3. Fundamentals

This chapter introduces fundamental concepts including the Vulkan architecture and execution model, API syntax, queues, pipeline configurations, numeric representation, state and state queries, and the different types of objects and shaders. It provides a framework for interpreting more specific descriptions of commands and behavior in the remainder of the Specification.

3.1. Host and Device Environment

The Vulkan Specification assumes and requires: the following properties of the host environment with respect to Vulkan implementations:

  • The host must have runtime support for 8, 16, 32 and 64-bit signed and unsigned twos-complement integers, all addressable at the granularity of their size in bytes.

  • The host must have runtime support for 32- and 64-bit floating-point types satisfying the range and precision constraints in the Floating Point Computation section.

  • The representation and endianness of these types on the host must match the representation and endianness of the same types on every physical device supported.


Since a variety of data types and structures in Vulkan may be accessible by both host and physical device operations, the implementation should be able to access such data efficiently in both paths in order to facilitate writing portable and performant applications.

3.2. Execution Model

This section outlines the execution model of a Vulkan system.

Vulkan exposes one or more devices, each of which exposes one or more queues which may process work asynchronously to one another. The set of queues supported by a device is partitioned into families. Each family supports one or more types of functionality and may contain multiple queues with similar characteristics. Queues within a single family are considered compatible with one another, and work produced for a family of queues can be executed on any queue within that family. This specification defines the following types of functionality that queues may support: graphics, compute, transfer and sparse memory management.


A single device may report multiple similar queue families rather than, or as well as, reporting multiple members of one or more of those families. This indicates that while members of those families have similar capabilities, they are not directly compatible with one another.

Device memory is explicitly managed by the application. Each device may advertise one or more heaps, representing different areas of memory. Memory heaps are either device-local or host-local, but are always visible to the device. Further detail about memory heaps is exposed via memory types available on that heap. Examples of memory areas that may be available on an implementation include:

  • device-local is memory that is physically connected to the device.

  • device-local, host visible is device-local memory that is visible to the host.

  • host-local, host visible is memory that is local to the host and visible to the device and host.

On other architectures, there may only be a single heap that can be used for any purpose.

3.2.1. Queue Operation

Vulkan queues provide an interface to the execution engines of a device. Commands for these execution engines are recorded into command buffers ahead of execution time, and then submitted to a queue for execution. Once submitted to a queue, command buffers will begin and complete execution without further application intervention, though the order of this execution is dependent on a number of implicit and explicit ordering constraints.

Work is submitted to queues using queue submission commands that typically take the form vkQueue* (e.g. vkQueueSubmit, vkQueueBindSparse), and can take a list of semaphores upon which to wait before work begins and a list of semaphores to signal once work has completed. The work itself, as well as signaling and waiting on the semaphores are all queue operations. Queue submission commands return control to the application once queue operations have been submitted - they do not wait for completion.

There are no implicit ordering constraints between queue operations on different queues, or between queues and the host, so these may operate in any order with respect to each other. Explicit ordering constraints between different queues or with the host can be expressed with semaphores and fences.

Command buffer submissions to a single queue respect submission order and other implicit ordering guarantees, but otherwise may overlap or execute out of order. Other types of batches and queue submissions against a single queue (e.g. sparse memory binding) have no implicit ordering constraints with any other queue submission or batch. Additional explicit ordering constraints between queue submissions and individual batches can be expressed with semaphores and fences.

Before a fence or semaphore is signaled, it is guaranteed that any previously submitted queue operations have completed execution, and that memory writes from those queue operations are available to future queue operations. Waiting on a signaled semaphore or fence guarantees that previous writes that are available are also visible to subsequent commands.

Command buffer boundaries, both between primary command buffers of the same or different batches or submissions as well as between primary and secondary command buffers, do not introduce any additional ordering constraints. In other words, submitting the set of command buffers (which can include executing secondary command buffers) between any semaphore or fence operations execute the recorded commands as if they had all been recorded into a single primary command buffer, except that the current state is reset on each boundary. Explicit ordering constraints can be expressed with explicit synchronization primitives.

There are a few implicit ordering guarantees between commands within a command buffer, but only covering a subset of execution. Additional explicit ordering constraints can be expressed with the various explicit synchronization primitives.


Implementations have significant freedom to overlap execution of work submitted to a queue, and this is common due to deep pipelining and parallelism in Vulkan devices.

Commands recorded in command buffers either perform actions (draw, dispatch, clear, copy, query/timestamp operations, begin/end subpass operations), set state (bind pipelines, descriptor sets, and buffers, set dynamic state, push constants, set render pass/subpass state), or perform synchronization (set/wait events, pipeline barrier, render pass/subpass dependencies). Some commands perform more than one of these tasks. State setting commands update the current state of the command buffer. Some commands that perform actions (e.g. draw/dispatch) do so based on the current state set cumulatively since the start of the command buffer. The work involved in performing action commands is often allowed to overlap or to be reordered, but doing so must not alter the state to be used by each action command. In general, action commands are those commands that alter framebuffer attachments, read/write buffer or image memory, or write to query pools.

Synchronization commands introduce explicit execution and memory dependencies between two sets of action commands, where the second set of commands depends on the first set of commands. These dependencies enforce both that the execution of certain pipeline stages in the later set occurs after the execution of certain stages in the source set, and that the effects of memory accesses performed by certain pipeline stages occur in order and are visible to each other. When not enforced by an explicit dependency or implicit ordering guarantees, action commands may overlap execution or execute out of order, and may not see the side effects of each other’s memory accesses.

