Bresenham's line algorithm

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The Bresenham line algorithm is an algorithm which determines which points in an n-dimensional raster should be plotted in order to form a close approximation to a straight line between two given points. It is commonly used to draw lines on a computer screen, as it uses only integer addition, subtraction and bit shifting, all of which are very cheap operations in standard computer architectures. It is one of the earliest algorithms developed in the field of computer graphics. A minor extension to the original algorithm also deals with drawing circles.

While algorithms such as Wu's algorithm are also frequently used in modern computer graphics because they can support antialiasing, the speed and simplicity of Bresenham's line algorithm mean that it is still important. The algorithm is used in hardware such as plotters and in the graphics chips of modern graphics cards. It can also be found in many software graphics libraries. Because the algorithm is very simple, it is often implemented in either the firmware or the hardware of modern graphics cards.

The label "Bresenham" is used today for a whole family of algorithms extending or modifying Bresenham's original algorithm. See further references below.


The algorithm

The common conventions that pixel coordinates increase in the down and right directions (e.g. that the pixel at (1,1) is directly above the pixel at (1,2)) and that the pixel centers that have integer coordinates will be used. The endpoints of the line are the pixels at (x0, y0) and (x1, y1), where the first coordinate of the pair is the column and the second is the row.

The algorithm will be initially presented only for the octant in which the segment goes down and to the right (x0x1 and y0y1), and its horizontal projection x1x0 is longer than the vertical projection y1y0 (the line has a slope whose absolute value is less than 1 and greater than 0.) In this octant, for each column x between x0 and x1, there is exactly one row y (computed by the algorithm) containing a pixel of the line, while each row between y0 and y1 may contain multiple rasterized pixels.

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