Layer Description and Status


Layer libraries can be written to intercept or hook VK entry points for various debug and validation purposes. One or more VK entry points can be defined in your Layer library. Undefined entrypoints in the Layer library will be passed to the next Layer which may be the driver. Multiple layer libraries can be chained (actually a hierarchy) together. vkEnumerateInstanceLayerProperties and vkEnumerateDeviceLayerProperties can be called to list the available layers and their properties. Layers can intercept Vulkan instance level entry points in which case they are called an Instance Layer. Layers can intercept device entry points in which case they are called a Device Layer. Instance level entry points are those with VkInstance or VkPhysicalDevice as first parameter. Device level entry points are those with VkDevice, VkCommandBuffer, or VkQueue as the first parameter. Layers that want to intercept both instance and device level entrypoints are called Global Layers. vkXXXXGetProcAddr is used internally by the Layers and Loader to initialize dispatch tables. Device Layers are activated at vkCreateDevice time. Instance Layers are activated at vkCreateInstance time. Layers can also be activated via environment variables (VK_INSTANCE_LAYERS or VK_DEVICE_LAYERS).

All validation layers work with the DEBUG_REPORT extension to provide the application or user with validation feedback. When a validation layer is enabled, it will look at the vk_layer_settings.txt file to determine its behavior. Such as outputing to a file, stdout or debug output (Windows). An application can also register callback functions via the DEBUG_REPORT extension to receive callbacks when the requested validation events happen. Application callbacks happen regardless of the settings in vk_layer_settings.txt

Layer library example code

Note that some layers are code-generated and will therefore exist in the directory (build_dir)/layers

-include/vkLayer.h - header file for layer code.

Layer Details

For complete details of current validation layers, including all of the validation checks that they perform, please refer to the document layers/ Below is a brief overview of each layer.

Standard Validation

This is a meta-layer managed by the loader. (name = VK_LAYER_LUNARG_standard_validation) - specifying this layer name will cause the loader to load the all of the standard validation layers (listed below) in the following optimal order: VK_LAYER_GOOGLE_threading, VK_LAYER_LUNARG_parameter_validation, VK_LAYER_LUNARG_device_limits, VK_LAYER_LUNARG_object_tracker, VK_LAYER_LUNARG_image, VK_LAYER_LUNARG_core_validation, VK_LAYER_LUNARG_swapchain, and VK_LAYER_GOOGLE_unique_objects. Other layers can be specified and the loader will remove duplicates.

Print Object Stats

(build dir)/layers/object_tracker.cpp (name=VK_LAYER_LUNARG_object_tracker) - Track object creation, use, and destruction. As objects are created, they‘re stored in a map. As objects are used, the layer verifies they exist in the map, flagging errors for unknown objects. As objects are destroyed, they’re removed from the map. At vkDestroyDevice() and vkDestroyInstance() times, if any objects have not been destroyed, they are reported as leaked objects. If a Dbg callback function is registered, this layer will use callback function(s) for reporting, otherwise uses stdout.

Validate API State and Shaders

layers/core_validation.cpp (name=VK_LAYER_LUNARG_core_validation) - The core_validation layer does the bulk of the API validation that requires storing state. Some of the state it tracks includes the Descriptor Set, Pipeline State, Shaders, and dynamic state, and memory objects and bindings. It performs some point validation as states are created and used, and further validation Draw call and QueueSubmit time. Of primary interest is making sure that the resources bound to Descriptor Sets correctly align with the layout specified for the Set. Also, all of the image and buffer layouts are validated to make sure explicit layout transitions are properly managed. Related to memory, core_validation includes tracking object bindings, memory hazards, and memory object lifetimes. It also validates several other hazard-related issues related to command buffers, fences, and memory mapping. Additionally core_validation include shader validation (formerly separate shader_checker layer) that inspects the SPIR-V shader images and fixed function pipeline stages at PSO creation time. It flags errors when inconsistencies are found across interfaces between shader stages. The exact behavior of the checks depends on the pair of pipeline stages involved. If a Dbg callback function is registered, this layer will use callback function(s) for reporting, otherwise uses stdout.

Check parameters

layers/parameter_validation.cpp (name=VK_LAYER_LUNARG_parameter_validation) - Check the input parameters to API calls for validity. If a Dbg callback function is registered, this layer will use callback function(s) for reporting, otherwise uses stdout.

Image parameters

layers/image.cpp (name=VK_LAYER_LUNARG_image) - The image layer is intended to validate image parameters, formats, and correct use. Images are a significant enough area that they were given a separate layer. If a Dbg callback function is registered, this layer will use callback function(s) for reporting, otherwise uses stdout.

Check threading

layers/threading.cpp (name=VK_LAYER_GOOGLE_threading) - Check multithreading of API calls for validity. Currently this checks that only one thread at a time uses an object in free-threaded API calls. If a Dbg callback function is registered, this layer will use callback function(s) for reporting, otherwise uses stdout.


layers/swapchain.cpp (name=VK_LAYER_LUNARG_swapchain) - Check that WSI extensions are being used correctly.

Device Limitations

layers/device_limits.cpp (name=VK_LAYER_LUNARG_device_limits) - This layer is intended to capture underlying device features and limitations and then flag errors if an app makes requests for unsupported features or exceeding limitations. This layer is a work in progress and currently only flags some high-level errors without flagging errors on specific feature and limitation. If a Dbg callback function is registered, this layer will use callback function(s) for reporting, otherwise uses stdout.

Unique Objects

(build dir)/layers/unique_objects.cpp (name=VK_LAYER_GOOGLE_unique_objects) - The Vulkan specification allows objects that have non-unique handles. This makes tracking object lifetimes difficult in that it is unclear which object is being referenced on deletion. The unique_objects layer was created to address this problem. If loaded in the correct position (last, which is closest to the display driver) it will wrap all objects with a unique object representation, allowing proper object lifetime tracking. This layer does no validation on its own, and may not be required for the proper operation of all layers or all platforms. One sign that it is needed is the appearance of errors emitted from the object_tracker layer indicating the use of previously destroyed objects.

Using Layers

  1. Build VK loader using normal steps (cmake and make)

  2. Place in the same directory as your VK test or app:

    cp build/layer/ build/tests

    This is required for the Loader to be able to scan and enumerate your library. Alternatively, use the VK_LAYER_PATH environment variable to specify where the layer libraries reside.

  3. Create a vk_layer_settings.txt file in the same directory to specify how your layers should behave.

    Model it after the following example: vk_layer_settings.txt

  4. Specify which Layers to activate by using vkCreateDevice and/or vkCreateInstance or environment variables.

    export VK_INSTANCE_LAYERS=VK_LAYER_LUNARG_param_checker:VK_LAYER_LUNARG_core_validation export VK_DEVICE_LAYERS=VK_LAYER_LUNARG_param_checker:VK_LAYER_LUNARG_core_validation cd build/tests; ./vkinfo


Current known issues