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iOS7 Day-by-Day :: Day 6 :: Tint Color

Posted on 27 Sep 2013 Written by Sam Davies

This post is part of a daily series of posts introducing the most exciting new parts of iOS7 for developers -#iOS7DayByDay. To see the posts you’ve missed check out the introduction page, but have a read through the rest of this post first!

A fairly small an seemingly unobtrusive addition to UIView, the tintColor property is actually incredibly powerful. Today we’ll look at how to use it, including tinting iOS standard controls, using tintColor in our own controls and even how to recolor images.

The code for this blog post is available in the github repo which accompanies this series – at github.com/ShinobiControls/iOS7-day-by-day.

Tint color of existing iOS controls

UIView adds a new property in iOS7 – tintColor. This is a UIColor and is used by UIView subclasses to change the appearance of an app. tintColor is nil by default, which means that it will use its parent in the view hierarchy for its tint color. If no parents in the view hierarchy have a tintColor set then the default system blue color will be used. Therefore, it’s possible to completely change the appearance of an entire app by setting the tintColor on the view associated with the root view controller.

To demonstrate this, and to see how tintColor changes the appearance of some standard controls, take a look at the ColorChanger app.

The storyboard contains a selection of controls – including UIButtonUISlider and UIStepper. We’ve linked a ‘change color’ button to the following method in the view controller:

- (IBAction)changeColorHandler:(id)sender {
    // Generate a random color
    CGFloat hue = ( arc4random() % 256 / 256.0 );
    CGFloat saturation = ( arc4random() % 128 / 256.0 ) + 0.5;
    CGFloat brightness = ( arc4random() % 128 / 256.0 ) + 0.5;
    UIColor *color = [UIColor colorWithHue:hue saturation:saturation brightness:brightness alpha:1];
    self.view.tintColor = color;

The majority of this method is concerned with generating a random color – the final line is all that is needed to change the tint color, and hence the appearance of all the different controls.

One UI control which doesn’t respond to tintColor changes as you might expect is UIProgressView. This is because it actually has 2 tint colors – one for the progress bar itself, and one for the background track. In order to get this to change color along with the other UI controls, we add the following method:

- (void)updateProgressViewTint
    self.progressView.progressTintColor = self.view.tintColor;

This gets called at the end of changeColorHandler:.

Tint Color 1Tint Color 2

Tint Dimming

In addition to being able to set a tint color, there is another property on UIView, which allows you to dim the tint color – hence ‘dimming’ an entire view hierarchy. This property is tintAdjustmentMode and can be set to one of three values:UIViewTintAdjustmentModeNormalUIViewTintAdjustmentModeDimmed or UIViewTintAdjustmentModeAuto. To demonstrate the effects this has we’ve added a UISwitch and wired up its valueChanged event to the following method:

- (IBAction)dimTintHandler:(id)sender {
    if(self.dimTintSwitch.isOn) {
        self.view.tintAdjustmentMode = UIViewTintAdjustmentModeDimmed;
    } else {
        self.view.tintAdjustmentMode = UIViewTintAdjustmentModeNormal;
    [self updateProgressViewTint];

When you flick the switch you’ll see that all the regions which are usually the tint color, now dim to a gray color. This is especially useful if you want to display a modal popup, and want to dim the background so as not to detract attention from the content you want the user to be concentrating on.

Using tint color in custom views

There is a new method on UIView which gets called whenever the tintColor property (or the tintAdjustmentMode property) gets changed in such a way that it affects this view. i.e. it changes on the current view, or if the current view has a nil value fortintColor then when the tintColor of the ancestor in the UIView hierarchy whose tintColor we’re adopting changes.

To demonstrate how this works we’ll build a really simple UIView subclass. It will contain a solid block of the tint color, a label which has a text color the same as the tint color, and a label whose text color will remain gray.

