Textures and Lighting with React and Three.js

In my previous three posts, I have developed a simple WebGL application using react-three-fiber and three.js. In this post, I am adding texture loading and proper lighting to the application.

For reference, here the links to the previous versions of the app:

  • Version 1: Just being able to drag a shape on the screen
  • Version 2: Dragging and dropping shapes using physics
  • Version 3: Being able to move the camera

Here the version developed for this post:


Source Code

You can click to add objects, click and drag them as well as move the camera using WASD keys and mouse wheel to zoom.

Loading Textures

Textures can be loaded easily in react-three-fiber using the useResource hook.

All that is required to place the texture in the public/ folder of the react application, load the texture and then link it to the material by setting the map property.

    const [texture] = useLoader(TextureLoader, 'textures/grasslight-big.jpg');

    if (texture) {
        texture.wrapS = texture.wrapT = THREE.RepeatWrapping;
        texture.repeat.set(1500, 1500);
        texture.anisotropy = 16;

    return (
        <mesh ref={ref} receiveShadow position={position}
            <planeBufferGeometry attach="geometry" args={[10000, 10000]} />
            {texture &&
                <meshPhongMaterial attach="material" map={texture} />


I found that textures are often quite large in size; larger than 1 MB. This significantly extends loading times. Thus I have added a simple loading screen. Unfortunately to be able to display the text ‘loading’ I had to create a TextGeometry which in turn required a font to be loaded (I prepared the Roboto font using facetype.js. This font by itself is more than 300 kb, so even loading the loading screen takes a bit of time.


The goal of this application is to have a simple, very large plane on which any number of objects may be added. The issue I encountered with this was that to get shadows working with a DirectionalLight turned out to be very tricky. In the end, I used a combination of an AmbientLight with a SpotLight.

        <ambientLight intensity={0.9} />

        <primitive object={lightTarget} position={lightTargetPosition} />
            angle={Math.PI / 3}
            shadow-mapSize={new Vector2(2048 * 5, 2048 * 5)}

Since the SpotLight would not be able to cover the whole of the plane (as said, it is meant to be very large) and provide accurate shadows, I opted for moving the SpotLight when a user moves the camera.

    const lightTargetYDelta = 120;
    const lightTargetXDelta = 80;
    const [lightPosition, setLightPosition] = useState([-lightTargetXDelta, -lightTargetYDelta, 200]);
    const [lightTargetPosition, setLightTargetPosition] = useState([0, 0, 0]);
    const onCameraMoved = (delta) => {
        const newLightPosition = delta.map((e, idx) => lightPosition[idx] + e);
        const newLightTargetPosition = [newLightPosition[0] + lightTargetXDelta, newLightPosition[1] + lightTargetYDelta, 0];

This required both updating the position of the light setLightPosition as well as moving the light target setLightTargetPosition.


Since the amount of code for this example increased quite a bit over the past three iterations, I broke up the application into multiple modules, with most React components now sitting in their own file.

I think this really shows the advantage of using React with Three.js, since it is easy for each component to manage its own state.

For the next iteration, I will most likely be looking at how I can remove the textures or use much smaller textures. I would like the application to be able to load as quickly as possible, and textures clearly do not seem a great option for this.

Creating a Draggable Shape with React Three Fiber

I recently became interested how to render 3D graphics in the browser. I think WebGL is an extremely powerful technology and may one day become an important way of rendering content on the web.

There are various frameworks and tools available to use WebGL such as Babylon.js and three.js. To me, three.js looks the most promising for the use cases I am interested in.

For simple examples, three.js works beautifully but I think more complex applications can easily become unwieldy when using this framework. Thus I was very happy to come across react-three-fiber, which provides a wrapper around three.js using React. React, for all its shortcomings, is a powerful way to keep code modular and maintainable.

To get my hands dirty with this library, I have created a little example of an application that renders a Dodecahedron and allows dragging this shape by tapping or clicking and dragging with the mouse.

Here the link to the deployed application:


And here the link to the source code:


I think the source code is pretty self-explanatory. Essentially all logic is encapsulated into index.js:

import ReactDOM from "react-dom"
import React, { useRef, useState } from "react"
import { Canvas, useThree, useFrame } from "react-three-fiber"
import { useDrag } from "react-use-gesture"
import "./index.css"

function DraggableDodecahedron() {
    const colors = ["hotpink", "red", "blue", "green", "yellow"];
    const ref = useRef();
    const [colorIdx, setColorIdx] = useState(0);
    const [position, setPosition] = useState([0, 0, 0]);
    const { size, viewport } = useThree();
    const aspect = size.width / viewport.width;
    useFrame(() => {
        ref.current.rotation.z += 0.01
        ref.current.rotation.x += 0.01
    const bind = useDrag(({ offset: [x, y] }) => {
        const [,, z] = position;
        setPosition([x / aspect, -y / aspect, z]);
    }, { pointerEvents: true });

    return (
        <mesh position={position} {...bind()}
            onClick={e => {
                if (colorIdx === 4) {
                } else {
            onPointerOver={e => console.log('hover')}
            onPointerOut={e => console.log('unhover')}>

            <dodecahedronBufferGeometry attach="geometry" />
            <meshLambertMaterial attach="material" color={colors[colorIdx]} />


        <spotLight intensity={1.2} position={[30, 30, 50]} angle={0.2} penumbra={1} castShadow />
        <DraggableDodecahedron />

Noteworthy here is that instead of creating a Material, Geometry and Mesh directly, they are defined in JSX. Also, instead of having to request an animation frame, we are using the hook useFrame to drive the animation for our component.

I think it can easily be seen how react-three-fiber could be used to make three.js applications more modular, for instance by handling the animation specifically for each component. I think this project is also testament to the power of React in that it cannot only be used with the DOM but also with other rendering technologies.