Graphics and Animation in OS X

OS X includes an integrated stack of graphics technologies that provide the foundation for building engaging visual experiences. Specialized frameworks — which handle 2D and 3D graphics, animations and image effects — provide everything from graphics primitives to advanced visual environments. Use these rich APIs to give your application amazing graphics capabilities.

Sprite Kit

Sprite Kit is a powerful graphics framework for 2D games such as side-scrolling shooters, puzzle games, and platformers. A flexible API lets developers control sprite attributes such as position, size, rotation, gravity, and mass. Sprite Kit’s OpenGL-based renderer efficiently animates 2D scenes. Built-in support for physics makes animations look real, and particle systems create essential game effects such as fire, explosions, and smoke. To assist SpriteKit-based game development, Xcode supports texture atlas creation and includes a particle creator.

Scene Kit

Scene Kit is a high-level Objective-C framework that enables your app to efficiently load, manipulate and render 3D scenes. Scene Kit imports Digital Asset Exchange files (.dae files) created by popular content creation applications and give access to the objects, lights, cameras, and geometry that define the 3D scene. Using a scene graph approach, its simple to modify, animate and render your 3D scenes.

Core Animation

Core Animation lets you build dynamic, animated user experiences using an easy programming model based on compositing independent layers of media. Animations are created by defining key steps along a path, describing how the layers of text, images, video, and OpenGL graphics will interact. Core Animation processes the definitions at runtime, smoothly moving the visual elements from one step to the next — filling in the interim frames of animation automatically. The result is fluid animation seamlessly integrating all the layers of media.

Core Image

Core Image is, simply put, “image effects made easy.” It lets you easily create high-performance image processing solutions that automatically take advantage of modern GPU hardware. Core Image uses an OpenCL-based floating-point pixel processing pipeline that’s great for working with high bit-depth images, and includes over 125 built-in filter effects, such as color effects, distortions, and transitions. You can even extend Core Image by writing your own custom Image Units to deliver unique functionality.


Quartz provides essential graphics services for applications in two integral parts: the Quartz 2D graphics API and the Quartz Extreme windowing environment. Quartz 2D’s rich graphics capabilities are based on the Portable Document Format (PDF) and provides professional-strength 2D graphics features such as Bezier curves, transformations and gradients. Acting as an advanced “visual mixing board,” Quartz Extreme manages an application’s onscreen presentation and delivers responsive, GPU-accelerated window compositing with full support for transparency.


OpenGL provides the GPU-accelerated foundation for OS X by powering Core Animation, Scene Kit, Sprite Kit and Quartz Extreme.  It is also the industry standard graphics API for creating a broad range of 3D applications, including games, animation software and medical imaging solutions.  OpenGL in OS X is built upon a modern architecture that delivers efficient inter-operation with OpenCL and media technologies such as AV Foundation and Core Video. Learn more