Visual Regression Testing (VRT) is a type of software testing technique that compares screenshots or images of a user interface before and after changes have been made to the application. The goal of VRT is to detect unintended visual changes that may have been introduced during development, such as changes to layout, colour, typography, or other visual elements.

Visual Regression Testing typically involves the following steps:

  1. Capture screenshots of the application or webpage before and after changes have been made.
  2. Compare the screenshots pixel-by-pixel to identify any differences.
  3. Review and analyse the differences to determine whether they are intentional or unintentional.
  4. Approve changes if they are intentional

How does it work?

Nightwatch uses JIMP, a Javascript image processing library with no native dependencies, to do the image comparison.

Nightwatch logic:

  1. Waits for the elements to be present
  2. Takes a screenshot
  3. Compares screenshot with baseline
  4. Displays visual differences between the current screenshots and baseline in the VRT report


Step 1

Install the plugin with this command:

npm i @nightwatch/vrt --save-dev

Step 2

Update the Nightwatch configuration to add the plugin to the list

module.exports = {
  plugins: ['@nightwatch/vrt']
  // other nightwatch settings...

Write visual regression tests

In order to use nightwatch-vrt, you only need to invoke the screenshotIdenticalToBaseline assertion and pass a css selector for the DOM element to compare. You may also pass a custom filename, visual_regression_settings overrides, and a custom log message.

The screenshotIdenticalToBaseline takes 4 parameters as an input:

  1. selector - Identifies the element that will be captured in the screenshot
  2. fileName - Optional file name for this screenshot; defaults to the selector
  3. settings - Optional settings to override the defaults and visual_regression_settings
  4. message - Optional message for nightwatch to log upon completion


describe('VRT demo test', function() {
    it('Test Google UI loads correctly', function(browser) {
            .assert.screenshotIdenticalToBaseline('body',  /* Optional */ 'custom-name', {threshold: 0.0}, 'VRT custom-name complete.')

The first time a test is run, a baseline screenshot will be created and stored on disk. You should always register the baseline screenshot. Further executions of this test will compare against this baseline.

Visual Regression Settings

Nightwatch VRT ships with carefully thought through default settings. Here is the list:

  1. generate_screenshot_path default none - Passed function that will generate a screenshot path
  2. latest_screenshots_path default "vrt/latest" - Path to the most recently captured screenshots
  3. latest_suffix default "" - A string appended to the end of the latest captured screenshot
  4. baseline_screenshots_path default "vrt/baseline" - Path to the baseline expected screenshots
  5. baseline_suffix default "" - A string appended to the end of the baseline screenshot
  6. diff_screenshots_path default "vrt/diff" - Path to the diff image of the two screenshots
  7. diff_suffix default "" - A string appended to the end of the diff image
  8. threshold default 0.0 - Matching threshold, ranges from 0 to 1. Smaller values make the comparison more sensitive
  9. prompt default false - If true, the user will be prompted to override baseline screenshot when the recently captured screenshot differs
  10. updateScreenshots default false - If true, recently captured screenshots will always override the baseline

However, these can be overridden globally via nightwatch.conf.js as shown below:

module.exports = {
//... other config
'@nightwatch/vrt': { latest_screenshots_path: 'vrt/latest', latest_suffix: '', baseline_screenshots_path: 'vrt/baseline', baseline_suffix: '', diff_screenshots_path: 'vrt/diff', diff_suffix: '', threshold: 0.00, prompt: false, updateScreenshots: false }, }

Further the settings can also be overridden passing as a JSON object (settings argument) as shown in the example as part of the screenshotIdenticalToBaseline assertion. Settings passed as a function argument will override the ones in the config file & default values.


Once the test-run is complete, a report would be generated. Under the vrt-report folder. You can either open it manually or use --open with the run test command to open the report automatically.

Baseline & Diff

This shows how the baseline image and along with the diff. Every pixel that did not match is marked as red in the diff image.

Baseline & Diff

As you can notice, the diff % is also shown. If the diff% is less than the threshold, VRT engine will not mark the test as failed.

Baseline & Latest

This shows how the current image differs from the baseline image.

Baseline & Latest


Once you have reviewed that all visual changes are intentional, you can update the baseline by using the --update-screenshots flag. This is important as all further comparisons will happen against the new baseline.


npx nightwatch <path to tests> --update-screenshots