vulkan.h header file for reference as you look at the sample code. This file can be found in the include directory of the Vulkan SDK, or in the Vulkan-Headers repository, or installed elsewhere on your system.

The Vulkan specification document is an invaluable source for Vulkan information. You can find the specification at the Vulkan SDK Download site or in the Khronos Vulkan Registry. Although it is not strictly required to refer to the specification as you work through the samples, you may find the specification useful to get a deeper understanding of Vulkan.

Samples Coding Strategy

The samples are implemented to focus on a specific topic by showing only the code that is related to that topic. Code related to previously-covered topics is generally organized into functions that are called from the main program so that code for the "old" topics does not get in the way of code related to the current topic. You can always go back to these functions to refresh your understanding of any previous topic.

The portion of a sample program that is focusing on a specific topic is delineated with comments in between the functions that cover the "old" topics as follows:

init_instance(info, sample_title);
init_window_size(info, 500, 500);

... code of interest


Look for these comments in the source files to quickly locate the code relating to the topic under discussion.

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