Skip to content
You are reading gnark development version documentation and some displayed features may not be available in the stable release. You can switch to stable version using the version box at screen bottom.

Updated on April 29, 2021


gnark objects

gnark objects implement io.WriterTo and io.ReaderFrom interfaces.

To serialize a gnark object:

// compile a circuit
cs, err := frontend.Compile(ecc.BN254, backend.GROTH16, &circuit)

// cs implements io.WriterTo
var buf bytes.Buffer

To deserialize, first instantiate a curve-typed object, as per gnark API design choices, these objects are not directly accessible (under internal/).

// instantiate a curve-typed object
cs := groth16.NewCS(ecc.BN254)
// cs implements io.ReaderFrom


Constraint systems (R1CS and SparseR1CS, for Groth16 and PLONK) currently use the cbor serialization protocol.

Other gnark objects, like ProvingKey, VerifyingKey or Proof contains elliptic curve points, and use a binary serialization protocol, allowing point compression.

We strongly discourage to using another protocol, because for security reasons, deserialization must also perform curve and subgroup checks.


Elliptic curve points, which are the main citizens of ProvingKey, VerifyingKey or Proof objects can be compressed by storing only the X coordinate, and a parity bit. This divides the required bytes that represent these objects by two, but comes at a significant CPU cost on the deserialization side.

These objects implement io.WriterRawTo, which doesn’t use point compression.

provingKey.WriteRawTo(&buf) // alternatively, provingKey.WriteTo(&buf)
pk := groth16.NewProvingKey(ecc.BN254)
pk.ReadFrom(&buf) // reader will detect if points are compressed or not.


Use WriteRawTo when deserialization speed >>> storage cost, otherwise use WriteTo with point compression.


Witnesses (inputs to the Prove or Verify functions) may be constructed outside of gnark, in a non-Go codebase.

While there is no standard yet, we followed similar patterns used by other zk-SNARK libraries.

For performance reason (witnesses can be large), witnesses are encoded using a binary protocol.

Two types of witnesses exist:

  • Full witness: contains public and secret inputs, needed by Prove
  • Public witness: contains public inputs only, needed by Verify

Binary protocol

// Full witness     ->  [uint32(nbElements) | publicVariables | secretVariables]
// Public witness   ->  [uint32(nbElements) | publicVariables ]


  • nbElements == len(publicVariables) + len(secretVariables).
  • each variable (a field element) is encoded as a big-endian byte array, where len(bytes(variable)) == len(bytes(modulus))


The ordering sequence is first, publicVariables, then secretVariables. Each subset is ordered from the order of definition in the circuit structure.

For example, with this circuit on ecc.BN254:

type Circuit struct {
    X frontend.Variable
    Y frontend.Variable `gnark:",public"`
    Z frontend.Variable

A valid witness would be:

  • [uint32(3)|bytes(Y)|bytes(X)|bytes(Z)]
  • Hex representation with values Y = 35, X = 3, Z = 2 00000003000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000002300000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000030000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000002


In the upcoming v0.5.0 release, we want to offer additional solutions for non-Go codebase.

See this Github issue.


This example is intended for a multi-process usage of gnark where you need to construct the witness in one process and deserialize it in another.


If the witness creation and proof creation live in the same process, refer to Construct the witness.

Full witness in Go

// witness
var w cubic.Circuit

// io.Writer
var buf bytes.Buffer

witness.WriteFullTo(&buf, ecc.BN254, &w)
// respectively witness.WritePublicTo(&buf, ecc.BN254, &w)
// in another process
proof, _ := groth16.ReadAndProve(cs, pk, &buf)
// respectively groth16.ReadAndVerify(proof, vk, &buf)
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].