3.3. Object Model

The devices, queues, and other entities in Vulkan are represented by Vulkan objects. At the API level, all objects are referred to by handles. There are two classes of handles, dispatchable and non-dispatchable. Dispatchable handle types are a pointer to an opaque type. This pointer may be used by layers as part of intercepting API commands, and thus each API command takes a dispatchable type as its first parameter. Each object of a dispatchable type must have a unique handle value during its lifetime.

Non-dispatchable handle types are a 64-bit integer type whose meaning is implementation-dependent. Non-dispatchable handles may encode object information directly in the handle rather than acting as a reference to an underlying object, and thus may not have unique handle values. If handle values are not unique, then destroying one such handle must not cause identical handles of other types to become invalid, and must not cause identical handles of the same type to become invalid if that handle value has been created more times than it has been destroyed.

All objects created or allocated from a VkDevice (i.e. with a VkDevice as the first parameter) are private to that device, and must not be used on other devices.

3.3.1. Object Lifetime

Objects are created or allocated by vkCreate* and vkAllocate* commands, respectively. Once an object is created or allocated, its “structure” is considered to be immutable, though the contents of certain object types is still free to change. Objects are destroyed or freed by vkDestroy* and vkFree* commands, respectively.

Objects that are allocated (rather than created) take resources from an existing pool object or memory heap, and when freed return resources to that pool or heap. While object creation and destruction are generally expected to be low-frequency occurrences during runtime, allocating and freeing objects can occur at high frequency. Pool objects help accommodate improved performance of the allocations and frees.

It is an application’s responsibility to track the lifetime of Vulkan objects, and not to destroy them while they are still in use.

The ownership of application-owned memory is immediately acquired by any Vulkan command it is passed into. Ownership of such memory must be released back to the application at the end of the duration of the command, so that the application can alter or free this memory as soon as all the commands that acquired it have returned.

The following object types are consumed when they are passed into a Vulkan command and not further accessed by the objects they are used to create. They must not be destroyed in the duration of any API command they are passed into:

  • VkShaderModule

  • VkPipelineCache

A VkRenderPass object passed as a parameter to create another object is not further accessed by that object after the duration of the command it is passed into. A VkRenderPass used in a command buffer follows the rules described below.

A VkPipelineLayout object must not be destroyed while any command buffer that uses it is in the recording state.

VkDescriptorSetLayout objects may be accessed by commands that operate on descriptor sets allocated using that layout, and those descriptor sets must not be updated with vkUpdateDescriptorSets after the descriptor set layout has been destroyed. Otherwise, a VkDescriptorSetLayout object passed as a parameter to create another object is not further accessed by that object after the duration of the command it is passed into.

The application must not destroy any other type of Vulkan object until all uses of that object by the device (such as via command buffer execution) have completed.

The following Vulkan objects must not be destroyed while any command buffers using the object are in the pending state:

  • VkEvent

  • VkQueryPool

  • VkBuffer

  • VkBufferView

  • VkImage

  • VkImageView

  • VkPipeline

  • VkSampler

  • VkSamplerYcbcrConversion

  • VkDescriptorPool

  • VkFramebuffer

  • VkRenderPass

  • VkCommandBuffer

  • VkCommandPool

  • VkDeviceMemory

  • VkDescriptorSet

Destroying these objects will move any command buffers that are in the recording or executable state, and are using those objects, to the invalid state.

The following Vulkan objects must not be destroyed while any queue is executing commands that use the object:

  • VkFence

  • VkSemaphore

  • VkCommandBuffer

  • VkCommandPool

In general, objects can be destroyed or freed in any order, even if the object being freed is involved in the use of another object (e.g. use of a resource in a view, use of a view in a descriptor set, use of an object in a command buffer, binding of a memory allocation to a resource), as long as any object that uses the freed object is not further used in any way except to be destroyed or to be reset in such a way that it no longer uses the other object (such as resetting a command buffer). If the object has been reset, then it can be used as if it never used the freed object. An exception to this is when there is a parent/child relationship between objects. In this case, the application must not destroy a parent object before its children, except when the parent is explicitly defined to free its children when it is destroyed (e.g. for pool objects, as defined below).

VkCommandPool objects are parents of VkCommandBuffer objects. VkDescriptorPool objects are parents of VkDescriptorSet objects. VkDevice objects are parents of many object types (all that take a VkDevice as a parameter to their creation).

The following Vulkan objects have specific restrictions for when they can be destroyed:

  • VkQueue objects cannot be explicitly destroyed. Instead, they are implicitly destroyed when the VkDevice object they are retrieved from is destroyed.

  • Destroying a pool object implicitly frees all objects allocated from that pool. Specifically, destroying VkCommandPool frees all VkCommandBuffer objects that were allocated from it, and destroying VkDescriptorPool frees all VkDescriptorSet objects that were allocated from it.

  • VkDevice objects can be destroyed when all VkQueue objects retrieved from them are idle, and all objects created from them have been destroyed. This includes the following objects:

    • VkFence

    • VkSemaphore

    • VkEvent

    • VkQueryPool

    • VkBuffer

    • VkBufferView

    • VkImage

    • VkImageView

    • VkShaderModule

    • VkPipelineCache

    • VkPipeline

    • VkPipelineLayout

    • VkSampler

    • VkSamplerYcbcrConversion

    • VkDescriptorSetLayout

    • VkDescriptorPool

    • VkFramebuffer

    • VkRenderPass

    • VkCommandPool

    • VkCommandBuffer

    • VkDeviceMemory

  • VkPhysicalDevice objects cannot be explicitly destroyed. Instead, they are implicitly destroyed when the VkInstance object they are retrieved from is destroyed.

