Draw Text as 3D Objects with OpenGL

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h1. Draw Text as 3D objects with OpenGL

There are a couple of functions in WGL ("Windows Graphics Library":http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/ee417756(v=vs.85).aspx) which can be used to draw text as nice 3D objects in OpenGL. There is a well known example at "NeHe":http://nehe.gamedev.net/tutorial/outline_fonts/15004/. However, this is not portable at all, and since I'm using Qt anyway, I was looking for a way to have this done with Qt. I was surprised that there was no such function already available within Qt, but then I stumbled across "this example on Stackexchange":http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3514935/3d-text-on-qglwidget-in-qt-4-6-3/3516254#3516254 that got me started.

Before I get to the code, some drawbacks of this example:
* It uses the fixed-function pipeline. (GL_QUAD_STRIP's and DisplayLists). Im sure this can be done in a "more modern" way with VBO's, but my OpenGL knowlegde is not yet at that level.
* it relies on GLU for polygon tesselation. There might be better alternatives around or even some within Qt.
* No real character set (or even UTF) handling. It only uses the first 256 characters.
* side effects on the matrix.

The example uses QFont to get the font outline for each character (glyph). The basic idea is to create two flat outline-polygons for the front- and back-"plane" of a glyph and then create the "wrapping" in between the front- and backplane. Although it seems more difficult at first, it was pretty easy to create the wrapping in between the two outline-polygons with GL_QUAD_STRIP. The tricky bit was the polygon tesselation of the glyph outline, because the glyph-polygons are not concave and may have one or more holes. I'm using the polygon tesselation facility available in GLU.

The text3d class can be subclassed by a GLWidget or GLWindow object. There are only 2 functions required to draw text: initfont() and print(). The initialization of the font cannot easily be done in the constructor, because the contest is probably not initialized during construction. Therefore the initfont().


#include <QOpenGLFunctions&gt;
#include <QString&gt;
#include <QFont&gt;
#include <QFontMetricsF&gt;

class Text3D
void initfont(QFont & f, int thickness); // set up a font and specify the "thickness&quot;
void print(QString text); // print it in 3D!

void buildglyph(GLuint b, int c); // create one displaylist for character "c&quot;
QFont * font;
QFontMetricsF *fm;
float glyphthickness;
GLuint base; // the "base&quot; of our displaylists

The implementation file: text3d.cpp

#include <QFont&gt;
#include <QList&gt;
#include <QPainter&gt;
#include <QOpenGLFunctions&gt;
#include <QChar&gt;
#include <gl/GLU.h&gt;
#include "text3d.h&quot;

typedef void (__stdcall *TessFuncPtr)(); // defintion of the callback function type

Text3D::Text3D() // nothing special in the constructor
 : glyphthickness(1.0f)
, base(0)

The initialization just loops through the first 256 char's and calls buildglyph() for each of them.

Text3D::initfont(QFont & f, float thickness)
font = &f;
fm = new QFontMetricsF(f);
glyphthickness = thickness;
if(base) // if we have display lists already, delete them first
glDeleteLists(base, 256);

base = glGenLists(256); // generate 256 display lists
if(base == 0)
qDebug() << "cannot create display lists.";

for(int i=0; i&lt;256;+i) // loop to build the first 256 glyphs
buildglyph(base+i, (char)i);

The print() function uses glCallLists() to "interpret&quot; a complete string. See below how the char-by-char advance works.

Text3D::print(QString text)
glPushAttrib(GL_LIST_BIT); // Pushes The Display List Bits
glListBase(base); // Sets The Base Character to 0
glCallLists(text.length(), GL_UNSIGNED_BYTE, text.toLocal8Bit()); // Draws The Display List Text
glPopAttrib(); // Pops The Display List Bits

At the beginning we need to set up both, the tesselation and the display list.

