Writing Examples

One of the easiest ways to learn VisPy is to use example scripts as a starting point. VisPy includes a lot of its example scripts in the Gallery which is generated by the sphinx-gallery library. While any example that shows a usage of VisPy is usage care must be taken to make it runnable by sphinx-gallery and allow VisPy's sphinx-gallery scraper to take screenshots of it.

The below sections describe some important points of writing an example and gotchas to avoid so the examples are properly included in the gallery.

Using the VisPy Scraper in other projects

It is possible for projects outside of VisPy to use the sphinx-gallery scraper. After following the sphinx-gallery configuration steps, include “vispy” as one of your image_scrapers in your conf.py configuration:

sphinx_gallery_conf = {
    'image_scrapers': ('vispy',),

It can be used alongside other scrapers like the sphinx-gallery default matplotlib scraper. The scraper follows all the same rules described below unless stated otherwise.

Script Location

Example scripts that are meant to be included in the gallery should be placed in one of examples/gloo/, examples/scene/, or examples/plotting/ directories. Sphinx-gallery will only search in these directories and only at the top 2 levels (only the first sub-directories).

Note this is specific to the VisPy project. Third-party libraries using the VisPy scraper are free to put examples wherever they configure sphinx-gallery to look.


The scraper expects examples to have one of the following defined in the global namespace:

  • canvas: An instance of a Canvas, SceneCanvas, or subclass of one of these. It must be named “canvas”.

  • Canvas: A class that can be instantiated by calling Canvas().

  • fig: A Figure instance. It must be named “fig”.

In the case of an example that is a larger Qt5 Application see the below section.


The scraper can also collect screenshots of Qt5 Applications. It will find the top-level QMainWindow or QWidget and ignore any VisPy canvases.

At the end of the example should be included an app.run() call where app must be a VisPy Application instance. Using a QApplication instance will work for basic running of the example, but currently can cause segmentation faults when run by sphinx-gallery. VisPy’s vispy.app.application.Application.run() has special handling to not block execution when run by sphinx-gallery.

Examples using other GUI frameworks are not currently supported in gallery execution.

Specify frames to grab

A special comment can be added to the top of the example script to tell the scraper what frame(s) to grab of an animation. By default (if none is specified) the scraper will draw the Canvas-like object multiple times (5) and then grab the current visualized output. This ensures that the visualization has been completely drawn. To customize a different number of draws before a screenshot is grabbed put the following comment in the first ten lines of the example script (usually the second line after the hashbang):

# vispy: gallery 30

This tells the scraper to draw the Canvas-like object 30 times. To build an animation (currently stored as a gif image), you can specify a range of frames by doing:

# vispy: gallery 10:50:10

This is passed to range as individual arguments (start, end, step). So the above will produce a list of [10, 15, 20, 25,30, 35, 40, 45] meaning draw the Canvas-like object 10 times and grab a screenshot, then 5 more times (15 total) and grab a screenshot, then 5 more times (20 total) and grab a screenshot, and so on.

By default the scraper will not grab any frames. If the gallery comment is specified, but has no number or range specified then the first frame will be grabbed.

Specify images created by example

Some examples may involve creating screenshots or animations. To tell the scraper to grab these files instead of trying to generate another screenshot specify the following frame specifier comment:

# vispy: gallery-exports animation.gif

Where animation.gif is a filename relative to the example script that is produced by running the example. It can be any image format. Multiple space-separated filenames can be provided also.