  • VkInstance objects can be destroyed once all VkDevice objects created from any of its VkPhysicalDevice objects have been destroyed.

3.3.2. External Object Handles

As defined above, the scope of object handles created or allocated from a VkDevice is limited to that logical device. Objects which are not in scope are said to be external. To bring an external object into scope, an external handle must be exported from the object in the source scope and imported into the destination scope.


The scope of external handles and their associated resources may vary according to their type, but they can generally be shared across process and API boundaries.

3.4. Application Binary Interface

The mechanism by which Vulkan is made available to applications is platform- or implementation- defined. On many platforms the C interface described in this Specification is provided by a shared library. Since shared libraries can be changed independently of the applications that use them, they present particular compatibility challenges, and this Specification places some requirements on them.

Shared library implementations must use the default Application Binary Interface (ABI) of the standard C compiler for the platform, or provide customized API headers that cause application code to use the implementation’s non-default ABI. An ABI in this context means the size, alignment, and layout of C data types; the procedure calling convention; and the naming convention for shared library symbols corresponding to C functions. Customizing the calling convention for a platform is usually accomplished by defining calling convention macros appropriately in vk_platform.h.

On platforms where Vulkan is provided as a shared library, library symbols beginning with “vk” and followed by a digit or uppercase letter are reserved for use by the implementation. Applications which use Vulkan must not provide definitions of these symbols. This allows the Vulkan shared library to be updated with additional symbols for new API versions or extensions without causing symbol conflicts with existing applications.

Shared library implementations should provide library symbols for commands in the highest version of this Specification they support, and for Window System Integration extensions relevant to the platform. They may also provide library symbols for commands defined by additional extensions.


These requirements and recommendations are intended to allow implementors to take advantage of platform-specific conventions for SDKs, ABIs, library versioning mechanisms, etc. while still minimizing the code changes necessary to port applications or libraries between platforms. Platform vendors, or providers of the de facto standard Vulkan shared library for a platform, are encouraged to document what symbols the shared library provides and how it will be versioned when new symbols are added.

Applications should only rely on shared library symbols for commands in the minimum core version required by the application. vkGetInstanceProcAddr and vkGetDeviceProcAddr should be used to obtain function pointers for commands in core versions beyond the application’s minimum required version.

3.5. Command Syntax and Duration

The Specification describes Vulkan commands as functions or procedures using C99 syntax. Language bindings for other languages such as C++ and JavaScript may allow for stricter parameter passing, or object-oriented interfaces.

Vulkan uses the standard C types for the base type of scalar parameters (e.g. types from <stdint.h>), with exceptions described below, or elsewhere in the text when appropriate:

VkBool32 represents boolean True and False values, since C does not have a sufficiently portable built-in boolean type:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef uint32_t VkBool32;

VK_TRUE represents a boolean True (unsigned integer 1) value, and VK_FALSE a boolean False (unsigned integer 0) value.

All values returned from a Vulkan implementation in a VkBool32 will be either VK_TRUE or VK_FALSE.

Applications must not pass any other values than VK_TRUE or VK_FALSE into a Vulkan implementation where a VkBool32 is expected.

VK_TRUE is a constant representing a VkBool32 True value.

#define VK_TRUE                           1U

VK_FALSE is a constant representing a VkBool32 False value.

#define VK_FALSE                          0U

VkDeviceSize represents device memory size and offset values:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef uint64_t VkDeviceSize;

VkDeviceAddress represents device buffer address values:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef uint64_t VkDeviceAddress;

Commands that create Vulkan objects are of the form vkCreate* and take Vk*CreateInfo structures with the parameters needed to create the object. These Vulkan objects are destroyed with commands of the form vkDestroy*.

The last in-parameter to each command that creates or destroys a Vulkan object is pAllocator. The pAllocator parameter can be set to a non-NULL value such that allocations for the given object are delegated to an application provided callback; refer to the Memory Allocation chapter for further details.

Commands that allocate Vulkan objects owned by pool objects are of the form vkAllocate*, and take Vk*AllocateInfo structures. These Vulkan objects are freed with commands of the form vkFree*. These objects do not take allocators; if host memory is needed, they will use the allocator that was specified when their parent pool was created.

Commands are recorded into a command buffer by calling API commands of the form vkCmd*. Each such command may have different restrictions on where it can be used: in a primary and/or secondary command buffer, inside and/or outside a render pass, and in one or more of the supported queue types. These restrictions are documented together with the definition of each such command.

The duration of a Vulkan command refers to the interval between calling the command and its return to the caller.

3.5.1. Lifetime of Retrieved Results

Information is retrieved from the implementation with commands of the form vkGet* and vkEnumerate*.

Unless otherwise specified for an individual command, the results are invariant; that is, they will remain unchanged when retrieved again by calling the same command with the same parameters, so long as those parameters themselves all remain valid.

3.6. Threading Behavior

Vulkan is intended to provide scalable performance when used on multiple host threads. All commands support being called concurrently from multiple threads, but certain parameters, or components of parameters are defined to be externally synchronized. This means that the caller must guarantee that no more than one thread is using such a parameter at a given time.