Text3D::buildglyph(GLuint listbase, int c) // this is the main "workhorse&quot; function. Create a displaylist with
// ID "listbase&quot; from character "c&quot;

GLUtriangulatorObj *tobj;
QPainterPath path;
path.addText(QPointF(0,0),*font, QString((char)c));
QList&lt;QPolygonF&gt; poly = path.toSubpathPolygons(); // get the glyph outline as a list of paths
// set up the tesselation
tobj = gluNewTess();
gluTessCallback(tobj, GLU_TESS_BEGIN, (TessFuncPtr)glBegin);
gluTessCallback(tobj, GLU_TESS_VERTEX, (TessFuncPtr)glVertex3dv);
gluTessCallback(tobj, GLU_TESS_END, (TessFuncPtr)glEnd);
glNewList(listbase, GL_COMPILE); // start a new list
gluTessBeginPolygon(tobj, 0 ); // start tesselate
// first, calculate number of vertices.
int elements = 0; // number of total vertices in one glyph, counting all paths.
for (QList&lt;QPolygonF&gt;::iterator it = poly.begin(); it != poly.end(); it)
elements= (it).size();

Now it's ready to tesselate the "front plate&quot; polygon.

vertices = (GLdouble ) malloc(elements 3 * sizeof(GLdouble));
int j = 0;
for (QList&lt;QPolygonF&gt;::iterator it = poly.begin(); it != poly.end(); it+
) // enumerate paths
int i = 0;
for (QPolygonF::iterator p = (*it).begin(); p != it->end(); p) // enumerate vertices
int off = j+i;
vertices[off+0] = p->rx();
vertices[off+1] = p>ry();
vertices[off+2] = 0; // setting Z offset to zero.
gluTessVertex(tobj, &vertices[off], &vertices[off] );
i=3; // array math
= (*it).size()*3; // some more array math

Do the whole tesselation a second time with an offset applied for the "back plate&quot;. The "offset&quot; (thickness) is set in

gluTessBeginPolygon(tobj, 0 );
j = 0;
for (QList&lt;QPolygonF&gt;::iterator it = poly.begin(); it != poly.end(); it)
int i = 0;
for (QPolygonF::iterator p = (*it).begin(); p != it->end(); p)
int off = j+i;
vertices[off+0] = p->rx();
vertices[off+1] = p>ry();
vertices[off+2] = -glyphthickness; // Z offset set to "minus glyphtickness&quot;
gluTessVertex(tobj, &vertices[off], &vertices[off] );
= (*it).size()*3;
free(vertices); // no need for the vertices anymore

The "wrapping&quot; between the two "plates&quot; is simple compared to the tesselation.

for (QList&lt;QPolygonF&gt;::iterator it = poly.begin(); it != poly.end(); it)
QPolygonF::iterator p;
for (p = (*it).begin(); p != it->end(); p)
glVertex3f(p->rx(), p>ry(), 0.0f);
glVertex3f(p->rx(), p>ry(), glyphthickness);
p = (*it).begin();
>rx(), p>ry(), 0.0f); // draw the closing quad
glVertex3f(p->rx(), p>ry(), glyphthickness); // of the "wrapping&quot;

This is where the char-by-char advance is done. Get the width from the font metrics and apply a glTranslate() with that value. This goes into the displaylist as well. (This may have side-effects as the matrix is not in the same "state&quot; as before the call[[Image:|Image:]]!)

GLfloat gwidth = (float)fm
glTranslatef(gwidth ,0.0f,0.0f);

The whole thing can actually be used in a init() and render() functions within a OpenGL object like this:

text = "Qt is great!";
QFont dfont("Comic Sans MS&quot;, 20);
QFontMetrics fm(dfont);
textwidth = fm.width(text);
qDebug() << "width of text: " << textwidth;
glMatrixMode(GL_MODELVIEW); // To operate on model-view matrix
glLoadIdentity(); // Reset the model-view matrix
glTranslatef(0, 0.0f, –500.0f); // Move right and into the screen
glRotatef(rot, 1.0f, 0.0f, 0.0f); // Rotate On The X Axis
glRotatef(rot*1.5f, 0.0f, 1.0f, 0.0f); // Rotate On The Y Axis
glRotatef(rot*1.4f, 0.0f, 0.0f, 1.0f); // Rotate On The Z Axis
glColor3f( 1.0f*float(cos(rot/20.0f)), // Animate the color

glTranslatef(-textwidth/2.0f, 0.0f, 0.0f); // textwidth holds the pixel width of the text
// Print GL Text To The Screen
rot=0.3f; // increase rot value
if(rot > 2000.f) rot = 0.0f; // wrap around at 2000