Building SDL2 from Source (GCC and Make)

SDL2: Renderer vs Surface

What is the difference between an SDL_Renderer and an SDL_Surface in SDL2?

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In SDL2, SDL_Renderer and SDL_Surface are two different ways to render graphics, each with its own use cases and advantages.


An SDL_Surface is a pixel buffer that represents an image in memory. It contains the pixel data and format information. You can manipulate the pixels directly and perform software-based rendering using an SDL_Surface.

Here's an example of creating an SDL_Surface and filling it with a solid color:

SDL_Surface* surface{SDL_CreateRGBSurface(
  0, width, height, 32, 0, 0, 0, 0)};

SDL_FillRect(surface, nullptr, SDL_MapRGB(
  surface->format, 255, 0, 0));


An SDL_Renderer is a rendering context that provides hardware-accelerated 2D rendering. It abstracts the rendering process and allows you to draw primitives, textures, and perform transformations efficiently.

Here's an example of creating an SDL_Renderer and drawing a rectangle:

SDL_Renderer* renderer{SDL_CreateRenderer(
  window, -1, 0)};
SDL_SetRenderDrawColor(renderer, 255, 0, 0, 255);
SDL_Rect rect = {100, 100, 200, 150};
SDL_RenderFillRect(renderer, &rect);

Differences and Use Cases

  • SDL_Surface is suitable for software rendering and direct pixel manipulation, while SDL_Renderer provides hardware-accelerated rendering.
  • SDL_Surface is generally slower for rendering compared to SDL_Renderer but offers more low-level control over pixels.
  • SDL_Renderer is preferred for efficient rendering of complex graphics, such as textures, primitives, and transformations.
  • SDL_Surface can be converted to a texture using SDL_CreateTextureFromSurface for rendering with an SDL_Renderer.

In most cases, using SDL_Renderer is recommended for better performance and modern rendering techniques. However, SDL_Surface is still useful for specific tasks like pixel-level manipulations or software-based rendering algorithms.

Answers to questions are automatically generated and may not have been reviewed.

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