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Developer(s)Kitware Inc.
Stable release
8.2.0 / 30 January 2019; 9 months ago (2019-01-30)[1]
RepositoryVTK Repository
Written inC, C++, Python[2]
Operating systemCross-platform
TypeScientific visualization
License3-Clause BSD

The Visualization Toolkit (VTK) is an open-source software system for 3D computer graphics, image processing and visualization.[3]

VTK is distributed under the OSI-approved BSD 3-clause License.[4]


VTK consists of a C++ class library and several interpreted interface layers including Tcl/Tk, Java, and Python. Kitware, whose team created and continues to extend the toolkit, offers professional support and consulting services for VTK. VTK supports a wide variety of visualization algorithms including: scalar, vector, tensor, texture, and volumetric methods; and advanced modeling techniques such as: implicit modeling, polygon reduction, mesh smoothing, cutting, contouring, and Delaunay triangulation. VTK has an extensive information visualization framework, has a suite of 3D interaction widgets, supports parallel processing, and integrates with various databases and GUI toolkits such as Qt and Tk. VTK is cross-platform and runs on Linux, Windows, Mac and Unix platforms. At its core VTK is implemented as a C++ toolkit, requiring users to build applications by combining various objects into an application. The system also supports automated wrapping of the C++ core into Python, Java and Tcl, so that VTK applications may also be written using these programming languages.[3]


VTK was initially created in 1993 as companion software to the book "The Visualization Toolkit: An Object-Oriented Approach to 3D Graphics".[5] The book and software were written by three researchers (Will Schroeder, Ken Martin and Bill Lorensen) on their own time and with permission from GE (thus the ownership of the software resided with, and continues to reside with, the authors). After the core of VTK was written, users and developers around the world began to improve and apply the system to real-world problems. [3]

With the founding of Kitware, the VTK community grew rapidly, and toolkit usage expanded into academic, research and commercial applications. A number of major companies and organizations, such as Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory funded the development of VTK and even developed a number of VTK modules themselves. [3] VTK forms the core of the 3DSlicer biomedical computing application, and numerous research papers at IEEE Visualization and other conferences based on VTK have appeared. VTK has been used on a large 1024-processor computer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to process nearly a Petabyte of data.

Later VTK was expanded to support the ingestion,[clarification needed] processing and display of informatics data. This work was supported by Sandia National Laboratories under the 'Titan' project.[6]


In 2013, a survey paper on visualization for radiotherapy noticed that while VTK is a powerful and widely known toolkit, it lacked a number of important features, such as multivolume rendering, had no support of GPGPU libraries such as CUDA, no support of out-of-core rendering of huge datasets and no native support for visualization of time-dependent volumetric data.[7]


VTK is the basis of many visualization applications.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tags · VTK / VTK · GitLab". Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  2. ^ "Kitware / VTK - GitLab".
  3. ^ a b c d Visualization Handbook, Academic Press, 2005, ISBN 012387582X, Chapter 30: the Visualization Toolkit
  4. ^ vtk v8.1.1
  5. ^ Schroeder, Will; Martin, Ken; Lorensen, Bill (2006), The Visualization Toolkit (4th ed.), Kitware, ISBN 978-1-930934-19-1
  6. ^ "Sandia Titan webpage". Archived from the original on 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  7. ^ Miguel Nunes, Matthias Schlachter, Katja Buehler, "Visualization Tools for Radiotherapy - a Survey", in: Innovative imaging to improve radiotherapy treatments, materials of 2nd summer school by SUMMER Marie Curie Research Training Network, a EU &th Framework Programme, 2013, ISBN 1291604170
  8. ^ "Home page of ParaView".
  9. ^ "MayaVi Homepage".
  10. ^ "OsiriX- About".
  11. ^ Handbook of Human Centric Visualization, Springer Science & Business Media, 2013, ISBN 146147485X

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]