Contribute to Graphite.

It's great to hear you are interested in contributing to Graphite! We want to make it as easy and frictionless as possible for you to get started. Here are the basics.

Building and running the codebase.

Graphite is built with Rust and web technologies. Install the latest LTS version of Node.js and stable release of Rust, as well as Git.

Clone the project:

git clone

Then install the required Node.js packages:

cd frontend
npm install

You only need to explicitly install Node.js dependencies. Rust's cargo dependencies will be installed automatically on your first build. One dependency in the build chain, wasm-pack, will be installed automatically on your system when the Node.js packages are installing. (If you prefer to install this manually, get it from the wasm-pack website, then install your npm dependencies with npm install --no-optional instead.)

To run the project while developing:

npm start

This spins up the dev server at http://localhost:8080 with a file watcher that performs hot reloading of the web page. You should be able to start the server, edit and save web and Rust code, and rarely have to kill the server (by hitting CtrlC twice). You sometimes may need to reload the web page if the hot reloading didn't behave perfectly. This method compiles Graphite code in debug mode which includes debug symbols for viewing function names in stack traces.

To compile a production build with full optimizations:

cargo install cargo-about
npm run build

It produces the /frontend/dist directory containing the static site files that must be served by your own web server.

While developing Rust code, cargo check and cargo clippy may be run from the root directory. You can also use npm run lint or npm run lint-no-fix to solve web code formatting and cargo fmt for Rust code formatting. If you don't use VS Code and its format-on-save feature, please remember to format before committing or consider setting up a pre-commit hook to do that automatically.

We provide default configurations for VS Code users. When you open the project, watch for a prompt to install the project's suggested extensions. They will provide helpful web and Rust tooling. If you use a different IDE, you won't get default configurations for the project out of the box, so please remember to format your code and check CI for errors.

Task board.

Visit our task board board and look through the current sprint's column. You are also welcome to work on tasks prioritized for upcoming sprints. Find any issues with the green "Available" tag.

Pay attention to the tags which provide some useful information like which ones are a Good First Issue and whether they involve only Rust, only Web (HTML/CSS/TypeScript/Vue.js), or both. Feel free to pick whatever task interests you, then comment on the issue that you would like to start. After commenting, you can dig in right away, then we will assign the issue to your GitHub user to keep the status of things organized.


Join the project's Discord server then hop on the #development channel and ping @Keavon and @TrueDoctor. We would be delighted to help you get started with in-depth explanations of the code, one-on-one mentorship and pair programming. This is very valuable and not at all an inconvenience to us because it helps you avoid the intimidating step of getting started, so please do not hesitate to reach out right away.


Look for files within select folders of the codebase and read the code comments at the top of some Rust files. As many folders are missing docs, this currently isn't a substitute for mentorship described in the section above. If you also want to dig into the code and solidify your understanding by writing documentation, that would be equally valuable to the project!

Codebase overview.

The Graphite Editor is built as a web app powered by Vue.js in the frontend and Rust in the backend which is compiled to WebAssembly (wasm) and run in the browser.

The Editor's frontend web code lives in /frontend/src and the backend Rust code lives in /editor. The web-based frontend is intended to be semi-temporary and eventually replaceable with a pure-Rust GUI frontend. Therefore, all backend code should be unaware of JavaScript or web concepts and all Editor application logic should be written in Rust not JS.

Frontend/backend communication

Frontend (JS) -> backend (Rust/wasm) communication is achieved through a thin Rust translation layer in /frontend/wasm/ which wraps the Editor backend's complex Rust data type API and provides the JS with a simpler API of callable functions. These wrapper functions are compiled by wasm-bindgen into autogenerated JS functions that serve as an entry point into the wasm.

Backend (Rust) -> frontend (JS) communication happens by sending a queue of messages to the frontend message dispatcher. After the JS calls any wrapper API function to get into backend (Rust) code execution, the Editor's business logic runs and queues up FrontendMessages (defined in editor/src/frontend/ which get mapped from Rust to JS-friendly data types in frontend/src/dispatcher/js-messages.ts. Various JS code subscribes to these messages by calling subscribeJsMessage(MessageName, (messageData) => { /* callback code */ });.

Editor backend and Graphene modules

The Graphite Editor backend handles all the day-to-day logic and responsibilities of a user-facing interactive application. Some duties include: user input, GUI state management, viewport tool behavior, layer management and selection, and handling of multiple document tabs.

