OpenGP  1.1
Open Geometry Processing Library
SurfaceMesh Tutorial

Table of Contents


In general, a polygonal surface mesh is composed of vertices, edges and faces as well as the incidence relationships between them. SurfaceMesh stores the connectivity information based on halfedges, i.e. pairs of directed edges with opposing direction. To be more precise:

The halfedge connectivity is illustrated in the figure below:

Halfedge connectivity.


In the following sections we describe the basic usage of SurfaceMesh by means of simple example programs and code excerpts.


The very basic usage of SurfaceMesh is demonstrated in the example below. The program first instantiates a SurfaceMesh object as well as four vertex handles. These handles, as well as the handles for the other mesh entities Halfedge, Edge, and Face are basically indices. Four vertices are added to the mesh, as well as four triangular faces composing a tetrahedron. Finally, the number of vertices, edges, and faces is printed to standard output.

#include <OpenGP/SurfaceMesh/SurfaceMesh.h>
using namespace OpenGP;
int main(void)
// instantiate a SurfaceMesh object
// instantiate 4 vertex handles
SurfaceMesh::Vertex v0,v1,v2,v3;
// add 4 vertices
v0 = mesh.add_vertex(Vec3(0,0,0));
v1 = mesh.add_vertex(Vec3(1,0,0));
v2 = mesh.add_vertex(Vec3(0,1,0));
v3 = mesh.add_vertex(Vec3(0,0,1));
// add 4 triangular faces
std::cout << "vertices: " << mesh.n_vertices() << std::endl;
std::cout << "edges: " << mesh.n_edges() << std::endl;
std::cout << "faces: " << mesh.n_faces() << std::endl;
return 0;

File I/O

SurfaceMesh currently supports reading OFF, OBJ, and STL files. Write support is currently limited to OFF files. All I/O operations are handled by the SurfaceMesh::read() and SurfaceMesh::write() member functions, with the target file name being their only argument. An example is given below.

#include <OpenGP/SurfaceMesh/SurfaceMesh.h>
#include <OpenGP/MLogger.h>
using namespace OpenGP;
int main(int argc, char** argv) {
std::string in_file = (argc>1) ? argv[1] : "bunny.obj";
std::string out_file = (argc>2) ? argv[2] : "output.obj";
// instantiate a SurfaceMesh object
// read a mesh specified as the first command line argument
bool success =;
// ...
// do fancy stuff with the mesh
// ...
// write the mesh to the file specified as second argument
mLogger() << "read:" << in_file << "wrote:" << out_file;

Iterators and Circulators

In order to sequentially access mesh entities SurfaceMesh provides iterators for each entity type, namely Vertex_iterator, Halfedge_iterator, Edge_iterator, and Face_iterator. Similar to iterators, SurfaceMesh also provides circulators for the ordered enumeration of all incident vertices, halfedges, or faces around a given face or vertex. Since there is no clear begin- and end-circulator, do-while loops are used for circulators. The example below demonstrates the use of iterators and circulators for computing the mean valence of a mesh.

#include <OpenGP/SurfaceMesh/SurfaceMesh.h>
using namespace OpenGP;
int main(int /*argc*/, char** argv) {[1]);
float mean_valence = 0.0f;
unsigned int vertex_valence;
// instantiate iterator and circulators
// loop over all vertices
for (vit = mesh.vertices_begin(); vit != mesh.vertices_end(); ++vit) {
// initialize circulators
vc = mesh.vertices(*vit);
vc_end = vc;
// reset counter
vertex_valence = 0;
// loop over all incident vertices
do {
} while (++vc != vc_end);
// sum up vertex valences
mean_valence += vertex_valence;
mean_valence /= mesh.n_vertices();
std::cout << "mean valence: " << mean_valence << std::endl;


Attaching additional attributes to mesh entities is important for many applications. SurfaceMesh supports properties by means of synchronized arrays that can be (de-)allocated dynamically at run-time. Property arrays are also used internally, e.g., to store vertex coordinates. The example program below shows how to access vertex coordinates through the (pre-defined) point property.

#include <OpenGP/SurfaceMesh/SurfaceMesh.h>
using namespace OpenGP;
int main(int /*argc*/, char** argv) {[1]);
// get (pre-defined) property storing vertex positions
Vec3 p(0,0,0);
for (vit = mesh.vertices_begin(); vit != vend; ++vit) {
// access point property like an array
p += points[*vit];
p /= mesh.n_vertices();
std::cout << "barycenter: " << p << std::endl;

The dynamic (de-)allocation of properties at run-time is managed by a set of four different functions:

Allocates a new property for the given EntityType of the type PropertyType labeled by the PropertyName string.

Returns a handle to an existing property.

Returns a handle to an existing property if the specified property already exists. If not, a new property is allocated and its handle is returned.

Removes and the vertex property referenced by PropertyHandle.

Functions that allocate a new property take a default value for the property as an optional second argument.

The code excerpt below demonstrates how to allocate, use and remove a custom edge property.

SurfaceMesh mesh;
// allocate property storing a point per edge
SurfaceMesh::Edge_property<Point> edge_points = mesh.add_edge_property<Point>("property-name");
// access the edge property like an array
SurfaceMesh::Edge e;
edge_points[e] = Point(x,y,z);
// remove property and free memory

Connectivity Queries

Commonly used connectivity queries such as retrieving the next halfedge or the target vertex of an halfedge are illustrated below.

SurfaceMesh::Halfedge h;
SurfaceMesh::Halfedge h0 = mesh.next_halfedge_handle(h);
SurfaceMesh::Halfedge h1 = mesh.prev_halfedge_handle(h);
SurfaceMesh::Halfedge h2 = mesh.opposite_halfedge_handle(h);
SurfaceMesh::Face f = mesh.face_handle(h);
SurfaceMesh::Vertex v0 = mesh.from_vertex_handle(h);
SurfaceMesh::Vertex v1 = mesh.to_vertex_handle(h);

Topological Operations

Surface mesh also offers higher-level topological operations, such as performing edge flips, edge splits, face splits, or halfedge collapses. The figure below illustrates some of these operations.

High-level operations changing the topology.

The corresponding member functions and their syntax is demonstrated in the pseudo-code below.

SurfaceMesh::Vertex v;
SurfaceMesh::Edge e;
SurfaceMesh::Halfedge h;
SurfaceMesh::Face f;
mesh.split(f, v);
mesh.split(e, v);

When entities are removed from the mesh due to topological changes, the member function garbage_collection() has to be called in order to ensure the consistency of the data structure.