From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Direct2D[1] is a 2D vector graphics application programming interface (API) designed by Microsoft and implemented in Windows 10,[2] Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, and also Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (with Platform Update installed).[3]

Direct2D takes advantage of hardware acceleration via the graphics processing unit (GPU) found in compatible graphics cards within personal computer, tablet, smartphone and modern graphical device. It offers high visual quality and fast rendering performance while maintaining full interoperability with classic Win32 graphics APIs such as GDI/GDI+ and modern graphics APIs such as Direct3D.[4]


Direct2D is a native code API based on C++ that can be called by managed code and uses a "lightweight COM" approach[5] just like Direct3D, with minimal amount of abstraction. However, unlike WPF and similarly to GDI/GDI+, Direct2D is an "immediate mode" rendering API with simple BeginDraw/Draw/EndDraw calls; Direct2D has no concept of a "scene" and does not use retained tree structures, and the rendering state is preserved between drawing calls.

Direct2D can minimize CPU usage and utilize hardware rendering on a graphics card with minimum support of Direct3D Feature Level 9 with WDDM 1.1 drivers. Applications can choose to use it exclusively with CPU, the so-called software rendering by using it in conjunction with WARP10 in situations when hardware capability is not available, such as when running within a device with minimal GPU support, under terminal service, Windows session 0, or when graphics rendering is performed in a remote server with the graphical result sent back to the client device. Direct2D performance and memory usage scale linearly with primitive counts in both software and hardware.

Direct2D[6][7] supports high-quality rendering with the following key features:

  • High-quality subpixel text rendering via DirectWrite for both grayscale and ClearType technique
  • Per-primitive antialiasing
  • Bézier geometry draw and fill
  • Rich geometry operations (e.g. Boolean operations, path widening, outlining, etc.)
  • Composite layers
  • Primitive blend modes (e.g. source-over, source-copy, min blends, etc.)
  • Image built-in and custom effects for photo adjustment, graphical and color transform
  • Gradient brush and mesh
  • Command list for command buffering and printing
  • Scalable ink stroke
  • Sprite batch for game development

Direct2D allows full interoperability with GDI, GDI+, and permits rendering to and from a Direct3D surface, as well as to and from a GDI/GDI+ device context (HDC). It can be used effectively together with Windows Imaging Component (WIC) for image encoding/decoding, and with DirectWrite for text formatting and font processing. Such interoperability allows developers to gradually replace critical code paths with Direct2D code without the need to overhaul their entire source code. In Windows 10 timeframe, an Open Source project called Win2D was developed by Microsoft to further simplify the usage of Direct2D and DirectWrite in Universal Windows Platform (UWP) application. Win2D is a highly-efficient WinRT wrapper of Direct2D and DirectWrite designed from the ground up to integrate seamlessly with XAML Canvas control while preserving the power of the underlying graphics subsystem.

Subsequent versions[edit]

Direct2D 1.1[edit]

An updated version of Direct2D was launched with Windows 8 in October 2012.[8] It was also backported to Windows 7 SP1 (but not to Windows Vista) via the Windows 7 platform update.[9][10][11] The original version of Direct2D was tied to DirectX 11 (in hardware, up to Direct3D 10.1 is used), whereas this version of Direct2D integrates with DirectX 11.1.[9] Windows 8 also added interoperability between XAML and Direct2D along with Direct3D components, which can be all mixed in an application.[12]

Direct2D 1.2[edit]

New features were added to Direct2D with Windows 8.1 in October 2013:[13] Geometry realizations,[14] Direct2D effects API,[15][16][17] command list API, multithreading APIs, per-device rendering priority, support for JPEG YCbCr images for smaller memory footprint, and support for block compressed formats (DDS files).

