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Path Painting and Construction
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Path Painting and Construction
A vector graphics in PDF consists of paths. A path can be used to draw something on screen or
to clip a specific area. A path itself is invisible until it was filled, stroked, or both. In addition,
clipping and path painting operators can be combined, e.g. a clipping path can again be stroked
or filled.
Although the combination of clipping and path painting operators is supported in all PDF
versions, not all viewer applications support this operator combination. To avoid
unnecessary problems paths should be clipped and painted in two separate steps, also if the
same path must be output twice in this case.
When working with paths two specific rendering techniques should be known to understand
for what certain path painting operators are useful:
Nonzero Winding Number Rule
The nonzero winding number rule determines whether a given point is inside a path by
conceptually drawing a ray from that point to infinity in any direction and then examining the
places where a segment of the path crosses the ray. Starting with a count of 0, the rule adds 1
each time a path segment crosses the ray from left to right and subtracts 1 each time a segment
crosses from right to left. After counting all the crossings, if the result is 0 then the point is
outside the path; otherwise it is inside.
Note: The method just described does not specify what to do if a path segment coincides with or is
tangent to the chosen ray. Since the direction of the ray is arbitrary, the rule simply chooses a ray that
does not encounter such problem intersections.
For simple convex paths, the nonzero winding number rule defines the inside and outside as
one would intuitively expect. The more interesting cases are those involving complex or self-
intersecting paths like the ones shown in Figure below. For a path consisting of a five-pointed
star, drawn with five connected straight line segments intersecting each other, the rule
considers the inside to be the entire area enclosed by the star, including the pentagon in the

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