Rune.js is a JavaScript library for programming graphic design systems with SVG in both the browser or node.js. It features a chainable drawing API, an unobtrusive scene graph, and a range of features aimed specifically at graphic designers: native support for color conversion, grid systems, typography, pixel iteration, as well as an expanding set of computational geometry helpers. Oh, and it uses virtual-dom under the hood.


To use in the browser, download the latest release on GitHub. The ZIP file has both an uncompressed and a compressed version, with all dependencies included, ready to use in the browser.

To use in Node, install the package via NPM.

Getting started

If you want to run Rune.js in a browser, first download the latest release and move the file called rune.js next to your HTML document. Then, add a link to the file in the <head> tag of the document.

  <script type="text/javascript" src="rune.js"></script>

Now create a new file called sketch.js and add a link to this file inside the <body> tag of the document.

  <script type="text/javascript" src="sketch.js"></script>

Finally, put the following code in sketch.js.

var r = new Rune({
  container: "body",
  width: 500,
  height: 400

r.rect(0, 0, 200, 200)
  .fill(0, 0, 255);


Double-click your HTML file, and you should now see a blue rectangle in the top-left corner of the screen.

If you want to use Rune.js in node, it’s as simple as requiring the rune.js module.

var Rune = require('rune.js');
var r = new Rune({...});
// draw shapes

Basic shapes

Rune.js comes with a number of built-in functions to help you draw both simple and complex shapes.

r.line(0, 0, 100, 100);

r.rect(0, 0, 100, 50);

r.ellipse(0, 0, 100, 50);, 0, 100);

r.triangle(0, 0, 100, 0, 100, 100);

r.polygon(0, 0)
  .lineTo(100, 0)
  .lineTo(100, 100)
  .lineTo(0, 100);

r.path(0, 0)
  .lineTo(100, 0)
  .curveTo(100, 100, 0, 100, 0, 0);

You can read about these functions in the documentation, but they all create a new shape object and add it to the stage. Shape objects can be saved into variables, and many of their functions allow chaining.

var myRect = r.rect(0, 0, 100, 50)

You can find a lot more example code in the form examples. The next two sections are about two of the more complex shapes, Rune.Polygon and Rune.Path.


The polygon is a shape made up of a number of straight lines connected to each other. The following example draws a polygon triangle on the screen.

r.polygon(0, 0)
  .lineTo(0, 0)
  .lineTo(100, 100)
  .lineTo(-100, 100)

The lineTo() function draws a line from the current position to the position passed into the function. Notice how the first lineTo() is used to tell the polygon where to start, and that we do not draw a line back to the beginning to close the triangle. Polygons are always closed shapes, so this will happen automatically.

Polygons come with a number of helper functions to make it easier to do geometry calculations. The following example uses the vectorAt() function to find the position midway on the outline of a polygon, and draw a circle at that point.

var tri = r.polygon(0, 0)
  .lineTo(0, 0)
  .lineTo(100, 100)
  .lineTo(-100, 100)

var midway = tri.vectorAt(0.5);, midway.y, 10);

Polygons are important because most shapes can be converted to polygons by using the toPolygon() function (except the path shape where you need to use toPolygons()).

You can find a lot more example code in the form examples.


The path is the most complex shape, as it can consist of multiple subpaths made up of straight lines or bezier curves. Paths can also be open, and fill rules can be used to subtract one subpath from another.

Paths have four main methods: moveTo() to start a new subpath, lineTo() to create a line in the current subpath, curveTo() to create a bezier curve in the current subpath, and closePath() to close the current subpath.

As a simple example, let’s recreate the triangle from before as a path. Notice how paths unlike polygons do not close automatically, so we need to call closePath().

r.path(0, 0)
  .lineTo(100, 100)
  .lineTo(-100, 100)

Notice how, unlike the polygon, a path will always start the first point at 0,0, unless you use moveTo() to change the starting point.

The curveTo() function can be used to draw both quadratic and cubic bezier curves. Passing 4 values to the function will draw a quadratic bezier curve through a single control point to a new location.

