Vertex (geometry)

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In geometry, a vertex (plural vertices) is a special kind of point which describes the corners or intersections of geometric shapes. Vertices are commonly used in computer graphics to define the corners of surfaces (typically triangles) in 3D models, where each such point is given as a vector.

Vertices in a 3D model, selected vertices are yellow, unselected are purple.


Of an angle

The vertex of an angle is the point where two rays begin or meet, where two line segments join or meet, where two lines intersect (cross), or any appropriate combination of rays, segments and lines that result in two straight "sides" meeting at one place.

Of a polytope

A vertex is a corner point of a polygon, polyhedron, or other higher dimensional polytope, formed by the intersection of edges, faces or facets of the object: a vertex of a polygon is the point of intersection of two edges, a vertex of a polyhedron is the point of intersection of three or more edges or faces, and a vertex of a d-dimensional polytope is the intersection point of d or more edges, faces or facets.

In a polygon, a vertex is called "convex" if the internal angle of the polygon, that is, the angle formed by the two edges at the vertex, with the polygon inside the angle, is less than π radians; otherwise, it is called "concave" or "reflex". More generally, a vertex of a polyhedron or polytope is convex if the intersection of the polyhedron or polytope with a sufficiently small sphere centered at the vertex is convex, and concave otherwise.

Polytope vertices are related to vertices of graphs, in that the 1-skeleton of a polytope is a graph, the vertices of which correspond to the vertices of the polytope, and in that a graph can be viewed as a 1-dimensional simplicial complex the vertices of which are the graph's vertices. However, in graph theory, vertices may have fewer than two incident edges, which is usually not allowed for geometric vertices. There is also a connection between geometric vertices and the vertices of a curve, its points of extreme curvature: in some sense the vertices of a polygon are points of infinite curvature, and if a polygon is approximated by a smooth curve there will be a point of extreme curvature near each polygon vertex. However, a smooth curve approximation to a polygon will also have additional vertices, at the points where its curvature is minimal.

Of a plane tiling

A vertex of a plane tiling or tessellation is a point where three or more tiles meet; generally, but not always, the tiles of a tessellation are polygons and the vertices of the tessellation are also vertices of its tiles. More generally, a tessellation can be viewed as a kind of topological cell complex, as can the faces of a polyhedron or polytope; the vertices of other kinds of complexes such as simplicial complexes are its zero-dimensional faces.

Principal vertex

A polygon vertex x_i of a simple polygon P is a principal polygon vertex if the diagonal [x_{(i-1)},x_{(i+1)}] intersects the boundary of P only at x_{(i-1)} and x_{(i+1)}. There are two types of principal vertices: ears and mouths.


A principal vertex x_i of a simple polygon P is called an ear if the diagonal [x_{(i-1)},x_{(i+1)}] that bridges x_i lies entirely in P. (see also convex polygon)


A principal vertex x_i of a simple polygon P is called a mouth if the diagonal [x_{(i-1)},x_{(i+1)}] lies outside the boundary of P. (see also concave polygon)

Vertices in computer graphics

In computer graphics, objects are often represented as triangulated polyhedra in which the vertices are associated not only with three spatial coordinates but also with other graphical information necessary to render the object correctly, such as colors, reflectance properties, textures, and surface normals; these properties are used in rendering by a vertex shader, part of the vertex pipeline.