More precisely, Vulkan commands use simple stores to update the state of Vulkan objects. A parameter declared as externally synchronized may have its contents updated at any time during the host execution of the command. If two commands operate on the same object and at least one of the commands declares the object to be externally synchronized, then the caller must guarantee not only that the commands do not execute simultaneously, but also that the two commands are separated by an appropriate memory barrier (if needed).


Memory barriers are particularly relevant for hosts based on the ARM CPU architecture, which is more weakly ordered than many developers are accustomed to from x86/x64 programming. Fortunately, most higher-level synchronization primitives (like the pthread library) perform memory barriers as a part of mutual exclusion, so mutexing Vulkan objects via these primitives will have the desired effect.

Similarly the application must avoid any potential data hazard of application-owned memory that has its ownership temporarily acquired by a Vulkan command. While the ownership of application-owned memory remains acquired by a command the implementation may read the memory at any point, and it may write non-const qualified memory at any point. Parameters referring to non-const qualified application-owned memory are not marked explicitly as externally synchronized in the Specification.

Many object types are immutable, meaning the objects cannot change once they have been created. These types of objects never need external synchronization, except that they must not be destroyed while they are in use on another thread. In certain special cases mutable object parameters are internally synchronized, making external synchronization unnecessary. Any command parameters that are not labeled as externally synchronized are either not mutated by the command or are internally synchronized. Additionally, certain objects related to a command’s parameters (e.g. command pools and descriptor pools) may be affected by a command, and must also be externally synchronized. These implicit parameters are documented as described below.

Parameters of commands that are externally synchronized are listed below.

Externally Synchronized Parameters

There are also a few instances where a command can take in a user allocated list whose contents are externally synchronized parameters. In these cases, the caller must guarantee that at most one thread is using a given element within the list at a given time. These parameters are listed below.

Externally Synchronized Parameter Lists
  • The buffer member of each element of the pBufferBinds member of each element of the pBindInfo parameter in vkQueueBindSparse

  • The image member of each element of the pImageOpaqueBinds member of each element of the pBindInfo parameter in vkQueueBindSparse

  • The image member of each element of the pImageBinds member of each element of the pBindInfo parameter in vkQueueBindSparse

  • Each element of the pFences parameter in vkResetFences

  • Each element of the pDescriptorSets parameter in vkFreeDescriptorSets

  • The dstSet member of each element of the pDescriptorWrites parameter in vkUpdateDescriptorSets

  • The dstSet member of each element of the pDescriptorCopies parameter in vkUpdateDescriptorSets

  • Each element of the pCommandBuffers parameter in vkFreeCommandBuffers

In addition, there are some implicit parameters that need to be externally synchronized. For example, all commandBuffer parameters that need to be externally synchronized imply that the commandPool that was passed in when creating that command buffer also needs to be externally synchronized. The implicit parameters and their associated object are listed below.

Implicit Externally Synchronized Parameters

3.7. Valid Usage

Valid usage defines a set of conditions which must be met in order to achieve well-defined runtime behavior in an application. These conditions depend only on Vulkan state, and the parameters or objects whose usage is constrained by the condition.

The core layer assumes applications are using the API correctly. Except as documented elsewhere in the Specification, the behavior of the core layer to an application using the API incorrectly is undefined, and may include program termination. However, implementations must ensure that incorrect usage by an application does not affect the integrity of the operating system, the Vulkan implementation, or other Vulkan client applications in the system. In particular, any guarantees made by an operating system about whether memory from one process can be visible to another process or not must not be violated by a Vulkan implementation for any memory allocation. Vulkan implementations are not required to make additional security or integrity guarantees beyond those provided by the OS unless explicitly directed by the application’s use of a particular feature or extension.


For instance, if an operating system guarantees that data in all its memory allocations are set to zero when newly allocated, the Vulkan implementation must make the same guarantees for any allocations it controls (e.g. VkDeviceMemory).

Similarly, if an operating system guarantees that use-after-free of host allocations will not result in values written by another process becoming visible, the same guarantees must be made by the Vulkan implementation for device memory.

If the protected memory feature is supported, the implementation provides additional guarantees when invalid usage occurs to prevent values in protected memory from being accessed or inferred outside of protected operations, as described in Protected Memory Access Rules.

Some valid usage conditions have dependencies on runtime limits or feature availability. It is possible to validate these conditions against Vulkan’s minimum supported values for these limits and features, or some subset of other known values.

Valid usage conditions do not cover conditions where well-defined behavior (including returning an error code) exists.

Valid usage conditions should apply to the command or structure where complete information about the condition would be known during execution of an application. This is such that a validation layer or linter can be written directly against these statements at the point they are specified.


This does lead to some non-obvious places for valid usage statements. For instance, the valid values for a structure might depend on a separate value in the calling command. In this case, the structure itself will not reference this valid usage as it is impossible to determine validity from the structure that it is invalid - instead this valid usage would be attached to the calling command.

Another example is draw state - the state setters are independent, and can cause a legitimately invalid state configuration between draw calls; so the valid usage statements are attached to the place where all state needs to be valid - at the drawing command.

Valid usage conditions are described in a block labelled “Valid Usage” following each command or structure they apply to.

3.7.1. Usage Validation

Vulkan is a layered API. The lowest layer is the core Vulkan layer, as defined by this Specification. The application can use additional layers above the core for debugging, validation, and other purposes.

