To use rx effectively, the user must understand a few basic properties of the tool. First, it is a modal editor. This means that at any given time, the user is in one of the supported modes. Each mode is designed to carry out a certain type of task. Certain tasks can be accomplished in multiple modes, and it is up to the user to choose which mode is most appropriate for that task.

Second, rx is designed to be configurable to the user's preferences. This is done in a plain-text file format called an rx script. This file is meant to be carried around by the user from machine to machine, and can be exchanged with other users. rx provides a good default configuration, but this cannot cater to all workflows.

Third, rx is focused on the work. The traditional user interface has been stripped down to its core elements to reveal the work, and bring focus to the creative process. A large part of the design of rx is tailored to making this process more enjoyable and intuitive.


When the user starts rx, a new session is initialized with a blank view. Views are usually associated with files, but can also be used as scratch pads. Towards the bottom of the window is the status bar, which displays information about the session and active view. Underneath is the command line, where the user can enter commands, and on the left is the color palette.

At all times, there is one active view. Many of the commands in rx operate on the currently active view. Views are activated by clicking on them with a mouse or other pointing device, or cycling through them with the tab key.


rx has three primary modes: normal, visual, and command.

Normal mode is where users spend most of their time - it is the default mode, and the one in which pixels are painted onto a view with the brush tool. Normal mode can be reached from any other mode by pressing esc.

Visual mode is the mode in which pixels can be selected and manipulated visually, but not painted. Visual mode is activated with the v key.

Command mode finally, allows the user to run commands on the session, the views, or the visual selection. Command mode is activated with :. For this reason, commands are described with a colon in front, for example :q! is the command to quit without saving. Commands are submitted with the return key, or loaded from a file with :source <path>. When saved in a file, commands are not prefixed with a colon.

Tip: Key bindings are mode-specific. This means some shortcuts will work accross all modes, while others only work in one or two modes.


Navigating the rx session is easy, and involves the following commands:


Painting in rx is done with the brush tool, which can be configured in terms of size and brush mode(s). Changing the brush size is done via [ and ], or via the :brush/size - and :brush/size + commands, respectively. Brush modes are behaviors that can be activated on the tool:

Brush modes are activated with the :brush/set command and deactivated with :brush/unset. They can also be toggled with :brush/toggle. For example, toggling xray mode would be :brush/toggle xray.

Tip: Any number of brush modes can be combined together! For example, try combining xsym and ysym for radial symmetry.

Brush color can be set by picking a color from the palette, or using the sampler tool (ctrl) and picking a color from the view. rx displays two colors at all times in the status bar: the foreground color, used by the brush, and the background color, which keeps track of the last color used. The foreground and background colors can be swapped by pressing x, or using the :swap command.

To undo an edit to the active view, press u (or :undo), and to redo, press r (or :redo).

Tip: Sometimes, it's useful to distinguish transparent pixels from black (rx's default background color). In these cases, the checker can be activated by entering :set checker = on (or simply :set checker). Turning the checker off is a matter of calling :set checker = off.

using the grid

When working with certain kinds of images, it may be helpful to work around a pixel grid. rx can display a grid with the :set grid command. It's spacing and color can be controlled with the grid/spacing and grid/color settings. For example,

:set grid/spacing 4 4
:set grid/color #ff0000

will set the grid to red, and 4 by 4 pixels.

animating work

rx was designed from the very beginning to create animated pixel work. All it takes is adding frames to an existing view by pressing return or entering the :f/add (add frame) command. The animation is displayed next to the view, and continuously cycles between the frame.

To change the frame delay, the animation/delay setting can be used. For example, to set a delay of 250 milliseconds between frames, the user can enter the command:

:set animation/delay = 250

This will set the animation to cycle at about 4 frames/s.

If there are too many frames in the animation, it's easy to remove frames by pressing backspace, or entering the :f/remove command. Frames can also be cloned from existing frames with the :f/clone command, which takes an optional frame number to clone, and otherwise clones the last frame.

When working with animations, it can be useful to work on multiple frames at a time. Here, the multi brush mode comes in handy. It can be activated by holding shift, or entering :brush/set multi. Drawing on a frame now also draws on all subsequent frames.

manipulating pixels

Visual mode allows the user to manipulate pixels by operating on visual selections. To activate this mode, enter :visual into the command line, or simply press v. The view border turns red, indicating that visual mode is active. Dragging with the mouse anywhere in the view creates a selection that can be moved around. The selection can be expanded to the frame with :selection/expand, or \. It can be moved one whole frame at a time forwards with w, and backwards with b (:selection/jump). It can also be nudged by one pixel in any direction with h, j, k and l keys (:selection/move).