@implementation SCSampleCustomControl {
    UIView *_tintColorBlock;
    UILabel *_greyLabel;
    UILabel *_tintColorLabel;

- (id)initWithCoder:(NSCoder *)aDecoder
    self = [super initWithCoder:aDecoder];
        self.backgroundColor = [UIColor clearColor];
        [self prepareSubviews];
    return self;

- (void)prepareSubviews
    _tintColorBlock = [[UIView alloc] init];
    _tintColorBlock.backgroundColor = self.tintColor;
    [self addSubview:_tintColorBlock];

    _greyLabel = [[UILabel alloc] init];
    _greyLabel.text = @"Grey label";
    _greyLabel.textColor = [UIColor grayColor];
    [_greyLabel sizeToFit];
    [self addSubview:_greyLabel];

    _tintColorLabel = [[UILabel alloc] init];
    _tintColorLabel.text = @"Tint color label";
    _tintColorLabel.textColor = self.tintColor;
    [_tintColorLabel sizeToFit];
    [self addSubview:_tintColorLabel];

This first chunk of code creates the three aforementioned elements, and sets their initial colors. Note that since we’re being created from a story board, we need to set the sizes of each of our components inside layoutSubviews:

- (void)layoutSubviews
    _tintColorBlock.frame = CGRectMake(0, 0, CGRectGetWidth(self.bounds) / 3, CGRectGetHeight(self.bounds));

    CGRect frame = _greyLabel.frame;
    frame.origin.x = CGRectGetWidth(self.bounds) / 3 + 10;
    frame.origin.y = 0;
    _greyLabel.frame = frame;

    frame = _tintColorLabel.frame;
    frame.origin.x = CGRectGetWidth(self.bounds) / 3 + 10;
    frame.origin.y = CGRectGetHeight(self.bounds) / 2;
    _tintColorLabel.frame = frame;

So far we’ve done nothing new or clever – we’ve just built up a simple UIView subclass in code. The interesting part comes now – when we override the new tintColorDidChange method:

- (void)tintColorDidChange
    _tintColorLabel.textColor = self.tintColor;
    _tintColorBlock.backgroundColor = self.tintColor;

All we’re doing here is setting the colors of the views we want to respect the tintColor.

And that’s it. The tint color changing code in the view controller doesn’t need to change. Because of the way that tintColor works with the UIView hierarchy we don’t have to touch anything else.

Tint Color Custom 1Tint Color Custom 2

Tinting images with tintColor

The final rather cool part of the tintColor story is the ability to recolor images using the view’s tint color. Image tinting takes any pixels which have a alpha value of 1 and sets them to the tint color. All other pixels are set to transparent. This is ideal for adding image backgrounds to custom controls etc.

In this demo we’ll show how to recolor the famous Shinobi ninja head logo.

We’ve added UIImageView to our storyboard, and created an outlet in the view controller called tintedImageView. Then inviewDidLoad we add the following code:

// Load the image
UIImage *shinobiHead = [UIImage imageNamed:@"shinobihead"];
// Set the rendering mode to respect tint color
shinobiHead = [shinobiHead imageWithRenderingMode:UIImageRenderingModeAlwaysTemplate];
// And set to the image view
self.tintedImageView.image = shinobiHead;
self.tintedImageView.contentMode = UIViewContentModeScaleAspectFit;

We first load the image, and then we call imageWithRenderingMode: to change the rendering mode toUIImageRenderingModeAlwaysTemplate. Other options here are UIImageRenderingModeAlwaysOriginal andUIImageRenderingModeAutomatic. The automatic version is default, in which case the mode will change according to the context of the image’s use – e.g. tab bars, toolbars etc. automatically use their foreground images as template images.

Once we’ve set the image mode to templated, we simply set it as the image for our image view, and set the scaling factor to ensure the ninja’s head doesn’t get squashed.

Tint Color Image 1Tint Color Image 2


On the surface tintColor seems a really simple addition to UIView, however, it actually represents some incredibly powerful appearance customization functionality. If you’re creating your own UIView subclasses or custom controls, then I encourage you to make sure that you implement tintColorDidChange – it’ll make your work a lot more in-line with the standard UIKit components.

Don’t forget that you can get the code for this project on github at github.com/ShinobiControls/iOS7-day-by-day. If you have any feedback/comments then feel free to use the comments box below, or hit me up on twitter – @iwantmyrealname.


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