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This is the 1st step out of 10 of the Gamedev Canvas tutorial. You can find the source code as it should look after completing this lesson at Gamedev-Canvas-workshop/lesson1.html.

Before we can start writing the game's functionality, we need to create a basic structure to render the game inside. This can be done using HTML and the <canvas> element.

The game's HTML

The HTML document structure is quite simple, as the game will be rendered entirely on the <canvas> element. Using your favourite text editor, create a new HTML document, save it as index.html, in a sensible location, and add the following code to it:

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <meta charset="utf-8" />
    <title>Gamedev Canvas Workshop</title>
    	* { padding: 0; margin: 0; }
    	canvas { background: #eee; display: block; margin: 0 auto; }

<canvas id="myCanvas" width="480" height="320"></canvas>

	// JavaScript code goes here


We have a charset defined, <title> and some basic CSS in the header. The body contains <canvas> and <script> elements — we will render the game inside the first one and write the JavaScript code that controls it in the second one. The <canvas> element has an id of myCanvas to allow us to easily grab a reference to it, and it is 480 pixels wide and 320 pixels high. All the JavaScript code we will write in this tutorial will go between the opening <script> and closing </script> tags.

Canvas basics

To actually be able to render graphics on the <canvas> element, first we have to grab a reference to it in JavaScript. Add the following below your opening <script> tag.

var canvas = document.getElementById("myCanvas");
var ctx = canvas.getContext("2d");

Here we're storing a reference to the <canvas> element to the canvas variable. Then we're creating the ctx variable to store the 2D rendering context — the actual tool we can use to paint on the Canvas.

Let's see an example piece of code that prints a red square on the canvas. Add this below your previous lines of JavaScript, then load your index.html in a browser to try it out.

ctx.rect(20, 40, 50, 50);
ctx.fillStyle = "#FF0000";

All the instructions are between the beginPath() and closePath() methods. We are defining a rectangle using rect(): the first two values specify the coordinates of the top left corner of the rectangle on the canvas, while the second two specify the width and height of the rectangle. In our case the rectangle is painted 20 pixels from the left side of the screen and 40 pixels from the top side, and is 50 pixels wide and 50 pixels high, which makes it a perfect square. The fillStyle property stores a color that will be used by the fill() method to paint the square, in our case, red.

We're not limited to rectangles — here's a piece of code for printing out a green circle. Try adding this to the bottom of your JavaScript, saving and refreshing:

ctx.arc(240, 160, 20, 0, Math.PI*2, false);
ctx.fillStyle = "green";

As you can see we're using the beginPath() and closePath() methods again. Between them, the most important part of the code above is the arc() method. It takes six parameters:

  • x and y coordinates of the arc's center
  • arc radius
  • start angle and end angle (what angle to start and finish drawing the circle, in radians)
  • direction of drawing (false for clockwise, the default, or true for anti-clockwise.) This last parameter is optional.

The fillStyle property looks different than before. This is because, just as with CSS, color can be specified as a hexadecimal value, a color keyword, the rgba() function, or any of the other available color methods.

Instead of using fill() and filling the shapes with colors, we can use stroke() to only colour the outer stroke. Try adding this code to your JavaScript too:

ctx.rect(160, 10, 100, 40);
ctx.strokeStyle = "rgba(0, 0, 255, 0.5)";

The code above prints a blue-stroked empty rectangle. Thanks to the alpha channel in the rgba() function, the blue color is semi transparent.

Compare your code

Here's the full source code of the first lesson, running live in a JSFiddle:

Exercise: try changing the size and color of the given shapes.

Next steps

Now we've set up the basic HTML and learned a bit about canvas, lets continue to the second chapter and work out how to Move the ball in our game.

Document Tags and Contributors

 Last updated by: chrisdavidmills,