With a selection in place, the :selection/yank (shortcut y) command can be used to create a copy which can be then placed anywhere with the :selection/paste command, by either left-clicking with the mouse, or pressing p.

There are several other useful shortcuts that operate on the current selection, such as:

saving & loading work

rx is built around the PNG image file format. Loading a file is as simple as using the :e (edit) command followed by the file path, eg.:

:e tao.png

and saving is done with the :w (write) command. To save under a different path, the user can specify the file path explicitly, eg.:

:w tao-v2.png

To close a file, the :q (quit) command can be used. Note that closing the last remaining view will quit the session.

Tip: The :e command can also be used to load entire directories of files. Simply specify the directory path, and rx will load all files under that path.

loading animations

When loading an animation from a .png file, frame information will not be present. This is where the :slice command comes in. If you have a six frame animation strip, simply enter :slice 6. This will convert the image into a sequence of frames. In the future, this information will be saved alongside the .png.

Tip: To resize the animation frames, try the :f/resize command. Eg. :f/resize 16 16.


A large part of the functionality and tools within rx are configured with settings that can be configured on the fly. Updating a setting is usually done with the :set command, which has the form :set <key> = <value>, for example, setting the session background to grey can be done with:

:set background = #333333

Certain settings are on/off switches, such as the vsync setting. These can be turned on with eg. :set vsync = on or :set vsync, and off with :set vsync = off or :unset vsync. Alternatively, they can be toggled with the :toggle command.

Tip: The current value of a setting can be displayed with the :echo command. For example: :echo background or :echo grid/spacing.

configuring rx

There are three ways of configuring rx:

  1. By entering commands in a running session or sourcing a command script with the :source command.

    Changes made in this fashion will not persist after the session is closed, but this may be useful for loading color configuration for example.

  2. By creating an init.rx script in the user's configuration directory.

    This is typically ~/.config/rx on Linux systems, and can be displayed to the user by entering :echo config/dir from inside rx.

  3. By creating a file called .rxrc in the working directory from which rx is launched, or in a folder that is loaded through rx.

    This file, taking its name from the traditional run command scripts found in unix systems has the same syntax as init.rx, and can be useful when the user wants to load configuration specific to a set of files or project.

The same commands that are used in rx to change settings can be used inside of scripts. This is not limited to the :set family of commands, but extends to almost all commands available in rx. There is one important difference, which is that commands entered in the editor start with ':', which is not necessary when loading commands from a script.

Tip: Comments are supported inside rx scripts by prefixing any line with a double dash, eg. -- This is a comment.

working with colors

rx was designed to work with 32-bit sRGB images and colors. On the left of the interface is a color palette that can be configured by the user through rx's command language: to add a color to the palette, the :p/add command can be used by specifying a hexadecimal color code. To clear the palette, :p/clear is used.

Palettes can be easily loaded from rx scripts, for example a three color palette might be saved in the following script under the path rgb.rx:

p/add #ff0000
p/add #00ff00
p/add #0000ff

and loaded with :source rgb.rx.

See the palettes section for some popular pre-made palettes.

Tip: Simply entering #ff0000 as a command will expand to p/add #ff0000.

creating and modifying key bindings

Key bindings or shortcuts in rx are configured like everything else: in plain text with the command language. A shortcut is created with the :map family of commands which has the form map <key> <command>. For example:

:map / :zoom 1.0

maps the / (slash) key to the zoom command. Printable characters can be specified plainly, eg. :map x :swap, while non-printable characters have to be enclosed in < >, eg. :map <return> :f/add. The set of active key bindings can be shown at all times with the :help command.

To clear all key bindings (including the default set), the :map/clear! command may be used.

Tip: Sometimes, it's useful to create a binding that has a different command associated with the pressed and released states. For example for tools that should only be active while a key is held down. This is done by adding an optional argument to :map, enclosed in braces. An example of this is the erase brush mode, which is mapped with:

map e :brush/set erase {:brush/unset erase}


If comes the need to debug performance problems, rx can be set to show some runtime information with the debug setting. When on, frame update and render time will be displayed in the upper left corner, as well as memory consumption.

Alternatively, rx can be started with the -v command-line flag, which turns on verbose logging.

If rx is crashing, run it with RUST_BACKTRACE=1 set in your environment to show a backtrace on crash. It could be that the issue is related to your configuration - in that case the program can be run without loading the initialization script like so:

rx -u -