// control point, new position
.curveTo(50, 300, 100, 0);

Passing 6 values to curveTo() will draw a cubic bezier curve with two control points to a new location.

// control point 1, control point 2, new position
.curveTo(0, 300, 100, 300, 100, 0);

You can draw multiple subpaths inside a single path by using moveTo() with the optional closePath(). Here’s a path with two triangles.

r.path(0, 0)
  .lineTo(100, 100)
  .lineTo(-100, 100)
  .moveTo(200, 200)
  .lineTo(300, 300)
  .lineTo(100, 300)

You can use the fillRule() function to change whether subpaths add or subtract from each other. You should read more about SVG fillrules here, but here’s how to switch fillrules for a path.

myPath.fillRule("nonzero"); // this is the default

The debug mode is great for paths, as it will draw the bezier control points to the screen. You can find a lot more example code in the form examples.

Moving shapes

All shapes come with a move() function that changes the current position of the shape. An optional boolean can be provided as a third parameter to move the shape relative to its current position., 0, 100)    // x:0 y:0
  .move(100, 100);     // x:100 y:100
  .move(20, 20, true); // x:120 y:120

The rotate() function can be used to change the rotation of a shape. If you just pass a degree to the function, the shape will rotate around its parent position. So even though a rectangle has a position in the middle of the screen, it will rotate around the top-left corner.

r.rect(100, 100, 100, 100)

However, passing in a center for rotation will make it possible to rotate the rectangle around its own center.

r.rect(100, 100, 100, 100)
  .rotate(45, 150, 150);

If you pass a boolean as the last parameter of the function, the rotation will be relative to the current rotation.

r.rect(100, 100, 100, 100)
  .rotate(45); // 45 degrees rotation
  .rotate(45, 0, 0, true); // 90 degrees rotation

The Rune.degrees() and Rune.radians() functions can be used to convert from and to radians. Rune.js has a lot of helper functions that you can read more about in the documentation, and you can find a lot more example code in the form examples.

Using colors

Drawing is not fun without color. All shapes have a default stroke and fill color that can be manipulated via the stroke() and fill() functions.

r.rect(0, 0, 100, 50)
  .stroke(255, 0, 0) // red
  .fill(0, 255, 0) // green

The example above creates a rectangle with a red stroke and green fill, by using RGB values from 0 to 255. If you prefer to use HSV, this is easy too.

r.rect(0, 0, 100, 50)
  .stroke('hsv', 0, 100, 100) // red
  .fill('hsv', 120, 100, 100) // green

On top of that, all of the following inputs can be used for strokes and fills.

.fill("#FF000") // red
.fill("#FF000", 0.5) // red with opacity
.fill(255) // white
.fill(0. 0.5) // black with opacity
.fill(255, 255, 255) // white RGB
.fill('hsv', 0, 100, 100) // red HSV
.fill('hsv', 0, 100, 100, 0.5) // red HSV with opacity
.fill(new Rune.Color(255, 0, 0)) // using color object

New color objects can be created via new Rune.Color(), and most of their functions are chainable too.

new Rune.Color(255, 0, 0)
    // a lot more in the docs!

You can also disable colors by passing false to the functions.

// you can't see me!
r.rect(0, 0, 100, 50)

You can find a lot more example code in the color examples.

The stage and groups

If you’re coming from Processing, the concept of a scene graph might be a bit unfamiliar. However, the basics are actually pretty simple to understand. In Processing, the rect() function will just draw a rectangle on the screen. You have no way to later access the x, y, width or height of that rectangle.

In Rune.js, that same function will actually create a Rectangle object, and add it to the stage. Every time the draw() method is called, Rune.js will look through the stage objects and draw all of them on the screen in order. The benefit is that shape objects will always hold the current state of the shape. See Shape variables for more.

