Vulkan Setup

This document explains how to get started with the Vulkan graphics library by downloading, compiling, and running several sample apps.

Before beginning, make sure you have the right hardware and platform version prepared. You should use a device that supports Vulkan, running Android API level 24 or higher.

You can confirm your Android version by going to the Settings menu, and selecting About <device> > Android Version. Once you’ve confirmed that you have the right hardware and platform version set up, you can download the necessary software.


Before getting started, you must download several tools and other software. Note that on a Windows host, it is recommended that you avoid a deep file path hierarchy for tools and source code; this is to work around file path limits on some Windows OS versions.

  1. If you don’t already have Android Studio, download it. This includes the most recent Android SDK.
  2. Install NDK from within Android Studio or download it manually.
  3. Build Shaderc by navigating to <ndk-root>/sources/third_party/shaderc/, and executing the following command:
  4. On Mac or Linux:

    $ ../../../ndk-build NDK_PROJECT_PATH=. \
     APP_ABI=all APP_PLATFORM=android-24 APP_STL:=c++_static \
     -j8 clean libshaderc_combined

    On Windows:

    ..\..\..\ndk-build NDK_PROJECT_PATH=. ^
     APP_ABI=all APP_PLATFORM=android-24 APP_STL=c++_static ^
     -j8 clean libshaderc_combined

    Refer to Shader Compilers for more Shaderc documentation.


You could import Vulkan© API samples into Android Studio in one of the following ways:

  1. Automatically with Android Studio. To do so, choose File > New > Import Sample, then select NDK > Vulkan API Samples.

    You may see errors about missing components or missing SDK version. When these messages appear, follow the installation prompts that Android Studio shows you. These steps should fix the errors automatically.

    After several minutes, the Project pane should resemble the window shown in Figure 1.

    Project pane after importing samples into Android Studio

    Figure 1. Project pane displaying samples after they've been imported.

  2. Manually with a terminal:
    • Download the source code:
      git clone
    • Open samples with Android Studio. To do so, choose File > Open, navigate to the cloned source directory, and click OK.


To compile your project, follow these steps:

  1. Select your project in the Android Studio Project panel.
  2. From the Build menu, choose Make Module <module-name> ; or select Build APK to generate APK.
  3. Resolve any dependency issues, and then compile. As Figure 2 shows, you can select individual projects to compile by choosing them from the configuration pulldown.
  4. Selecting the drawcube project from the config pulldown

    Figure 2. Selecting an individual project to compile.


To run your project, choose an APK to run by choosing Run > Run <project-name>.

To debug an APK, choose Run > Debug <project-name>. For example, for drawcube, run 15-draw_cube.

Most of the samples have simple functionality to demonstrate how to use one specific API, and most stop automatically after running. The drawcube example is one of the visually interesting examples. When you run it, it should display the image in Figure 3

. Successfully running shows a multicolored cube

Figure 3. The successfully compiled program runs and produces a display.

Using the Dynamic Loader

The samples use a dynamic loader helper function defined in vulkan_wrapper.h/cpp to retrieve Vulkan API pointers using dlopen() and dlsym(). It does this rather than statically linking them with

Using this loader allows the code to link against API level 23 and earlier versions of the platform. Those earlier versions don’t include the shared library, but can run on devices that support Vulkan API.

The following snippet shows how to use the dynamic loader.

#include "vulkan_wrapper.h" // Include Vulkan_wrapper and dynamically load symbols.
// Before any Vulkan API usage,

Additional resources