1 unstable release

0.1.0 Aug 4, 2023

LGPL-3.0-or-later OR MPL-2.0



A generic piet rendering context for all windowing and graphics backends.

Windowing frameworks like winit do not provide a way to draw into them by default. This decision is intentional; it allows the user to choose which graphics backend that they'd like to use, and also makes maintaining the windowing code much simpler. For games (what winit was originally designed for), usually a 3D rendering context like wgpu or glow would be used in this case. However, GUI applications will need a 2D vector graphics context.

piet is a 2D graphics abstraction that can be used with many different graphics backends. However, piet's default implementation, piet-common, is difficult to integrate with windowing systems other than druid-shell, which doesn't support many operations that other windowing systems support. theo aims to bridge this gap by providing a generic piet rendering context that easily integrates with windowing systems.

Rather than going through drawing APIs like cairo and DirectX, theo directly uses GPU APIs in order to render to the window. This allows for better performance and greater flexibility, and also ensures that much of the rendering logic is safe. This also reduces the number of dynamic dependencies that your final program needs to rely on.

theo prioritizes versatility and performance. By default, theo uses an optimized GPU backend for rendering. If the GPU is not available, theo will fall back to software rendering.

Usage Example

First, users must create a Display, which represents the root display of the system. From here, users should create Surfaces, which represent drawing areas. Finally, a Surface can be used to create the RenderContext type, which is used to draw.

use piet::{RenderContext as _, kurbo::Circle};
use theo::{Display, Surface, RenderContext};

// Create a display using a display handle from your windowing framework.
// `my_display` is used as a stand-in for the root of your display system.
// It must implement `raw_window_handle::HasRawDisplayHandle`.
let mut display = unsafe {
        .expect("failed to create display")

// Create a surface using a window handle from your windowing framework.
// `window` is used as a stand-in for a window in your display system.
// It must implement `raw_window_handle::HasRawWindowHandle`.
let surface_future = unsafe {

// make_surface returns a future that needs to be polled.
let mut surface = surface_future.await.expect("failed to create surface");

// Set up drawing logic.
surface.on_draw(move || async move {
    // Create the render context.
    let mut ctx = RenderContext::new(
        &mut display,
        &mut surface,
    ).expect("failed to create render context");

    // Clear the screen and draw a circle.
    ctx.clear(None, piet::Color::WHITE);
        &Circle::new((200.0, 200.0), 50.0),

    // Finish drawing.
    ctx.finish().expect("failed to finish drawing");

    // If you don't have any other windows to draw, make sure the windows are
    // presented.

See the documentation for the piet crate for more information on how to use the drawing API.


As of the time of writing, theo supports the following backends:

  • wgpu backend (enabled with the wgpu feature), which uses the piet-wgpu crate to render to the window. This backend supports all of the graphics APIs that wgpu supports, including Vulkan, Metal, and DirectX 11/12.
  • glow backend (enabled with the gl feature), which uses the piet-glow crate to render to the window. glutin is used on desktop platforms to create the OpenGL context, and glow is used to interact with the OpenGL API. This backend supports OpenGL 3.2 and above.
  • A software rasterization backend. tiny-skia is used to render to a bitmap, and then softbuffer is used to copy the bitmap to the window. This backend is enabled by default and is used when no other backend is available.


As theo implements most of its own rendering logic, this can lead to serious performance degradations if used improperly, especially on the software rasterization backend. In some cases, compiling theo on Debug Mode rather than Release Mode can half the frame rate of the application. If you are experiencing low frame rates with theo, make sure that you are compiling it on Release Mode.

In addition, gradient brushes are optimized in such a way that the actual gradient needs to be computed only once. However, this means that, if you re-instantiate the brush every time, the gradient will be re-computed every time. This can lead to serious performance degradations even on hardware-accelerated backends. The solution is to cache the brushes that you use. For instance, instead of doing this:

let gradient = /* ... */;
surface.on_draw(|| {
    let mut ctx = /* ... */;
    ctx.fill(&Circle::new((200.0, 200.0), 50.0), &gradient);

Do this, making sure to cache the gradient brush:

let gradient = /* ... */;
let mut gradient_brush = None;
surface.on_draw(|| {
    let mut ctx = /* ... */;
    let gradient_brush = gradient_brush.get_or_insert_with(|| {
    ctx.fill(&Circle::new((200.0, 200.0), 50.0), gradient_brush);

theo explicitly opts into a thread-unsafe model. Not only is thread-unsafe code more performant, but these API types are usually thread-unsafe anyways.


theo is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of either:

  • GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.
  • Mozilla Public License as published by the Mozilla Foundation, version 2.

theo is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU Lesser General Public License or the Mozilla Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU Lesser General Public License and the Mozilla Public License along with theo. If not, see https://www.gnu.org/licenses/.


~1M SLoC