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Link between Vulkan and a window and/or the screen.

Before you can draw on the screen or a window, you have to create two objects:

  • Create a Surface object that represents the location where the image will show up (either a window or a monitor).
  • Create a Swapchain that uses that Surface.

Creating a surface can be done with only an Instance object. However creating a swapchain requires a Device object.

Once you have a swapchain, you can retrieve Image objects from it and draw to them just like you would draw on any other image.


A surface is an object that represents a location where to render. It can be created from an instance and either a window handle (in a platform-specific way) or a monitor.

In order to use surfaces, you will have to enable the VK_KHR_surface extension on the instance. See the instance module for more information about how to enable extensions.

Creating a surface from a window

There are 5 extensions that each allow you to create a surface from a type of window:

  • VK_KHR_xlib_surface
  • VK_KHR_xcb_surface
  • VK_KHR_wayland_surface
  • VK_KHR_android_surface
  • VK_KHR_win32_surface

For example if you want to create a surface from an Android surface, you will have to enable the VK_KHR_android_surface extension and use Surface::from_android. See the documentation of Surface for all the possible constructors.

Trying to use one of these functions without enabling the proper extension will result in an error.

Note that the Surface object is potentially unsafe. It is your responsibility to keep the window alive for at least as long as the surface exists. In many cases Surface may be able to do this for you, if you pass it ownership of your Window (or a reference-counting container for it).


use std::ptr;
use vulkano::{
    instance::{Instance, InstanceCreateInfo, InstanceExtensions},
    Version, VulkanLibrary,

let instance = {
    let library = VulkanLibrary::new()
        .unwrap_or_else(|err| panic!("Couldn't load Vulkan library: {:?}", err));

    let extensions = InstanceExtensions {
        khr_surface: true,
        khr_win32_surface: true,        // If you don't enable this, `from_hwnd` will fail.
        .. InstanceExtensions::empty()

        InstanceCreateInfo {
            enabled_extensions: extensions,
    .unwrap_or_else(|err| panic!("Couldn't create instance: {:?}", err))

let window = build_window();        // Third-party function, not provided by vulkano
let _surface = unsafe {
    let hinstance: *const () = ptr::null();     // Windows-specific object
    Surface::from_win32(instance.clone(), hinstance, window.hwnd(), Arc::clone(&window)).unwrap()

Creating a surface from a monitor

Currently no system provides the VK_KHR_display extension that contains this feature. This feature is still a work-in-progress in vulkano and will reside in the display module.


A surface represents a location on the screen and can be created from an instance. Once you have a surface, the next step is to create a swapchain. Creating a swapchain requires a device, and allocates the resources that will be used to display images on the screen.

A swapchain is composed of one or multiple images. Each image of the swapchain is presented in turn on the screen, one after another. More information below.

Swapchains have several properties:

  • The number of images that will cycle on the screen.
  • The format of the images.
  • The 2D dimensions of the images, plus a number of layers, for a total of three dimensions.
  • The usage of the images, similar to creating other images.
  • The queue families that are going to use the images, similar to creating other images.
  • An additional transformation (rotation or mirroring) to perform on the final output.
  • How the alpha of the final output will be interpreted.
  • How to perform the cycling between images in regard to vsync.

You can query the supported values of all these properties from the physical device.

Creating a swapchain

In order to create a swapchain, you will first have to enable the VK_KHR_swapchain extension on the device (and not on the instance like VK_KHR_surface):

let ext = DeviceExtensions {
    khr_swapchain: true,
    .. DeviceExtensions::empty()

Then, query the capabilities of the surface with PhysicalDevice::surface_capabilities and PhysicalDevice::surface_formats and choose which values you are going to use.

let surface_capabilities = device
    .surface_capabilities(&surface, Default::default())?;

// Use the current window size or some fixed resolution.
let image_extent = surface_capabilities.current_extent.unwrap_or([640, 480]);

// Try to use double-buffering.
let min_image_count = match surface_capabilities.max_image_count {
    None => max(2, surface_capabilities.min_image_count),
    Some(limit) => min(max(2, surface_capabilities.min_image_count), limit)

// Preserve the current surface transform.
let pre_transform = surface_capabilities.current_transform;

// Use the first available format.
let (image_format, color_space) = device
    .surface_formats(&surface, Default::default())?[0];

Then, call Swapchain::new.