One of the core principles of Vulkan is that building and submitting command buffers should be highly efficient. Thus error checking and validation of state in the core layer is minimal, although more rigorous validation can be enabled through the use of layers.

Validation of correct API usage is left to validation layers. Applications should be developed with validation layers enabled, to help catch and eliminate errors. Once validated, released applications should not enable validation layers by default.

3.7.2. Implicit Valid Usage

Some valid usage conditions apply to all commands and structures in the API, unless explicitly denoted otherwise for a specific command or structure. These conditions are considered implicit, and are described in a block labelled “Valid Usage (Implicit)” following each command or structure they apply to. Implicit valid usage conditions are described in detail below.

Valid Usage for Object Handles

Any input parameter to a command that is an object handle must be a valid object handle, unless otherwise specified. An object handle is valid if:

  • It has been created or allocated by a previous, successful call to the API. Such calls are noted in the Specification.

  • It has not been deleted or freed by a previous call to the API. Such calls are noted in the Specification.

  • Any objects used by that object, either as part of creation or execution, must also be valid.

The reserved values VK_NULL_HANDLE and NULL can be used in place of valid non-dispatchable handles and dispatchable handles, respectively, when explicitly called out in the Specification. Any command that creates an object successfully must not return these values. It is valid to pass these values to vkDestroy* or vkFree* commands, which will silently ignore these values.

Valid Usage for Pointers

Any parameter that is a pointer must be a valid pointer only if it is explicitly called out by a Valid Usage statement.

A pointer is “valid” if it points at memory containing values of the number and type(s) expected by the command, and all fundamental types accessed through the pointer (e.g. as elements of an array or as members of a structure) satisfy the alignment requirements of the host processor.

Valid Usage for Strings

Any parameter that is a pointer to char must be a finite sequence of values terminated by a null character, or if explicitly called out in the Specification, can be NULL.

Valid Usage for Enumerated Types

Any parameter of an enumerated type must be a valid enumerant for that type. A enumerant is valid if:

  • The enumerant is defined as part of the enumerated type.

  • The enumerant is not the special value (suffixed with _MAX_ENUM1) defined for the enumerated type.


    This special value exists only to ensure that C enum types are 32 bits in size. It is not part of the API, and should not be used by applications.

Any enumerated type returned from a query command or otherwise output from Vulkan to the application must not have a reserved value. Reserved values are values not defined by any extension for that enumerated type.


This language is intended to accommodate cases such as “hidden” extensions known only to driver internals, or layers enabling extensions without knowledge of the application, without allowing return of values not defined by any extension.


Application developers are encouraged to be careful when using switch statements with Vulkan API enums. This is because new extensions can add new values to existing enums. Using a default: statement within a switch may avoid future compilation issues.

Valid Usage for Flags

A collection of flags is represented by a bitmask using the type VkFlags:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef uint32_t VkFlags;

Bitmasks are passed to many commands and structures to compactly represent options, but VkFlags is not used directly in the API. Instead, a Vk*Flags type which is an alias of VkFlags, and whose name matches the corresponding Vk*FlagBits that are valid for that type, is used.

Any Vk*Flags member or parameter used in the API as an input must be a valid combination of bit flags. A valid combination is either zero or the bitwise OR of valid bit flags. A bit flag is valid if:

  • The bit flag is defined as part of the Vk*FlagBits type, where the bits type is obtained by taking the flag type and replacing the trailing Flags with FlagBits. For example, a flag value of type VkColorComponentFlags must contain only bit flags defined by VkColorComponentFlagBits.

  • The flag is allowed in the context in which it is being used. For example, in some cases, certain bit flags or combinations of bit flags are mutually exclusive.

Any Vk*Flags member or parameter returned from a query command or otherwise output from Vulkan to the application may contain bit flags undefined in its corresponding Vk*FlagBits type. An application cannot rely on the state of these unspecified bits.

Only the low-order 31 bits (bit positions zero through 30) are available for use as flag bits.


This restriction is due to poorly defined behavior by C compilers given a C enumerant value of 0x80000000. In some cases adding this enumerant value may increase the size of the underlying Vk*FlagBits type, breaking the ABI.

Valid Usage for Structure Types

Any parameter that is a structure containing a sType member must have a value of sType which is a valid VkStructureType value matching the type of the structure.

Valid Usage for Structure Pointer Chains

Any parameter that is a structure containing a void* pNext member must have a value of pNext that is either NULL, or is a pointer to a valid extending structure, containing sType and pNext members as described in the Vulkan Documentation and Extensions document in the section “Extension Interactions”. The set of structures connected by pNext pointers is referred to as a pNext chain.

Each structure included in the pNext chain must be defined at runtime by either:

  • a core version which is supported

  • an extension which is enabled

  • a supported device extension in the case of physical-device-level functionality added by the device extension

Each type of extending structure must not appear more than once in a pNext chain, including any aliases. This general rule may be explicitly overridden for specific structures.

Any component of the implementation (the loader, any enabled layers, and drivers) must skip over, without processing (other than reading the sType and pNext members) any extending structures in the chain not defined by core versions or extensions supported by that component.

As a convenience to implementations and layers needing to iterate through a structure pointer chain, the Vulkan API provides two base structures. These structures allow for some type safety, and can be used by Vulkan API functions that operate on generic inputs and outputs.

The VkBaseInStructure structure is defined as:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef struct VkBaseInStructure {
    VkStructureType                    sType;
    const struct VkBaseInStructure*    pNext;
} VkBaseInStructure;
  • sType is the structure type of the structure being iterated through.

