So you’ve heard about TouchDesigner through online videos or social media, but you’re not exactly sure what it is yet? In this blog we’ll cover all the most frequently asked questions about this unique program.
So, what is TouchDesigner?
TouchDesigner is a node-based visual programming environment created by Toronto-based company Derivative. During its initial scaffolding, it was created with the intended use of syncing visuals to music, but now that’s just a piece of the puzzle.
Video playback has become a big deal in TouchDesigner. With the rise of things like projection mapping and full show control, TouchDesigner’s grown into a top-notch tool for interactive shows and installations.
It’s been quite the journey over the past few years and the community is continuing to grow everyday. For your personal projects, it can be used to create interactive, immersive, and generative art and media, and even music videos.
What is TouchDesigner used for?
TouchDesigner isn’t the go-to for web design, gaming, or intricate 3D modelling. Instead, it shines when crafting interactive, real-world-linked multimedia experiences—especially on stages.
It’s an amazing tool if you want to create performances, installations or fixed media works that involve controlling various devices and media seamlessly.
You’ll want to learn and use TouchDesigner if you’re into real-time compositing, dynamic graphics, or translating music into vibrant 3D scenes and animations. It’s the playground for exploring real-time computer graphics and having a blast doing it.
Can you use input devices with TouchDesigner?
Yes, you can capture data from all kinds of devices into TouchDesigner. It is the perfect environment for connecting diverse devices and ideas. The program is all about defining custom workflows and pipelines, and merging different software and hardware seamlessly.
TouchDesigner has so many different pipelines and features built in to cover everything from rendering and compositing, video and audio in and out, multi-display support, animation key-framing and control channels, scripting and programming with Python or C++, and hardware and software interoperability with all the major input devices being used professionally. This includes popular music sequencing software like Ableton Live.
Can you use TouchDesigner for free?
TouchDesigner has a non-commercial version that is free to use for self-learning and personal projects. However, if you use TouchDesigner for paid work, you’ll need to pay for either the Commercial or Pro licenses from Derivative.
Discover the different features of the various licenses, and download the software on the Derivative site.
Do you need to know coding to use TouchDesigner?
TouchDesigner is a vast application with so many possibilities and avenues of development. You can create artwork entirely using only built-in visual operators before you even dive into Python or GLSL or C++.
What programming language does TouchDesigner use?
For scripting tasks, TouchDesigner uses Python. Therefore, it will give you an advantage as a beginner to have basic knowledge of Python. Fifteen minutes a night of tutorials for a few weeks will have you comfortably using Python in TouchDesigner.
Python was introduced in TouchDesigner 088 and it was a game changer. There’s a misconception that you need to be a Python guru to use it in TouchDesigner, but actually you just need a basic understanding of data types, syntax structure, functions, and a light sprinkle of classes.
What are the requirements for TouchDesigner?
TouchDesigner is available on Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11, and Apple macOS 10.14 and up. I recommend using it on Windows if possible, because there are a number of TouchDesigner operators and features that require the use of Windows OS. With that said, the macOS version is quite capable if you’re learning or working on your own personal projects.
For optimal performance, I advise to have at least 4GB of GPU memory and ensure the use of the latest Nvidia, AMD, or Intel drivers (I recommend using Nvidia Quadro cards). TouchDesigner mandates a GPU and drivers compatible with Vulkan 1.1.
You’ll also want to have a really good quality mouse, that has three buttons and a scroll-wheel. My go-to suggestions are the Logitech M570 or MX Ergo.
Is TouchDesigner easy to learn?
If you’ve never used worked with a node-based visual programming environment before, then the TouchDesigner workflow may be hard to understand at first.
However, one great thing about TouchDesigner is that the community is built around sharing. Many users give back to the community by creating tutorials, videos, example files, and being available on forums.
So if you’re getting started and not understanding something, don’t hesitate to search or ask questions on the TouchDesigner forum. The one thing you should definitely do is try to provide an example file of your problem. Forum posts can go unanswered if they’re too vague.
Where should I start learning as a beginner?
If you’ve decided that you want to learn TouchDesigner, the best place to start is our free TouchDesigner Tutorial Series.
In this crash course, I teach you all the basics of how to use TouchDesigner. It serves as a great starting point for all the other blogs and video tutorials that we have available on our website and YouTube channel.
The series of 15 tutorials are designed to give a complete beginner the best possible start inside of TouchDesigner. We cover everything from mouse controls, keyboard shortcuts, the UI, all the operator families, how to output content, and more.
The HQ PRO
If you want to take your learning to the next level, then I recommend you join our training platform, The HQ PRO.
When you sign up for The HQ PRO, you get access to 200+ hours of TouchDesigner video training, and a private Facebook group where myself and Matthew Ragan answer your questions daily. You can also become certified as a TouchDesigner developer through our certifications exams and take advantage of the many other features that we have for HQ PRO members, such as twice-monthly group coaching/mastermind calls.
At its basics, TouchDesigner is a unique node-based visual programming language created by the Canadian company Derivative. The program is used by immersive artists, creative coders, and software designers all over the world.
It has never-ending uses and possibilities including creative coding, generative video animations, light sculptures, or even a kinetic LED installation, stage concert visuals, and permanent installations, to name just a few examples.
From my experience as a TouchDesigner developer, I can attest that it really is a worthwhile program to invest your time in as the software is unlimited in all kinds of different directions.
Good luck on your TouchDesigner journey! (And don’t forget to check out the resources we have here at IIHQ).