HTML Canvas: anything you need to know in one cheat sheet

Posted on February 10, 2017   11:15 am by Kintan

When an artist uses a canvas, they use the blank space as an avenue of free expression. The artist possesseS unlimited freedom to turn nothing into something, employing their natural creativity and talent in glorious ways. At the end of this creative process, the blank space becomes the physical embodiment of something that at first was only an idea in the artist’s mind. The only restriction to this freedom is the artist’s skill and the limits of their imagination. This seemingly magical process of art creation is very similar to what happens in the world of web development, where both creativity and imagination abound.

Nowaday, thanks to the HTML Canvas, web developers can create things that were once perceived downright impossible. Owing to the technology known as HTML canvas, it is possible to draw graphics and create animations directly into the browser. This is something that a few years ago no one would have ever thought possible. The Canvas feature of HTML is a significant addition to previous web-based graphics, as it uses code to draw animated lines, complex objects, curves, images, audio, video, and text on a designated web page.

Using the canvas element is not very difficult, but the user needs a basic understanding of HTML and Javascript to work with it and understand what is being done.

What is HTML Canvas, and What Does It Do?

The elements of Canvas are defined with a HTML code, using attributes that describe the width and height. HTML canvas API is written using JavaScript. This is where the canvas area can be accessed through a full set of drawing functions. It is in this way that drawings and animations can be created.

There are many reasons someone would want to use an HTML canvas feature, whether it is someone learning the process from scratch, or someone that has been using canvas for years. Some of these reasons include:

  • Animation – Everything that is put on a canvas can be animated. This allows for many things to be created at different levels of animation. From simple moving shapes to complex imagery, the options are endless!
  • Popularity – As HTML canvas is becoming more well known, the demand for it is growing. Therefore, there are no shortage of resources available for everyone interested in using HTML Canvas.
  • Flexibility – Almost anything can be created using a canvas, and almost anything the developer imagines can be created. It can make lines, shapes, text, images and more, plus animation can also be added. It’s even possible to add audio and video!.
  • Interactivity – Canvas is interactive, which means it responds to the user’s action, such as typing on the keyboard or clicking the mouse.
  • Browser support – Canvas is supported by all the major browsers as long as they are up to date. Canvas can be accessed on a wide range of devices, including smartphones.
  • Portability –  The beautiful thing about Canvas is that once it has been created, it can be accessed almost anywhere.
  • Free – All the basic tools that are needed for canvas applications are free: all that you need is a browser! Plus, if a developer is looking to develop more complex coding, there are many free tools available online.

Getting Started

To get started with a canvas, you only need two things. The first thing needed is a code editor, and the second is a browser with an HTML canvas support such a Sublime Text or Google Chrome (there are plenty other options out there). By default, a browser creates elements on the canvas that have a width of 300 pixels and a height of 150 pixels. However, these can then be changed manually.

At first glance, the canvas element looks like the img element, with little difference between them. The main difference is that the canvas only has two elements, the width, and the height. The element can be sized while rendering, and the image is then scaled to fit its layout size.

What Can You Create?

A HTML Canvas cheat sheet can come in handy not only for those who are unfamiliar with code, but for everyone who wants to save time. It incorporates a handy list of functions and attributes that are used to create Canvas applications and is ideal for quick reference during coding.

Canvas can support main shapes, such as rectangles and paths, and both of these can be made using different methods. For example, a rectangle can be made by adding a rectangular path to an open path, a filled rectangle, a rectangular outline or making the rectangular area transparent. A cheat sheet will outline these different options, and the developer can use whichever suits the situation better, using the cheat sheet as a reference. The advantage of using a cheat sheet is that the user quickly gets a clear view of all the essential elements.

Developers will often use an HTML cheat sheet during the workflow, as it takes a lot to remember every element of HTML, and there are simply too many codes to keep track of. Maintaining a reference of these is always a good practice because they can be used time and time again. The cheat sheet will take the user through the basic element of using HTML canvas, and help them create basic shapes using different styles, including patterns, transparency, color, different line styles, and gradient.

In addition to all this, the cheat sheet shows various ways that the text can be formatted, such as font and the text measurements. It illustrates how to get an image from different locations and how to manipulate it on the canvas . It even touches on  the animation side of using HTML canvas!

The great thing about HTML Canvas is that its plethora of useful functions can be quickly mastered by users who have only the basic knowledge of code. Whether you need it all the time or only on rare occasions, nothing beats the feeling of reassurance knowing that you have your cheat sheet to look back on whenever you need it.


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