Direct2D 1.3[edit]

The release of Windows 10 in July 2015 brought important updates and new features to Direct2D such as the performance improvement of rendering scalable text without font rasterization, the ability to download the needed font from the cloud on demand without requiring the font installation step, an optimization for faster image loading and image effect rendering, and a more sophisticated way to apply gradient brush through the use of 2D mesh made of gradient patches. This release also introduced a brand-new API extension to support digital ink, which is highly leveraged by the Microsoft Edge browser as well as the ink canvas XAML control.


In their 2012 paper on the competing NV path rendering OpenGL extension, Mark Kilgard and Jeff Bolz explain (and criticize) the internals of Direct2D as follows: "Direct2D operates by transforming paths on the CPU and then performing a constrained trapezoidal tessellation of each path. The result is a set of pixel-space trapezoids and additional shaded geometry to compute fractional coverage for the left and right edges of the trapezoids. These trapezoids and shaded geometry are then rasterized by the GPU. The resulting performance is generally better than entirely CPU-based approaches and requires no ancillary storage for multisample or stencil state; Direct2D renders directly into an aliased framebuffer with properly antialiased results. Direct2D’s primary disadvantage is [that] the ultimate performance is determined not by the GPU (doing fairly trivial rasterization) but rather by the CPU performing the transformation and trapezoidal tessellation of each path and Direct3D validation work."[18]

In July 2012, the Windows 8 team posted the following on the blog of Steven Sinofsky: "To improve geometry rendering performance in Windows 8, we focused on reducing the CPU cost associated with tessellation in two ways. First, we optimized our implementation of tessellation when rendering simple geometries like rectangles, lines, rounded rectangles, and ellipses."[19] These common-case optimizations claimed to improve performance in the range of 184% to 438%, depending on the primitive. The post continued: "Second, to improve performance when rendering irregular geometry (e.g. geographical borders on a map), we use a new graphics hardware feature called Target Independent Rasterization, or TIR. TIR enables Direct2D to spend fewer CPU cycles on tessellation, so it can give drawing instructions to the GPU more quickly and efficiently, without sacrificing visual quality. TIR is available in new GPU hardware designed for Windows 8 that supports DirectX 11.1."[19] This was followed by a benchmark using some 15 SVGs, claiming performance improvements in the range of 151% to 523%. The section concluded: "We worked closely with our graphics hardware partners to design TIR. Dramatic improvements were made possible because of that partnership. DirectX 11.1 hardware is already on the market today and we’re working with our partners to make sure more TIR-capable products will be broadly available."[19]

The TIR feature was among those that caused a "war of words" between Nvidia and AMD around December 2012, because Nvidia's Kepler GPU family does not support it, whereas AMD's GCN does.[20] In response to customer demands, an Nvidia support staffer posted that TIR cannot be simply implemented at the driver level, but requires new hardware;[21][22] the Maxwell 2 architecture, introduced in September 2014, is such hardware.[23]

In Windows 8.1, Direct2D can use the Direct3D11 hardware tesselators, but only in conjunction with D2D1_FILL_MODE_ALTERNATE. If another fill mode is used (e.g. D2D1_FILL_MODE_WINDING) then Direct2D falls back to tessellation on the CPU, but still uses TIR for anti-aliasing (if TIR is available). Since hardware tessellation is available in base Direct3D11 (not necessarily 11.1), Microsoft claimed significant performance improvements with Direct2D in Windows 8.1 (vs. Windows 8) on non-TIR hardware.[24]

Uses and performance[edit]

Internet Explorer 9 and later versions use Direct2D and DirectWrite for improved performance and visual quality.[25][26][27] Direct2D support was added in the alpha version of Firefox 3.7, roughly doubling its rendering speed.[28] (Firefox 4 also added DirectWrite support, but this was made non-default for some fonts in Firefox 7 due to user complaints about the rendering quality.[29] Google Chrome uses its own 2D library called Skia, which in turn renders through ANGLE on Windows.[30]) In Firefox 70.0, on old hardware, Direct2D is disabled on blacklisted old graphics drivers if they lack features and area is blacked out e.g. in Google Maps.[31]

