Canvas vs SVG: Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

Canvas vs SVG: Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

Should you use Canvas or SVG? It depends! Let's walk through all the scenarios where Canvas and SVG are an option and work out which is the best choice. HTML5 Canvas and SVG are both standards-based HTML5 technologies that you can use to create amazing graphics and visual experiences.

Should you use Canvas or SVG? It depends! Let's walk through all the scenarios where Canvas and SVG are an option and work out which is the best choice.

HTML5 Canvas and SVG are both standards-based HTML5 technologies that you can use to create amazing graphics and visual experiences. The question I’m asking in this article is the following: Should it matter which one you use in your project? In other words, are there any use cases for preferring HTML5 Canvas over SVG?

First, let’s spend a few words introducing HTML5 Canvas and SVG.

What Is HTML5 Canvas?

Here’s how the WHATWG specification introduces the canvas element:

The canvas element provides scripts with a resolution-dependent bitmap canvas, which can be used for rendering graphs, game graphics, art, or other visual images on the fly.

In other words, the <canvas> tag exposes a surface where you can create and manipulate rasterized images pixel by pixel using a JavaScript programmable interface.

What Is SVG?

SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics. According to the specification:

SVG is a language for describing two-dimensional graphics. As a standalone format or when mixed with other XML, it uses the XML syntax. When mixed with HTML5, it uses the HTML5 syntax. …

SVG drawings can be interactive and dynamic. Animations can be defined and triggered either declaratively (i.e., by embedding SVG animation elements in SVG content) or via scripting.

SVG is an XML file format designed to create vector graphics. Being scalable has the advantage of letting you increase or decrease a vector image while maintaining its crispness and high quality. (This can’t be done with HTML5 Canvas-generated images.)

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