The Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) image format is a file format for creating a vector graphic. It uses the same ideas about path, stroke, and fill and coordinate that we discussed with the canvas. It also is a text format based on XML, as was HTML. So the contents of a XML file will look familiar to you. Here is an example:

<svg viewBox="0 0 500 200" xmlns="">
  <path d="M 100 50 L 100 150 L 300 150 Z" stroke="black" fill="#dd3333"/>

Let’s take a close look at the file format. First, like HTML and other XML derivatives, we use tags to specify elements. The <svg> tag indicates the top level of our SVG image, much like the <html> tag does for HTML. The xmlns links to the specification of the XML format, and should be included in all <svg> elements (it’s one of the requirements of the XML format - earlier versions of HTML did this as well for the HTML namespace, but HTML5 broke away from the requirement).

Likewise the <path> element defines a path, much like those we drew with the <canvas> and its rendering context. The d attribute in the <path> is its data, and it provides it a series of commands and values, separated by spaces. These instruct the program rendering the SVG in how to move the imaginary pen around. The stroke and fill attributes specify how the resulting path should be stroked and filled.

Finally, the viewBox attribute in the <svg> tag describes what part of the image should be rendered. This is specified as a rectangle, following the familiar format of x y width height, where the point (x,y) is the upper left corner, and width and height specify a distance to the left and down, respectively.

The viewBox plays an important role in how SVG graphics scale. If we used this SVG in an <img> tag and set it to have a different width, it would automatically scale the view box contents to match:

<img src="/images/triangle.svg" width="200">

Now that you understand the basics, let’s turn our attention to some specific SVG elements.


There is an important idea in the above discussion - the SVG file format specifies how the image should be drawn. But it is up to the program reading the SVG to actually carry out the drawing commands. As this is much more involved than simply copying raster bits, not all image viewing software support SVG files. However, all modern browsers do.