Raster3D(1) molecular graphics package


The Raster3D molecular graphics package consists of a core program render and a number of ancillary programs (balls, rastep, rods) which produce input files for rendering from PDB (Protein Data Bank) files of atomic coordinates. Raster3D can also render images composed using other programs such as MOLSCRIPT [Per Kraulis (1991), J. Appl. Cryst. 24, 946-950].

Raster3D is freely available. If you use the package to prepare figures for publication, please give proper credit to the authors. The proper citation for the current version is Merritt & Bacon (1997).

     Bacon & Anderson (1988) J. Molec. Graphics 6, 219-220.
     Merritt & Murphy (1994) Acta Cryst. D50, 869-873.
     Merritt & Bacon  (1997) Meth. Enzymol. 277, 505-524.


Raster3D uses a fast Z-buffer algorithm to produce high quality pixel images featuring one shadowing light source, additional non-shadowing light sources, specular highlighting, transparency, and Phong shaded surfaces. Output is in the form of a pixel image with 24 bits of color information per pixel. Raster3D does not depend on graphics hardware.

The following image output formats are supported: AVS, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and SGI libimage. To actually view or manipulate the images produced, you must also have installed an image viewing package (e.g. John Cristy's ImageMagick or the SGI libimage utilities). A filter utility avs2ps is included in the package which can convert an AVS format output stream directly to a dithered monochrome PostScript image.

Although Raster3D is not intended as a general purpose ray-tracing package, nothing in the rendering process is specific to molecular graphics.


Using only programs included in the Raster3D distribution one can create and render space-filling models, ball-and-stick models, ribbon models, and figures composed of any combination of these. The following set of commands would produce a composite figure of an Fe-containing metalloprotein with a smoothly shaded ribbon representation of the protein and spheres drawn for the Fe atoms:

     # Draw smooth ribbon with default color scheme 2,
     # save description (with header records) in ribbon.r3d
     cat protein.pdb | ribbon -d2 > ribbon.r3d
     # Extract Fe atoms only, and draw as spheres.
     # Color info is taken from colorfile.
     # Save description (with no header records) in irons.r3d
     grep "FE" protein.pdb | cat colorfile - | balls -h > irons.r3d
     # combine the two descriptions and render to a PNG image
     cat ribbon.r3d irons.r3d | render > picture.png

Integrated use of MOLSCRIPT/Raster3D/ImageMagick allows one to describe, render, and view 3D representations of existing MOLSCRIPT figures:

     molscript -r infile.dat | render | display png:-


web URL:

        Ethan A Merritt

        University of Washington, Seattle WA 98195

        [email protected]


 Raster3D version 3.0 is distributed under the terms of the
 Artistic License, Version 2.0.


 Originally written by David J Bacon and Wayne F Anderson.
 Ancillary programs by Mark Israel, Stephen Samuel,  Michael Murphy, Albert Berghuis, and Ethan A Merritt. Extensions, revisions, and modifications by Ethan A Merritt.