HTML5 Canvas: Add Drawing Functionality to Your Website

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HTML5 added many new elements that ramp up what HTML code can do on its own. One cool addition is the <canvas> element, a tag that’s used in the same way an <img> tag would be used, but instead of loading a graphic, it loads a “canvas” where users can draw and animate graphics on the fly with client-side scripting—no Flash required. 


Canvas is pure JavaScript. The <canvas> element itself doesn’t have drawing capabilities; rather, it’s a “container” for JavaScript so users can draw shapes and text right in the browser with nothing required from the server. You can draw 2D graphics and set colors in a rectangular bitmap canvas and even set drawings on a loop for animation. It’s all done in the front end, thanks to a single tag.

While a tag like the HTML <div> tag is a container for other tags, and <header> is a container for header text, canvas is a container element for pixels, telling the browser that anything inside that area is going to contain graphics. Then, the script adds the drawing functionality to the canvas.

  • Canvas has methods for drawing paths, shapes, boxes, circles, charts, text, or adding images.
  • Animate objects in canvas—from simple to complex animations. Transformations and manipulation are also supported.
  • It’s interactive and can respond to anything a user does with JavaScript (“events”), from clicking and key strokes to mouse-overs.
  • It’s great for gaming applications.
  • CSS adds colors, gradients, and patterns.
  • Its default size is 300px by 150px, but this can be easily adjusted in CSS code.
  • All major browsers support it.

Learn more about what’s new with HTML5.

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Carey Wodehouse

by - Freelance Content Marketer and Writer

Carey Wodehouse is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Richmond, VA who’s worked for clients ranging from online retailers and global market research… more