Learning three.js

After learning how to use SketchUp, I wanted to learn more about rendering 3D using Javascript. three.js is one of the most popular 3D libraries for the browser/WebGL. Read on to learn the basics

Scene Basics

As seen in three.js’ “Creating a Scene”; three.js needs 3 things:

  1. Renderer
  2. Scene
  3. Camera

These 3 things are the view (renderer), the viewed (scene), and the viewer (camera); the 3 components work together with the line:

renderer.render(scene, camera)


A renderer will create/ “render” the 3D image i.e. the “view” that we see in our browsers. Create a renderer, then set its size. The renderer’s domElement is added to the browser so we can see the “view”.

const renderer = new THREE.WebGLRenderer();
renderer.setSize( window.innerWidth, window.innerHeight );

I checked more examples like this OBJ file loader. In all these examples, THREE.WebGLRenderer() seems like the standard. (I haven’t seen a different type of Renderer, while objects like Camera and Geometry have many varieties)

(OBJ is a file extension I’m exporting from SketchUp)


A scene will contain the 3D objects we’re drawing i.e. the objects being “viewed”. Creating a scene is very basic, no arguments required for the constructor:

const scene = new THREE.Scene();


A camera will be the perspective of the viewer; i.e. the “viewer”. A common camera is the PerspectiveCamera: Create a camera using the arguments in its constructor:

const camera = new THREE.PerspectiveCamera( 75, window.innerWidth / window.innerHeight, 0.1, 1000 );

We can change the camera’s position like this (by default the camera starts at position 0, 0, 0)

camera.position.z = 5;

PerspectiveCamera arguments

The arguments in the constructor include:

  1. Field of View (FOV)
  2. Aspect Ratio
  3. Near Clipping Plane
  4. Far Clipping Plane

Other Cameras

Read about other cameras here; some cameras include;

Geometry Basics

There is another combination of 3 items that are essential in three.js.

  1. Mesh
  2. Geometry
  3. Material

As described in the threejs-fundamentals:

Mesh objects represent drawing a specific Geometry with a specific Material.

These 3 “geometry” components work together when you create a Mesh; passing it a Geometry, and a Material:

const cube = new THREE.Mesh(geometry, material)

The resulting mesh object can be added to the scene like this:



Mesh is an object that

Takes geometry and applies a material to it


Geometry is the 3D “shape”. const geometry = new THREE.BoxGeometry();

Other Geometries

Check out some examples of the “geometry primitives” at the threejs fundamentals site


Material is the “surface”;

const material = new THREE.MeshBasicMaterial({ color: 0x00ff00 });

Other Materials

Above we use the THREE.MeshBasicMaterial, but there are other types of material, including:


The documentation for three.js is thorough, there are many examples but few tutorials.

Other Browser-based 3D Libraries