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Raster3D is a set of tools for generating high quality raster images of proteins or other molecules. The core program renders spheres, triangles, cylinders, and quadric surfaces with specular highlighting, Phong shading, and shadowing. It uses an efficient software Z-buffer algorithm which is independent of any graphics hardware. Ancillary programs process atomic coordinates from PDB files into rendering descriptions for pictures composed of ribbons, space-filling atoms, bonds, ball+stick, etc. Raster3D can also be used to render pictures composed in other programs such as Molscript and XtalView in glorious 3D with highlights, shadowing, etc. Output is to pixel image files with 24 bits of color information per pixel.

Raster3D is currently maintained by Ethan A. Merritt with additional development by Frank Zucker and P. Christoph Champ.

  • The latest available packaged version is: Raster3D V3.0-2 (2011-02-03)
  • The latest available source version is: Raster3D V3.0-2 (2011-02-03)

Programs in the Raster3D package

  • avs2ps
  • balls
  • label3d
  • normal3d
  • rastep
  • render
  • ribbon
  • rings3d
  • rods
  • stereo3d


  • Create a simple, colour-coded PNG image of a PDB structure:
molauto 1KP8.pdb | molscript -r | render -bg white -size 300x300 -png 1KP8.png


  • original implementation: Bacon DJ, Anderson WF (1988). "A Fast Algorithm for Rendering Space-Filling Molecule Pictures". Journal of Molecular Graphics 6:219-220.
  • version 2.0: Merritt EA, Murphy MEP (1994). "Raster3D Version 2.0: A Program for Photorealistic Molecular Graphics". Acta Cryst D50:869-873.
  • version 2.3: Merritt EA, Bacon DJ (1997). "Raster3D: Photorealistic Molecular Graphics". Methods in Enzymology 277:505-524.

External links