Ars Technica's Peter Bright noted in the summer of 2012 that "most desktop applications don't use Direct2D."[32]

Microsoft Office 2013 supports either Direct2D+DirectWrite or GDI+Uniscribe for display rendering and typography.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Direct2D - Win32 apps".
  2. ^ "What's New in Direct2D and DirectWrite for Windows 10 (Channel 9)". Channel 9. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
  3. ^ "Updated Direct2D in March DirectX SDK - Tom's Blog - Site Home - TechNet Blogs". 2009-03-24. Archived from the original on 2009-03-28. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  4. ^ "Direct2D". MSDN. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  5. ^ ".net - What exactly is "lightweight COM"?". Stack Overflow.
  6. ^ "Text Rendering with Direct2D and DirectWrite - Win32 apps".
  7. ^ "Supported Pixel Formats and Alpha Modes - Win32 apps".
  8. ^ "DirectX feature improvements in Windows 8 - Windows drivers".
  9. ^ a b "Windows with C++ - Introducing Direct2D 1.1". 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  10. ^ "Platform Update for Windows 7 (Windows)". Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  11. ^ Pooya Eimandar (2013). DirectX 11.1 Game Programming. Packt Publishing Ltd. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-84969-481-0.
  12. ^ "DevBlogs".
  13. ^ "What's new in Direct2D - Win32 apps".
  14. ^ "Geometry Realizations Overview - Win32 apps".
  15. ^ "Effects (Direct2D) - Win32 apps".
  16. ^ "Built-in Effects - Win32 apps".
  17. ^ "How to Apply Effects to Primitives - Win32 apps".
  18. ^ Kilgard, Mark J. (2012). "GPU-accelerated path rendering". ACM Transactions on Graphics. 31 (6): 1–10. doi:10.1145/2366145.2366191. S2CID 12967014.
  19. ^ a b c Rob Copeland, with contributions from Sriram Subramanian, Dan McLachlan, Kam VedBrat, Steve Lim, and Jianye Lu, and introduction by Steven Sinofsky Hardware accelerating everything: Windows 8 graphics
  20. ^ "War of Words Between NVIDIA and AMD Over DirectX 11.1 Support Continues". Hardware Canucks. 2012-12-17. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  21. ^ "Give us DX11.1 driver support on DX11 cards. no new hardware is required for dx11.1". NVIDIA.
  22. ^ "Fermi and Kepler DirectX API Support | NVIDIA".
  23. ^ Smith, Ryan. "The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Review: Maxwell Mark 2".
  24. ^ 19:00 to 20:00 and 55:00 to 56:30
  25. ^ tim, on August 11th, 2010 Follow tim on Twitter (2010-08-11). "Firefox 4 as Psychedelic as IE9 with Direct2D enabled « Tim Anderson's ITWriting". Retrieved 2014-08-06. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ Shankland, Stephen (2014-03-25). "Firefox 4 beta 4 adds hardware acceleration". CNET. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  27. ^ "Mozilla chucks Roc at Microsoft's new hardness • The Register".
  28. ^ Published on 27th November 2009 by Gareth Halfacree (2009-11-27). "Firefox 3.7 gets Direct2D support". Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  29. ^ "Graphic bits » Blog Archive » DirectWrite Text Rendering in Firefox 6". 2011-08-11. Archived from the original on 2014-08-10. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  30. ^ "GPU Accelerated Compositing in Chrome - The Chromium Projects". Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  31. ^ Buckler, Craig (2011-12-20). "How to Enable WebGL for Blocked Graphics Cards in Firefox". Retrieved 2019-10-21.
  32. ^ Bright, Peter (2012-07-24). "Windows 8 GPU acceleration: good news for Metro". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  33. ^ "Office Adopts New Windows Display Technology - Murray Sargent: Math in Office - Site Home - MSDN Blogs". 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2014-08-09.

External links[edit]