  • pNext is NULL or a pointer to the next structure in a structure chain.

VkBaseInStructure can be used to facilitate iterating through a read-only structure pointer chain.

The VkBaseOutStructure structure is defined as:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef struct VkBaseOutStructure {
    VkStructureType               sType;
    struct VkBaseOutStructure*    pNext;
} VkBaseOutStructure;
  • sType is the structure type of the structure being iterated through.

  • pNext is NULL or a pointer to the next structure in a structure chain.

VkBaseOutStructure can be used to facilitate iterating through a structure pointer chain that returns data back to the application.

Valid Usage for Nested Structures

The above conditions also apply recursively to members of structures provided as input to a command, either as a direct argument to the command, or themselves a member of another structure.

Specifics on valid usage of each command are covered in their individual sections.

Valid Usage for Extensions

Instance-level functionality or behavior added by an instance extension to the API must not be used unless that extension is supported by the instance as determined by vkEnumerateInstanceExtensionProperties, and that extension is enabled in VkInstanceCreateInfo.

Physical-device-level functionality or behavior added by an instance extension to the API must not be used unless that extension is supported by the instance as determined by vkEnumerateInstanceExtensionProperties, and that extension is enabled in VkInstanceCreateInfo.

Physical-device-level functionality or behavior added by a device extension to the API must not be used unless the conditions described in Extending Physical Device Core Functionality are met.

Device functionality or behavior added by a device extension to the API must not be used unless that extension is supported by the device as determined by vkEnumerateDeviceExtensionProperties, and that extension is enabled in VkDeviceCreateInfo.

Valid Usage for Newer Core Versions

Instance-level functionality or behavior added by a new core version of the API must not be used unless it is supported by the instance as determined by vkEnumerateInstanceVersion and the specified version of VkApplicationInfo::apiVersion.

Physical-device-level functionality or behavior added by a new core version of the API must not be used unless it is supported by the physical device as determined by VkPhysicalDeviceProperties::apiVersion and the specified version of VkApplicationInfo::apiVersion.

Device-level functionality or behavior added by a new core version of the API must not be used unless it is supported by the device as determined by VkPhysicalDeviceProperties::apiVersion and the specified version of VkApplicationInfo::apiVersion.

3.8. VkResult Return Codes

While the core Vulkan API is not designed to capture incorrect usage, some circumstances still require return codes. Commands in Vulkan return their status via return codes that are in one of two categories:

  • Successful completion codes are returned when a command needs to communicate success or status information. All successful completion codes are non-negative values.

  • Run time error codes are returned when a command needs to communicate a failure that could only be detected at runtime. All runtime error codes are negative values.

All return codes in Vulkan are reported via VkResult return values. The possible codes are:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef enum VkResult {
    VK_SUCCESS = 0,
    VK_NOT_READY = 1,
    VK_TIMEOUT = 2,
    VK_EVENT_SET = 3,
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
    VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_POOL_MEMORY = -1000069000,
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
} VkResult;
Success Codes
  • VK_SUCCESS Command successfully completed

  • VK_NOT_READY A fence or query has not yet completed

  • VK_TIMEOUT A wait operation has not completed in the specified time

  • VK_EVENT_SET An event is signaled

  • VK_EVENT_RESET An event is unsignaled

  • VK_INCOMPLETE A return array was too small for the result

Error codes
  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_HOST_MEMORY A host memory allocation has failed.

  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_DEVICE_MEMORY A device memory allocation has failed.

  • VK_ERROR_INITIALIZATION_FAILED Initialization of an object could not be completed for implementation-specific reasons.

  • VK_ERROR_DEVICE_LOST The logical or physical device has been lost. See Lost Device

  • VK_ERROR_MEMORY_MAP_FAILED Mapping of a memory object has failed.

  • VK_ERROR_LAYER_NOT_PRESENT A requested layer is not present or could not be loaded.

  • VK_ERROR_EXTENSION_NOT_PRESENT A requested extension is not supported.

  • VK_ERROR_FEATURE_NOT_PRESENT A requested feature is not supported.

  • VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER The requested version of Vulkan is not supported by the driver or is otherwise incompatible for implementation-specific reasons.

  • VK_ERROR_TOO_MANY_OBJECTS Too many objects of the type have already been created.

  • VK_ERROR_FORMAT_NOT_SUPPORTED A requested format is not supported on this device.

  • VK_ERROR_FRAGMENTED_POOL A pool allocation has failed due to fragmentation of the pool’s memory. This must only be returned if no attempt to allocate host or device memory was made to accommodate the new allocation. This should be returned in preference to VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_POOL_MEMORY, but only if the implementation is certain that the pool allocation failure was due to fragmentation.

  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_POOL_MEMORY A pool memory allocation has failed. This must only be returned if no attempt to allocate host or device memory was made to accommodate the new allocation. If the failure was definitely due to fragmentation of the pool, VK_ERROR_FRAGMENTED_POOL should be returned instead.

  • VK_ERROR_INVALID_EXTERNAL_HANDLE An external handle is not a valid handle of the specified type.

  • VK_ERROR_UNKNOWN An unknown error has occurred; either the application has provided invalid input, or an implementation failure has occurred.

If a command returns a runtime error, unless otherwise specified any output parameters will have undefined contents, except that if the output parameter is a structure with sType and pNext fields, those fields will be unmodified. Any structures chained from pNext will also have undefined contents, except that sType and pNext will be unmodified.

VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_*_MEMORY errors do not modify any currently existing Vulkan objects. Objects that have already been successfully created can still be used by the application.


As a general rule, Free, Release, and Reset commands do not return VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_HOST_MEMORY, while any other command with a return code may return it. Any exceptions from this rule are described for those commands.

VK_ERROR_UNKNOWN will be returned by an implementation when an unexpected error occurs that cannot be attributed to valid behavior of the application and implementation. Under these conditions, it may be returned from any command returning a VkResult.


VK_ERROR_UNKNOWN is not expected to ever be returned if the application behavior is valid, and if the implementation is bug-free. If VK_ERROR_UNKNOWN is received, the application should be checked against the latest validation layers to verify correct behavior as much as possible. If no issues are identified it could be an implementation issue, and the implementor should be contacted for support.

Performance-critical commands generally do not have return codes. If a runtime error occurs in such commands, the implementation will defer reporting the error until a specified point. For commands that record into command buffers (vkCmd*) runtime errors are reported by vkEndCommandBuffer.

3.9. Numeric Representation and Computation

Implementations normally perform computations in floating-point, and must meet the range and precision requirements defined under “Floating-Point Computation” below.

These requirements only apply to computations performed in Vulkan operations outside of shader execution, such as texture image specification and sampling, and per-fragment operations. Range and precision requirements during shader execution differ and are specified by the Precision and Operation of SPIR-V Instructions section.

In some cases, the representation and/or precision of operations is implicitly limited by the specified format of vertex or texel data consumed by Vulkan. Specific floating-point formats are described later in this section.

3.9.1. Floating-Point Computation

Most floating-point computation is performed in SPIR-V shader modules. The properties of computation within shaders are constrained as defined by the Precision and Operation of SPIR-V Instructions section.

Some floating-point computation is performed outside of shaders, such as viewport and depth range calculations. For these computations, we do not specify how floating-point numbers are to be represented, or the details of how operations on them are performed, but only place minimal requirements on representation and precision as described in the remainder of this section.

We require simply that numbers’ floating-point parts contain enough bits and that their exponent fields are large enough so that individual results of floating-point operations are accurate to about 1 part in 105. The maximum representable magnitude for all floating-point values must be at least 232.

x × 0 = 0 × x = 0 for any non-infinite and non-NaN x.

1 × x = x × 1 = x.

x + 0 = 0 + x = x.

00 = 1.

Occasionally, further requirements will be specified. Most single-precision floating-point formats meet these requirements.

The special values Inf and -Inf encode values with magnitudes too large to be represented; the special value NaN encodes “Not A Number” values resulting from undefined arithmetic operations such as 0 / 0. Implementations may support Inf and NaN in their floating-point computations.

3.9.2. Floating-Point Format Conversions

When a value is converted to a defined floating-point representation, finite values falling between two representable finite values are rounded to one or the other. The rounding mode is not defined. Finite values whose magnitude is larger than that of any representable finite value may be rounded either to the closest representable finite value or to the appropriately signed infinity. For unsigned destination formats any negative values are converted to zero. Positive infinity is converted to positive infinity; negative infinity is converted to negative infinity in signed formats and to zero in unsigned formats; and any NaN is converted to a NaN.

3.9.3. 16-Bit Floating-Point Numbers

16-bit floating point numbers are defined in the “16-bit floating point numbers” section of the Khronos Data Format Specification.

3.9.4. Unsigned 11-Bit Floating-Point Numbers

Unsigned 11-bit floating point numbers are defined in the “Unsigned 11-bit floating point numbers” section of the Khronos Data Format Specification.

3.9.5. Unsigned 10-Bit Floating-Point Numbers

Unsigned 10-bit floating point numbers are defined in the “Unsigned 10-bit floating point numbers” section of the Khronos Data Format Specification.

3.9.6. General Requirements

Any representable floating-point value in the appropriate format is legal as input to a Vulkan command that requires floating-point data. The result of providing a value that is not a floating-point number to such a command is unspecified, but must not lead to Vulkan interruption or termination. For example, providing a negative zero (where applicable) or a denormalized number to a Vulkan command must yield deterministic results, while providing a NaN or Inf yields unspecified results.

Some calculations require division. In such cases (including implied divisions performed by vector normalization), division by zero produces an unspecified result but must not lead to Vulkan interruption or termination.

3.10. Fixed-Point Data Conversions

When generic vertex attributes and pixel color or depth components are represented as integers, they are often (but not always) considered to be normalized. Normalized integer values are treated specially when being converted to and from floating-point values, and are usually referred to as normalized fixed-point.

In the remainder of this section, b denotes the bit width of the fixed-point integer representation. When the integer is one of the types defined by the API, b is the bit width of that type. When the integer comes from an image containing color or depth component texels, b is the number of bits allocated to that component in its specified image format.

The signed and unsigned fixed-point representations are assumed to be b-bit binary two’s-complement integers and binary unsigned integers, respectively.

3.10.1. Conversion from Normalized Fixed-Point to Floating-Point

Unsigned normalized fixed-point integers represent numbers in the range [0,1]. The conversion from an unsigned normalized fixed-point value c to the corresponding floating-point value f is defined as

Signed normalized fixed-point integers represent numbers in the range [-1,1]. The conversion from a signed normalized fixed-point value c to the corresponding floating-point value f is performed using

Only the range [-2b-1 + 1, 2b-1 - 1] is used to represent signed fixed-point values in the range [-1,1]. For example, if b = 8, then the integer value -127 corresponds to -1.0 and the value 127 corresponds to 1.0. This equation is used everywhere that signed normalized fixed-point values are converted to floating-point.