You can use groups to group many shapes together. A group can be created by using the group() function.

var myGroup =, 100);

Any shapes added to this group will be positioned relative to the group position.

var myGroup =, 100);

// I'm a rectangle at 150 150!
r.rect(50, 50, 500, 500, myGroup);

You have probably noticed that I’m passing the group as the last parameter in the rect() drawing function. All drawing functions accept a custom group as the last parameter, and doing this will add the new shape to the group instead of the default stage. The group() function also does this, so you can nest groups to construct some very complex scenarios.

// create group on stage
var parent =, 100);

// create group inside parent
var child =, 100, parent);

// create rectangle inside child
r.rect(100, 100, 500, 500, child);

It’s important to understand that any changes made to the parent group will affect all the children in the group, including move() and rotate().

If you wish to create a new shape without adding it to the stage or a group, you can pass false as the last parameter in any drawing function.

r.rect(100, 100, 500, 500, false);

You can also use the shape objects directly, which will bypass the stage logic.

var myRect = new Rune.Rectangle(100, 100, 500, 500);

The main stage is actually just a group, which can be accessed via r.stage. See the documentation for more info.

Shape variables

All shapes have a state object that holds the current state of the shape. You can use this state object to get information about the shape. For example, here’s how you get the current position of a shape.

var x = myShape.state.x;
var y = myShape.state.y;
console.log("my shape is at", x, y);

Unless you know what you’re doing, do not manipulate this state object directly. If you do change something in state, remember to call changed() on the shape to force a re-render.

Update loop

You can use the play() function to repeatedly draw the scene to the screen 60 times a second. Rune.js will also fire a update event on every frame, so you can animate your shapes. Here’s a simple example that moves a rectangle across the screen.

var rectangle = r.rect(0, 0, 100, 50);

r.on('update', function() {
  rectangle.move(1, 0, true);

It’s very important to understand the difference between the code above that moves a single rectangle object, and the code below which adds a new rectangle to the stage on every frame. The code below will eventually slow down, so the above code is much better.

var x = 0;

r.on('draw', function() {
  r.rectangle(x, 0, 100, 50);

You can change the framerate by passing in the frameRate parameter when creating your Rune.js instance:

var r = new Rune({ frameRate: 10 })

You can find a lot more example code in the examples.

Mouse events

You can also use the on() function to listen to mouse events. The following code logs a simple message to the web developer console every time the mouse moves. As you can see, the listener function will receive a mouse object with the position of the mouse relative to the SVG.

r.on('mousemove', function(mouse) {
  console.log("the mouse moved to", mouse.x, mouse.y);

To listen to other mouse events, simply use mousedown (mouse is pressed), mouseup (mouse is released) or click (mouse is pressed and released in same sequence) instead.

Grid systems

Designers often use different types of grid systems to lay out shapes on a page. Rune.js comes with a built-in grid object that can be used to create most types of grid, and because grids are a part of the stage graph, shapes can be added to the grid columns and rows.

Grids are very flexible, and can be created using a combination of parameters. Here’s a simple grid created based on the full width of the grid.

var grid = r.grid({
  x: 10,
  y: 10,
  width: 500,
  height: 500,
  gutter: 10,
  columns: 10,
  rows: 2

You can also create a grid by specifying the module height and width instead. The code below will create the exact same grid as the code above.

var grid = r.grid({
  x: 10,
  y: 10,
  moduleWidth: 50,
  moduleHeight: 500,
  gutter: 10,
  columns: 3,
  rows: 2

You can also replace gutter with gutterWidth and gutterHeight if you need specific control over the module spacing.

A grid object is just a collection of groups with their locations based on the specified grid measurements. You can add shapes to the module groups with the add() function.

var rect = r.rect(100, 100, 500, 500, false);

// add rectangle to first column, second row
grid.add(rect, 1, 2);

Grids have move() and rotate() functions to move all shapes in the grid.

If you have debug mode enabled, the grid modules will be drawn on the screen for reference.

You can find a lot more example code in the grid examples.

Debug mode

You can enable debug mode when creating a Rune.js instance.

var r = new Rune({ debug: true });

Now, visit the technical documentation for further reading.