The actual document (the artwork data and layers included in a saved .graphite file) is part of another core module located in /graphene. Graphene manages a document and will grow into the codebase for the full node graph system in the future. While it's OK for the Editor to read data from, or make immutable function calls upon, the Graphene document, it should never be directly mutated. Instead, messages (called Operations) should be sent to the Graphene document to request changes occur. Graphene is designed to be used by the Editor or by third-party Rust or C/C++ code directly so a careful separation of concerns between the Editor and Graphene should be considered.

The message bus

Every part of the Graphite stack works based on the concept of message passing. Messages are pushed to the front or back of a queue and each one is processed by the module's dispatcher in the order encountered. Only the dispatcher owns a mutable reference to update its module's state.

Additional technical details (click to show)

A message is an enum variant of a certain message sub-type like FrontendMessage, ToolMessage, PortfolioMessage, or DocumentMessage. An example is DocumentMessage::DeleteSelectedLayers (which carries no data) or DocumentMessage::RenameLayer(Vec<LayerId>, String) (which carries a layer path and a string as data).

Message sub-types hierarchically wrap other message sub-types; for example, DocumentMessage is wrapped by PortfolioMessage via PortfolioMessage::Document(DocumentMessage) (this carries the child message as data), and EllipseMessage is wrapped by ToolMessage via ToolMessage::Ellipse(EllipseMessage) (again, this carries the child message as data). Every message sub-type is wrapped by the top-level Message, so the previous example is actually Message::Tool(ToolMessage::Ellipse(EllipseMessage)).

Because this is cumbersome, we have a proc macro #[child] that automatically implements the From trait on message sub-types and lets you write DocumentMessage::DeleteSelectedLayers.into() instead of Message(PortfolioMessage::Document(DocumentMessage::DeleteSelectedLayers)).


Use the browser console (F12) to check for warnings and errors. Use the Rust macro debug!("A debug message") to print to the browser console. These statements should be for temporary debugging. Remove them before committing to master. Print-based debugging is necessary because breakpoints are not supported in WebAssembly.

Additional print statements are available that should be committed.

  • error!() is for descriptive user-facing error messages
  • warn!() is for non-critical problems that may indicate a bug somewhere
  • trace!() is for verbose logs of ordinary internal activity, hidden by default

To show trace logs, activate Help > Debug: Print Trace Logs.

To also view logs of the messages dispatched by the message bus system, activate Help > Debug: Print Messages > Only Names. Or use Full Contents for more verbose insight with the actual data being passed.

Contributing guide.

Code style

The Graphite project highly values code quality and accessibility to new contributors. Therefore, please make an effort to make your code readable and well-documented.

  • Naming:
    Please use descriptive variable/function/symbol names and keep abbreviations to a minimum. Prefer to spell out full words most of the time, so gen_doc_fmt should be written out as generate_document_format instead. This avoids the mental burden of expanding abbreviations into semantic meaning. Monitors are wide enough to display long variable/function names, so descriptive is better than cryptic. To streamline code review, it's recommended that you set up a spellcheck plugin in your editor. This project uses American English spelling conventions.

  • Linting:
    Please ensure Clippy is enabled. This should be set up automatically in VS Code. Try to avoid committing code with lint warnings.

  • Imports:
    At the top of Rust files, please follow the convention of separating imports into three blocks, in this order:

    1. Local (use super:: and use crate::)
    2. First-party crates (e.g. use graphene::)
    3. Third-party libraries (e.g. use std:: or use serde::)

    Combine related imports with common paths at the same depth. For example, the lines use crate::A::B::C;, use crate::A::B::C::Foo;, and use crate::A::B::C::Bar; should be combined into use crate::A::B::C::{self, Foo, Bar};. But do not combine imports at mixed path depths. For example, use crate::A::{B::C::Foo, X::Hello}; should be split into two separate import lines. In simpler terms, avoid putting a :: inside {}.

  • Tests:
    It's great if you can write tests for your code, especially if it's a tricky stand-alone function. However at the moment, we are prioritizing rapid iteration and will usually accept code without associated unit tests. That stance will change in the near future as we begin focusing more on stability than iteration speed.

Additional best practices will be added here soon. Please ask @Keavon in the mean time.

Draft pull requests

Once you begin writing code, please open a pull request immediately and mark it as a Draft. Please push to this on a frequent basis, even if things don't compile or work fully yet. It's very helpful to have your work-in-progress code up on GitHub so the status of your feature is less of a mystery.

Open a new PR as a draft / Convert an existing PR to a draft:

Screenhots showing GitHub's "Create pull request (arrow) > Create draft pull request" and "Still in progress? Convert to draft" buttons