The SparkFun Guide to Processing

Processing is a free, beginner-friendly programming language designed to help non-programmers create interactive art with code. In Processing, you can make a masterpiece with just a simple program, and at the click of a button, the software displays your handiwork on-screen for instant feedback.

The SparkFun Guide to Processing teaches you to craft your own digital artwork and even combine it with hardware—no prior programming experience required. Over the course of the book, you’ll learn the basics by drawing simple shapes, move on to photo editing and video manipulation, and ultimately affect the physical world by using Processing with an Arduino.

Work through an array of projects that increase steadily in complexity to:

  • Make detailed pixel art and scale it to epic proportions
  • Write a maze game and build a MaKey MaKey controller with fruit buttons
  • Play, record, and sample audio to create your own soundboard
  • Fetch weather data from the Web and build a custom weather dashboard
  • Create visualizations that change based on sound, light, and temperature readings

Art and programming aren’t mutually exclusive, and with Processing as your digital paint brush, you’ll code your own gallery in no time.

Derek is our Department of Education’s Educational Technologist, responsible for creating outstanding curriculum and materials for electronics education. Before joining us at SparkFun, Derek taught middle school technology courses that were centered on Processing and Arduino.

Note: This book is Processing 3.0 compatible.


  • Author: Derek Runberg
  • Publisher: No Starch Press
  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1593276125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593276126


Looking for answers to technical questions?

We welcome your comments and suggestions below. However, if you are looking for solutions to technical questions please see our Technical Assistance page.

  • MarcusG / about 8 years ago / 1

    I purchased this item through Amazon, so I can't write a review on this website, but if I could, I'd give it a 3. Mostly because of the tremendous amount of mistakes in the first 3 projects alone. I'm an experienced programmer, so I am able to get around the mistakes and understand what the author intends, but I could imagine a novice programmer getting hung up on many of the inconsistencies between the text, listings and images within.

    Be cautious when reading. Thanks, Marcus

  • nsa / about 9 years ago / 2

    does it cover 3.0?

    • D___Run___ / about 9 years ago / 1

      All of the example code works in Processing 3.0 with the exception of using JavaScript mode in Project 4 which now is in Beta. We are currently updating all screen shots in the book to be correct with 3.0 as well as changing a few descriptions of the IDE. The major changes don't impact the book that much other than having to install a few libraries that are no longer native to the Processing install (Minim and Video).

    • kirby g / about 9 years ago / 1

      It covers 2.0

  • Member #365531 / about 9 years ago / 1

    Looking forward to checking out the book. Just saw a great example of this type of thing here:

  • Member #389028 / about 9 years ago / 1

    Is it available as a PDF or in some other electronic format?

    • Member #88257 / about 9 years ago / 1

      Amazon has one for $16 and some change I believe.

  • SD / about 9 years ago / 1

    Finally I get the book. I like the design and layout. And even though it comes complete with a typo (to be expected with almost every book that comes out these days) I think this will be a good addition to my library and help me learn Processing. Thanks for making this available.

  • GeekRedux / about 9 years ago / 1

    Does this cover 2.0?

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5

Based on 5 ratings:

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1 of 1 found this helpful:

Great introduction and resource

I really enjoyed working through this guide. The author did a fantastic job of introducing a complex, and changing, code. Given operating system variations, updated code (was 2.2 in the guide - now 3.0.2), and complicated concepts, I feel the author did a fantastic job.

I had no previous Processing experience, and am not familiar with other Processing guides that are available, but have programmed in Fortran and Basic in the past (yes, I am ancient). I did several online 'One Hour of Coding' exercises last year and purchased the SparkFun Sandbox about a year ago. That used ArduBlock, which allowed an old programmer like me to program without learning the C/C++ syntax. However, I wanted to go further and this guide was a great help.

I did not do all of the exercises in the book, and currently uploading drawings is not available in version 3, but I was able, for example, to extensively modify the snowman drawing (Figure 2.13) to cycle over 30 sec and to add accessories (hat, scarf, pipe) and to blink his left eye at sec() == 18, to add trees with ornaments and blinking lights, add a pumpkin whose mouth changes from black to red over 30 sec while his eyes go from black to white and he turns red at sec() == 0, add the sun, whose rays change color every 2 - 5 seconds, etc. I was able to export this both as an app on my computer and, using Frames, as a video as a mov file.

After completing this guide, I am certainly not competent in Processing, but I was able to refer back to the Guide often for help. Many complex topics were covered in sufficient detail and with references for further reading, that I really recommend this guide as a way to learn basic interactive art. The code used is available online, which was nice especially where there were a lot of lines of code. Some changes had to be made (e.g., Sandbox analogReads had to be changed (for me) from A0, A1, and A2 to simply 0, 1, & 2 to get the code to run in Chapter 13, figure 13-13.

I certainly learned enough to make automated drawings and to export them to video files. I had fun and thought this was an excellent introduction to a complicated body of processing code.

2 of 3 found this helpful:

Impressed with the book

While I have found the book itself to be incredibly valuable, and one that I would recommend to anyone interested in teaching or learning this software, I do take issue with the sales aspect of this book.

The book is simply fantastic, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in learning or teaching the language, regardless of experience levels. It is great in that simply knowing how to type gets you immediate visual results immediately, and the progression is very clearly laid out and logical. In my opinion, it is the superior text to "Getting Started With Processing" (which I also have used and admired),

One significant strike, I would really like to see a quality text that spends more time on the Processing/Arduino connection. While this book addresses it well for one chapter, as a science prof. that connection is the major goal for me. I fully realize that may not have been the intended direction for this book, but I'd adopt a text that spent more time relating the two.

Biggest issue: I have long defended and encouraged my students to support Sparkfun, but the lack of links to O'Reilly's other publishing options (which I would have preferred) make me feel slightly cheated. I'm happy to support Sparkfun, and will continue to be an advocate, I hope they reconsider their publishing policies, because I there a number of truly great books yet for them to write.

Well done.

So far I like the book. I like the design. It is easy to read and the explanations are easy to understand. There is at least one mistake at the beginning of the book but aside from that I'm glad I purchased this book.

Well done

Very useful and well adapted to Arduino fan.

exactly what I needed

The book is written by a teacher whose instructional approach is perfect. The lessons are clear and organized so that the beginning Processing user gradually adds new skills on an as-needed basis. The projects are fun - my students are going to love to do them, as do I.