Note that while zero is exactly expressible in this representation, one value (-128 in the example) is outside the representable range, and implementations must clamp it to -1.0. Where the value is subject to further processing by the implementation, e.g. during texture filtering, values less than -1.0 may be used but the result must be clamped before the value is returned to shaders.

3.10.2. Conversion from Floating-Point to Normalized Fixed-Point

The conversion from a floating-point value f to the corresponding unsigned normalized fixed-point value c is defined by first clamping f to the range [0,1], then computing

c = convertFloatToUint(f × (2b - 1), b)

where convertFloatToUint(r,b) returns one of the two unsigned binary integer values with exactly b bits which are closest to the floating-point value r. Implementations should round to nearest. If r is equal to an integer, then that integer value must be returned. In particular, if f is equal to 0.0 or 1.0, then c must be assigned 0 or 2b - 1, respectively.

The conversion from a floating-point value f to the corresponding signed normalized fixed-point value c is performed by clamping f to the range [-1,1], then computing

c = convertFloatToInt(f × (2b-1 - 1), b)

where convertFloatToInt(r,b) returns one of the two signed two’s-complement binary integer values with exactly b bits which are closest to the floating-point value r. Implementations should round to nearest. If r is equal to an integer, then that integer value must be returned. In particular, if f is equal to -1.0, 0.0, or 1.0, then c must be assigned -(2b-1 - 1), 0, or 2b-1 - 1, respectively.

This equation is used everywhere that floating-point values are converted to signed normalized fixed-point.

3.11. Common Object Types

Some types of Vulkan objects are used in many different structures and command parameters, and are described here. These types include offsets, extents, and rectangles.

3.11.1. Offsets

Offsets are used to describe a pixel location within an image or framebuffer, as an (x,y) location for two-dimensional images, or an (x,y,z) location for three-dimensional images.

A two-dimensional offset is defined by the structure:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef struct VkOffset2D {
    int32_t    x;
    int32_t    y;
} VkOffset2D;
  • x is the x offset.

  • y is the y offset.

A three-dimensional offset is defined by the structure:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef struct VkOffset3D {
    int32_t    x;
    int32_t    y;
    int32_t    z;
} VkOffset3D;
  • x is the x offset.

  • y is the y offset.

  • z is the z offset.

3.11.2. Extents

Extents are used to describe the size of a rectangular region of pixels within an image or framebuffer, as (width,height) for two-dimensional images, or as (width,height,depth) for three-dimensional images.

A two-dimensional extent is defined by the structure:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef struct VkExtent2D {
    uint32_t    width;
    uint32_t    height;
} VkExtent2D;
  • width is the width of the extent.

  • height is the height of the extent.

A three-dimensional extent is defined by the structure:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef struct VkExtent3D {
    uint32_t    width;
    uint32_t    height;
    uint32_t    depth;
} VkExtent3D;
  • width is the width of the extent.

  • height is the height of the extent.

  • depth is the depth of the extent.

3.11.3. Rectangles

Rectangles are used to describe a specified rectangular region of pixels within an image or framebuffer. Rectangles include both an offset and an extent of the same dimensionality, as described above. Two-dimensional rectangles are defined by the structure

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef struct VkRect2D {
    VkOffset2D    offset;
    VkExtent2D    extent;
} VkRect2D;
  • offset is a VkOffset2D specifying the rectangle offset.

  • extent is a VkExtent2D specifying the rectangle extent.

3.11.4. Structure Types

Each value corresponds to a particular structure with a sType member with a matching name. As a general rule, the name of each VkStructureType value is obtained by taking the name of the structure, stripping the leading Vk, prefixing each capital letter with _, converting the entire resulting string to upper case, and prefixing it with VK_STRUCTURE_TYPE_. For example, structures of type VkImageCreateInfo correspond to a VkStructureType of VK_STRUCTURE_TYPE_IMAGE_CREATE_INFO, and thus its sType member must equal that when it is passed to the API.

The values VK_STRUCTURE_TYPE_LOADER_INSTANCE_CREATE_INFO and VK_STRUCTURE_TYPE_LOADER_DEVICE_CREATE_INFO are reserved for internal use by the loader, and do not have corresponding Vulkan structures in this Specification.

Structure types supported by the Vulkan API include:

// Provided by VK_VERSION_1_0
typedef enum VkStructureType {
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
  // Provided by VK_VERSION_1_1
} VkStructureType;

3.12. API Name Aliases

A small number of APIs did not follow the naming conventions when initially defined. For consistency, when we discover an API name that violates the naming conventions, we rename it in the Specification, XML, and header files. For backwards compatibility, the original (incorrect) name is retained as a “typo alias”. The alias is deprecated and should not be used, but will be retained indefinitely.


An example of a typo alias is from the type VkColorSpaceKHR, introduced by the VK_KHR_surface extension. The enumerant VK_COLORSPACE_SRGB_NONLINEAR_KHR was initially defined as part of VkColorSpaceKHR. Once the naming inconsistency was noticed, it was renamed to VK_COLOR_SPACE_SRGB_NONLINEAR_KHR, and the old name aliased to the correct name.