// The created swapchain will be used as a color attachment for rendering.
let image_usage = ImageUsage {
    color_attachment: true,
    .. ImageUsage::empty()

// Create the swapchain and its images.
let (swapchain, images) = Swapchain::new(
        // Create the swapchain in this `device`'s memory.
        // The surface where the images will be presented.
        // The creation parameters.
        SwapchainCreateInfo {
            // How many images to use in the swapchain.
            // The format of the images.
            image_format: Some(image_format),
            // The size of each image.
            // What the images are going to be used for.
            // What transformation to use with the surface.
            // How to handle the alpha channel.
            // How to present images.
            // How to handle full-screen exclusivity

Creating a swapchain not only returns the swapchain object, but also all the images that belong to it.

Acquiring and presenting images

Once you created a swapchain and retrieved all the images that belong to it (see previous section), you can draw on it. This is done in three steps:

  • Call swapchain::acquire_next_image. This function will return the index of the image (within the list returned by Swapchain::new) that is available to draw, plus a future representing the moment when the GPU will gain access to that image.
  • Draw on that image just like you would draw to any other image (see the documentation of the pipeline module). You need to chain the draw after the future that was returned by acquire_next_image.
  • Call Swapchain::present with the same index and by chaining the futures, in order to tell the implementation that you are finished drawing to the image and that it can queue a command to present the image on the screen after the draw operations are finished.
use vulkano::swapchain::{self, PresentInfo};
use vulkano::sync::GpuFuture;
// let mut (swapchain, images) = Swapchain::new(...);
loop {
    let (image_num, suboptimal, acquire_future)
        = swapchain::acquire_next_image(swapchain.clone(), None).unwrap();

    // The command_buffer contains the draw commands that modify the framebuffer
    // constructed from images[image_num]
        .then_execute(queue.clone(), command_buffer).unwrap()
            PresentInfo {
                index: image_num,
                .. PresentInfo::swapchain(swapchain.clone())

Recreating a swapchain

In some situations, the swapchain will become invalid by itself. This includes for example when the window is resized (as the images of the swapchain will no longer match the window’s) or, on Android, when the application went to the background and goes back to the foreground.

In this situation, acquiring a swapchain image or presenting it will return an error. Rendering to an image of that swapchain will not produce any error, but may or may not work. To continue rendering, you will need to recreate the swapchain by creating a new swapchain and passing as last parameter the old swapchain.

use vulkano::swapchain;
use vulkano::swapchain::{AcquireError, SwapchainCreateInfo, PresentInfo};
use vulkano::sync::GpuFuture;

// let (swapchain, images) = Swapchain::new(...);
let mut recreate_swapchain = false;

loop {
    if recreate_swapchain {
        let (new_swapchain, new_images) = swapchain.recreate(SwapchainCreateInfo {
            image_extent: [1024, 768],
        swapchain = new_swapchain;
        images = new_images;
        recreate_swapchain = false;

    let (index, suboptimal, acq_future) = match swapchain::acquire_next_image(swapchain.clone(), None) {
        Ok(r) => r,
        Err(AcquireError::OutOfDate) => { recreate_swapchain = true; continue; },
        Err(err) => panic!("{:?}", err)

    // ...

    let final_future = acq_future
        // .then_execute(...)
            PresentInfo {
                .. PresentInfo::swapchain(swapchain.clone())
        .then_signal_fence_and_flush().unwrap(); // TODO: PresentError?

    if suboptimal {
        recreate_swapchain = true;


Allows you to create surfaces that fill a whole display, outside of the windowing system.


Represents a swapchain image being presented on the screen.
Represents a region on an image.
Represents a rectangular region on an image layer.
List of supported composite alpha modes.
List of supported composite alpha modes.
Represents a surface on the screen.
The capabilities of a surface when used by a physical device.
Contains the swapping system and the images that can be shown on a surface.
Represents the moment when the GPU will have access to a swapchain image.
Parameters to create a new Swapchain.
A wrapper around a Win32 monitor handle.


Error that can happen when calling acquire_next_image.
How the presentation engine should interpret the data.
How the alpha values of the pixels of the window are treated.
The way full-screen exclusivity is handled.
Error that can happen when calling Swapchain::acquire_full_screen_exclusive or Swapchain::release_full_screen_exclusive.
The way presenting a swapchain is accomplished.
Error that can happen when calling acquire_next_image.
The windowing API that was used to construct a surface.
Error that can happen when creating a debug callback.
Error that can happen when creating a Swapchain.


Tries to take ownership of an image in order to draw on it.
Unsafe variant of acquire_next_image.
Presents an image on the screen.
Wait for an image to be presented to the user. Must be used with a present_id given to present_with_id.