Embedded shaders

My simple Vulkan sprite renderer doesn’t have a large collection of complicated shaders. In fact, it only has one vertex shader and one fragment shader. Rather than loading the SPIR-V code from files on disk, I’ve opted for embedding them in the executable.

I found this GitHub Gist to compile shaders in cmake, and have extended it to encode the resulting compiled code so that I can include it in a C++ file.


    get_filename_component(FILE_NAME ${GLSL} NAME)
    set(SPIRV "${PROJECT_BINARY_DIR}/shaders/${FILE_NAME}.spv")
            OUTPUT ${SPIRV}
            COMMAND ${CMAKE_COMMAND} -E make_directory "${PROJECT_BINARY_DIR}/shaders/"
            COMMAND ${GLSL_VALIDATOR} -V ${GLSL} -o ${SPIRV}
            COMMAND cat ${SPIRV} | xxd -i > ${GLSL}.array
            DEPENDS ${GLSL})


add_dependencies(engine Shaders)

add_custom_command(TARGET engine PRE_BUILD
        COMMAND ${CMAKE_COMMAND} -E make_directory "$<TARGET_FILE_DIR:engine>/shaders/"
        COMMAND ${CMAKE_COMMAND} -E copy_directory

The xxd command encodes its input as hexadecimal characters, and with the -i flag it does so in a format suitable for including in a C file as a character array.

I have a class called ShaderLib that manages the shaders:

class ShaderLib {
    static uint8_t* GetVertexShader();
    static size_t GetVertexShaderSize();

    static uint8_t* GetPixelShader();
    static size_t GetPixelShaderSize();

namespace {
    uint8_t s_vertexShader[] = {
        #include "../engine/shaders/shader.vert.array"
    uint8_t s_pixelShader[] = {
        #include "../engine/shaders/shader.frag.array"

uint8_t *ShaderLib::GetVertexShader() {
    return s_vertexShader;

size_t ShaderLib::GetVertexShaderSize() {
    return sizeof(s_vertexShader);

uint8_t *ShaderLib::GetPixelShader() {
    return s_pixelShader;

size_t ShaderLib::GetPixelShaderSize() {
    return sizeof(s_pixelShader);

The shaders are built before the engine is built so the files included are always ready when the ShaderLib files are built, ensuring that the latest shaders are always included in the engine.

This setup allows me to write simple samples and tests that don’t have dependencies on the shader files - very convenient.

[ vulkan  c++  cmake  ]
Written on October 9, 2018