Control HTML5 Canvas through Python
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Pantograph: HTML5 Canvas Drawing in Python

Pantograph is a library for writing HTML5 canvas animations and games in Python. It is meant to provide a simple and easy-to-use Python interface to the canvas for beginning programmers who have not yet learned Javascript.

Pantograph uses the Tornado networking library to send drawing commands and receive input events from the browser through websockets. Thus, Tornado is the only dependency.

Example Program

import pantograph
import math

# Animate a spinning wheel on the canvas 

class Rotary(pantograph.PantographHandler):
    def setup(self):
        self.angle = 0
        self.radius = min(self.width, self.height) / 2
    def update(self):
        cx = self.radius
        cy = self.radius

        self.clear_rect(0, 0, self.width, self.height)
        # draw the circle for the "rim" of the wheel
        self.draw_circle(self.radius, self.radius, self.radius, "#f00")
        # draw eight evenly-spaced "spokes" from the center to the edge
        for i in range(0, 8):
            angle = self.angle + i * math.pi / 4
            x = cx + self.radius * math.cos(angle)
            y = cy + self.radius * math.sin(angle)
            self.draw_line(cx, cy, x, y, "#f00")

        self.angle += math.pi / 64
if __name__ == '__main__':
    app = pantograph.SimplePantographApplication(Rotary)

This program is located at "examples/rotary/".



This class is the main application, which can hold one or more handlers. The required constructor argument is a list of 3-tuples containing the name of the handler, the url, and the handler class. For instance,

	("Pantograph", "/", pantograph.PantographHandler)

It has one public method run which starts the application server. By default, the server runs on port 8080 and is bound to localhost. You can, however, override these defaults by providing extra arguments. For instance, if you replaced with"", 8000), the server would be publically accessible on port 8000.


A subclass of PantographApplication which takes in a single handler and sets up a route to it from the root url. The name is take from the class name of the handler.


This class contains event handlers for various mouse and keyboard events, a continuous timer, and methods for drawing on the canvas. Create a subclass of PantographHandler to implement your application.

Main Hooks

setup() - Called once when the handler is initialized. Override this method to put in any one-off setup code.

update() - Called in the main loop of the application. Override this method to put in any update code, such as redrawing a frame.

Drawing Methods

draw_rect(x, y, width, height, color = "#000") - Draw a hollow rectangle on the canvas. The color argument is the line color and takes any valid CSS color definition as a string. The other arguments are self-explanatory.

fill_rect(x, y, width, height, color = "#000") - Draw a filled rectangle on the canvas. The color argument here is the fill color.

clear_rect(x, y, width, height) - Clear a rectangular area of the canvas.

draw_oval(x, y, width, height, color = "#000") - Draw a hollow oval on the canvas.

fill_oval(x, y, width, height, color = "#000") - Draw a filled oval on the canvas.

draw_circle(x, y, radius, color = "#000") - Draw a hollow circle on the canvas. The x and y are the x and y or the center of the circle.

fill_circle(x, y, radius, color = "#000") - Draw a filled circle on the canvas.

draw_line(self, startX, startY, endX, endY, color = "#000") - Draw a line from (startX, startY) to (endX, endY).

draw_polygon(self, points, color = "#000") - Draw a hollow polygon on the canvas. The points argument is a list of (x, y) pairs.

fill_polygon(self, points, color = "#000") - Draw a filled polygon on the canvas.

draw_image(self, name, x, y, width=None, height=None) - Draw an image on the canvas. The name parameter is the name of the image, pantograph will search for an image by that name in your current directory at "images/handler_name/name" and then at "images/name" where handler_name is the name of your handler, and name is the name passed the function. If you do not supply a width or a height, the actual width and height of the image will be used.

Event Callbacks

All event callbacks are passed an InputEvent object which contains the following fields.

  • x - The x position of the mouse
  • y - The y position of the mouse
  • button - Which button on the mouse was pressed (0 - left, 1 - middle, 2 - right)?
  • alt_key - Was the alt key held down?
  • ctrl_key - Was the ctrl key held down?
  • meta_key - Was the meta (Windows) key held down?
  • shift_key - Was the shift key held down?
  • key_code - The key code

The following are the callback methods which can be overloaded. The callbacks correspond directly to HTML DOM events.

  • on_mouse_down - Called when a mouse button is pressed down
  • on_mouse_up - Called when a mouse button is released
  • on_mouse_move - Called when the mouse is moved across the canvas
  • on_click - Called when the mouse is clicked (pressed and released)
  • on_dbl_click - Called when the mouse is double-clicked
  • on_key_down - Called when a keyboard key is pushed down
  • on_key_up - Called when a key is released
  • on_key_press - Called periodically while key is held down

Instance variables

  • width - The width of the canvas
  • height - The height of the canvas

Shape Objects

Pantograph also provides a set of shape classes to represent your animation in an object oriented manner. The shape objects correspond to the draw_* methods in the handler class.

  • Rect(x, y, width, height, fill_color=None, line_color=None) - If no values are provided for fill_color or line_color, the fill or line will be transparent
  • Oval(x, y, width, height, fill_color=None, line_color=None)
  • Circle(x, y, radius, fill_color=None, line_color=None)
  • Image(img_name, x, y, width=None, height=None)
  • Line(startx, starty, endx, endy, color = None)
  • Polygon(points, fill_color=None, line_color=None)
  • CompoundShape(shapes) - shapes is a list of other shape objects

Shape Methods

  • draw(canvas) - Draw the shape on the canvas, which is an instance of PantographHandler.
  • translate(dx, dy) - Move the shape across the screen
  • rotate(theta) - Rotate the shape to the angle theta, which is in radians. The angle theta = 0 would be facing directly to the right, and increases in the clockwise direction.
  • intersects(other) - Determine if this shape intersects with the other shape
  • contains(other) - Determine if this shape wholly encompasses the other shape


You can configure your application by putting a "config.json" file in your current directory. The json file should contain a dictionary which can have any of the following keys.

  • timer_interval - The number of milliseconds between each call to the update method.
  • width - The width of the canvas on the screen. This can be an integer or the string "fullWidth" to fill up the entire width of the browser.
  • height - The height of the canvas on the screen. This can be an integer or the string "fullHeight" to fill up the entire height of the browser.

If you have multiple handlers in your application, you can configure each handler separately by associating a key with the handler's name to a nested dictionary containing any of the variables above.