Render passes

In order to fully optimize and parallelize command execution, we can't just ask the GPU to draw a shape whenever we want. Instead we first have to enter a special "rendering mode" by entering what is called a render pass. It is only once we have entered a render pass that you can draw.

What is a render pass?

The term "render pass" describes two things:

  • It designates the "rendering mode" we have to enter before we can add drawing commands to a command buffer.

  • It also designates a kind of object that describes this rendering mode.

Entering a render pass (as in "the rendering mode") requires passing a render pass object.

Creating a render pass

For the moment, the only thing we want to do is draw some color to a single image. This is the most simple case possible, and we only need to provide two things to a render pass: the format of the image, and the fact that we don't use multisampling (which is an anti-aliasing technique).

More complex games can use render passes in very complex ways, with multiple subpasses and multiple attachments, and with various micro-optimizations. Vulkano's API is suitable for both the simple cases and the complex usages, which is why it may look complex at first.

fn main() {
let render_pass = vulkano::single_pass_renderpass!(
    attachments: {
        color: {
            load: Clear,
            store: Store,
            format: Format::R8G8B8A8_UNORM,
            samples: 1,
    pass: {
        color: [color],
        depth_stencil: {},

A render pass is made of attachments and passes. Here we declare one attachment whose name is color (the name is arbitrary), and one pass that will use color as its single output.

The load: Clear line indicates that we want the GPU to clear the image when entering the render pass (i.e. fill it with a single color), while store: Store indicates that we want the GPU to actually store the output of our draw commands to the image.

Note: It is possible to create temporary images whose content is only relevant inside of a render pass, in which case it is optimal to use store: DontCare instead of store: Store.

Entering the render pass

A render pass only describes the format and the way we load and store the image we are going to draw upon. It is enough to initialize all the objects we need.

But before we can draw, we also need to indicate the actual list of attachments. This is done by creating a framebuffer.

Creating a framebuffer is typically done as part of the rendering process. It is not a bad idea to keep the framebuffer objects alive between frames, but it won't kill your performance to create and destroy a few framebuffer objects during some frames.

fn main() {
use vulkano::render_pass::{Framebuffer, FramebufferCreateInfo};

let view = ImageView::new_default(image.clone()).unwrap();
let framebuffer = Framebuffer::new(
    FramebufferCreateInfo {
        attachments: vec![view],

We are now ready the enter drawing mode!

This is done by calling the begin_render_pass function on the command buffer builder. This function takes as parameter the framebuffer, a enum, and a Vec that contains the colors to fill the attachments with. Since we have only one single attachment, this Vec contains only one element.

Clearing our attachment has exactly the same effect as the clear_color_image function we covered previously, except that this time it is done by the rendering engine.

The enum passed as second parameter describes whether we are going to directly invoke draw commands or use secondary command buffers instead. Secondary command buffers are a more advanced topic. Be we are using only direct commands, we will leave it as ::Inline

As a demonstration, let's just enter a render pass and leave it immediately after:

fn main() {
use vulkano::command_buffer::{RenderPassBeginInfo, SubpassContents};

let mut builder = AutoCommandBufferBuilder::primary(

        RenderPassBeginInfo {
            clear_values: vec![Some([0.0, 0.0, 1.0, 1.0].into())],

The next section will introduce the draw command, which will be inserted between begin_render_pass and end_render_pass.