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Updated on April 29, 2021

Prove schemes and curves

gnark supports two proving schemes Groth16 and PlonK. These schemes can be instantiated with any of the following four elliptic curves: BN254, BLS12-381, BLS12-377 or BW6-761.

An ID is supplied to gnark to choose the proving scheme and the instantiating curve.

Choosing a proving system

Quick system guide

Groth16 PlonK
trusted[^1] setup circuit-specific universal ⭐️⭐️
proof length ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
prover work ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️
verifier work ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️

Groth16 is best suited when an application needs to generate many proofs for the same circuit (for instance a single logic computation) and performance is critical, while PlonK is best suited when it needs to handle many different circuits (for example different arbitrary business logics) with reasonably fast performance.


Groth16 is a circuit-specific preprocessing general-purpose zk-SNARK construction. It has become a de-facto standard used in several blockchain projects due to the constant size of its proof, and its appealing verifier time. On the downside, Groth16 needs a circuit-specific trusted setup for its preprocessing phase.


We recommend this short explaination of Groth16.

Some projects that use Groth16 include ZCash, Loopring, Hermez, Celo, and Filecoin.


PlonK is a universal preprocessing general-purpose zk-SNARK construction.

It’s a proving scheme with a preprocessing phase that can be updated, and has a short and constant verification time. On the downside, PlonK proofs are bigger and slower to generate compared to Groth16.


For more information, we recommend this Plonk paper, and this Plonk article.

Some projects that use PlonK include Aztec, ZKSync, and Dusk.


PlonK comes in different version according to the chosen polynomial commitment scheme. For example:

There are also versions for the prover/verifier tradeoff. For example “fast-prover-but-slow-verifier” or “slow-prover-but-fast-verifier” settings.

There are also different optimizations. For example:

Currently, gnark supports PlonK with KZG polynomial commitment.

Choosing an elliptic curve

Both Groth16 and PlonK (with KZG scheme) need to be instantiated with an elliptic curve. gnark supports four elliptic curves: BN254, BLS12-381, BLS12-377 and BW6-761. All these curves are defined over a finite field \mathbb{F}_p and have an equation of the form y^2=x^3+b (b\in \mathbb{F}_p).

To work with Groth16 and PlonK, the curves must:

  • Be secure, for proof soundness
  • Be pairing-friendly, for proof verification
  • Have a highly 2-adic subgroup order, for efficient proof generation.


BN254 is used in Ethereum 1.x, BLS12-381 in Ethereum 2.0, ZCash Sapling, Algorand, Dfinity, Chia, and Filecoin, and BLS12-377/BW6-761 in Celo, Aleo and EY.

BN254 and BLS12-381 curves

For applications that target Ethereum 1.x mainnet, BN254 is the only supported curve. EIPs for other curves exist but are not integrated yet:

For applications that target Ethereum 2.0, use BLS12-381.

For platform-agnostic applications, the choice requires a tradeoff between performance (BN254) and security (BLS12-381). We recommend choosing BLS12-381 as it is more secure, still fast enough to be practical, but slower than BN254.

BLS12-377 and BW6-761 curves

Applications that require one-layer proof composition (a proof of proofs) cannot use BN254 or BLS12-381 as they are quite inefficient for this purpose.

In fact, such an application needs a pair (E_1, E_2) of elliptic curves that:

  • Are secure, for proof soundness
  • Are pairing-friendly, for proof verification
  • Have a highly 2-adic subgroup order, for efficient proof generation.
  • E_2 has a subgroup order equal to E_1‘s field characteristic, for efficient proof composition.

BLS12-377 and BW6-761 curves satisfy these conditions, while having fast implementations.


Given E_1 must have a highly 2-adic field characteristic, BLS12-381 cannot be used.


Some benchmarks and comparisons of third-parties implementations against gnark-crypto.

Some applications that use one-layer proof composition include ZEXE, Celo, Aleo, and Zecale.

Questions or feedback? You can discuss issues and obtain free support on gnark discussions channel.
For paid professional support by Consensys, contact us at [email protected]