Like options, and functions, commands in ShapeScript are denoted by a keyword followed by zero or more values or expressions. Different commands accept different value types, but typically these will be a number, vector, text or block.

detail 5 // a numeric argument

translate 1 0 -1 // a vector argument

texture "world.png" // a text argument

The values passed to a command can be anything from simple literal values, to symbol references, to whole expressions. For example:

rotate 1 + angle 0 0

In the case above, the roll parameter of the rotate command has been given a value of 1 + angle, and the yaw and pitch parameters are zero. Expressions can be a bit confusing to read inside a tuple of parameters due to the differing significance of spaces between values, so for clarity you may wish to add parentheses:

rotate (1 + angle) 0 0

Commands do not necessarily accept or return a value. The main distinction between commands and functions/constants is that commands have side effects. Typically they either alter the appearance of the shape, or alter the effects of subsequent commands. Here are some examples:

ShapeScript has a number of built-in commands:


The background command can be used to set the background color of the rendered scene. For example:

background 1 0 0 // set background color to red

Instead of a color, you can pass a file path to an image:

background "filename.png" // set background image

This affects how the scene appears in the ShapeScript viewer, as well as the background of exported images. By default, the background is transparent.

Note: the background command can only be used at the root level of a ShapeScript file, or inside a camera node:


The detail command can be used anywhere in the ShapeScript file to override the local detail level used for approximating curved geometry. It is documented in the options section.


The smoothing command can be used anywhere in the ShapeScript file to override the local smoothing level used for calculating surface normals. It is documented in the options section.


The material command (along with individual material property commands such as color and texture) are used to specify the appearance of shapes when rendered. These commands are documented in the materials section.


The font, command is used to specify the font used to render text.


The rotate, translate and scale commands are useful for procedurally generating paths and complex shapes. These are documented in the transforms section.


The cube, sphere, cone and cylinder commands are used to generate simple 3D shapes that can be composed into more complex forms. They are documented in the primitives section.


The path, circle and square commands are used to create paths that can be used as the inputs for builder commands that can generate complex 3D shapes. They are documented in the paths section.


The text command is used to generate individual words, lines or paragraphs of text, which can then be filled or extruded to create a 3D mesh. The text command is documented in the text section.


The fill, lathe, extrude and loft commands turn paths into 3D meshes. They are documented in the builders section.

Constructive Solid Geometry

The difference, union, intersection and stencil commands use boolean operations to merge or subtract shapes from each other to form surfaces that would be hard to model directly. They are documented in the CSG section.

Random Numbers

The rnd and seed commands can be used to generate pseudorandom values that are great for procedurally generating natural-looking shapes. The train example uses this approach to create a jumbled layer of coal behind the driver’s cab.

The rnd command takes no parameters but returns a random number in the range 0 to 1. It can be used as one of the inputs to a rotate or translate command, or multiplied by other values as part of an expression to produce random numbers in different ranges:

// randomly position a cube between -5 and +5 on the y axis
cube { position 0 (rnd * 10) - 5 0 }

Each time rnd is called it will return a different value. Numbers are returned in a deterministic but non-repeating sequence. Because the sequence is deterministic, it will always produce the same values each time your scene is rendered.

To alter the random sequence you can use the seed command. The seed command takes a numeric value as its argument, and this is used to generate all subsequent rnd values. The seed value can be any number (positive or negative, integer or fraction), but note that values outside the range 0 to 232 will be wrapped to that range.

If you are not happy with how some randomly generated geometry looks, try setting the seed to an arbitrary value, and keep tweaking it until you like the result:

seed 57

You can reset the seed at any point within your ShapeScript file, and it will alter the sequence for subsequent rnd calls. Like most other commands, seed is scoped, so setting the seed inside a group or block will only apply to rnd calls within that block, and rnd commands after the closing } will use the previously-specified seed value.

The default starting value for seed is zero, so seed 0 will cause the rnd sequence to repeat from the beginning. Remember that the sequence produced from a given seed is always the same, so re-using the same seed value multiple times in your script will result in repetition of the same random sequence.


The debug, print and assert commands can be used to understand what’s happening in your script and help diagnose problems. These are documented in the debugging section.


The import command is used to import an external ShapeScript or 3D geometry file. For more details on how this is used, see the import section.

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