Working with Colors

In this section we will examine color representation in GDI+ and how to use color-related functionality in real-world applications.

In GDI+, a color is represented by a 32-bit structure made up of four components: alpha (A), red (R), green (G), and blue (B), referred to as ARGB mode. Components' values range from 0 to 255. The alpha component (the first 8 bits) of the color represents transparency, which determines how a color is blended with the background. An alpha value of 0 represents a fully transparent color, and a value of 255 represents a fully opaque color; intermediate values produce results between these extremes. Real-world examples of alpha use include drawing translucent graphics shapes and images. Chapter 9 discusses the alpha component in more detail (see Section 9.6).

5.2.1 Color Spaces

It's hard for human beingsas perceptual entitiesto describe and represent colors. Color spaces provide a common frame of reference that helps represent colors. A color space contains components called color channels. For example, RGB space is a three-dimensional space with red, green, and blue color channels. To limit our discussion, we will cover the RGB (red-green-blue), HSV (hue-saturation-value), and HLS (hue-lightness-saturation) color spaces.

The RGB color space is the most commonly used namespace in computer programming because it closely matches the structure of most display hardwarewhich commonly includes separate red, green, and blue subpixel structures. It can be thought of as a cube in which length indicates the intensity of red, width indicates the intensity of green, and height indicates the intensity of blue. The corner indicated by (0, 0, 0) is black, and the opposite corner (255, 255, 255) is white. Every other color available is represented somewhere between those corners.

The HSV, sometimes called HSB (hue-saturation-brightness), and HLS color spaces can be thought of as single and double cones. The hue component represents the position on the cone as an angular measurement. The 0-, 120-, and 240-degree values of hue represent the colors red, green, and blue, respectively.

The saturation component describes the color intensity. A saturation value of 0 means gray (colorless), and the maximum value of saturation indicates pure color and brightness for the values specified by the hue and value components.

The value, or brightness, component represents the brightness of the color. A value of 0 indicates the color black (no brightness), and a maximum value indicates that the color is brightest (closest to white).

The Color structure provided by the .NET Framework library is based on the RGB color space. In Section 5.2.2 we will discuss how to use it in our applications.

5.2.2 The Color Structure

The Color structure represents ARGB colors in GDI+. This class has a static member property for almost every possible color. For example, Color.Black and Color.Red represent the colors black and red, respectively. Besides these static properties, this structure includes read-only propertiesA, R, G, and Bthat represent the alpha, red, green, and blue components, respectively.

The IsEmpty property checks whether a Color structure has been initialized (if not, there is no color). The KnownColor enumeration contains more than 300 colors, and each color is represented by its name. For example, Blue and Black members represent the colors blue and black, respectively. KnownColor also defines color combinations, such as LimeGreen and LightBlue. You can also find system colors such as ActiveBorder, ActiveCaption, Control, ControlText, Highlight, and InactiveBorder, using the IsSystemColor enumeration. The Name property represents the name of the color, which is a read-only property. The Transparent property is a static property that represents a transparent color.

The Color structure also provides some methods. The FromArgb method creates a color from the four ARGB components. This method has different overloaded forms with which an application can create a Color object from an alpha value only; from an alpha value with a Color object only; from three values (red, green, and blue); and from all four values (alpha, red, green, and blue).

The FromKnownColor and FromName methods create a Color object from a predefined color or from the name of a predefined color, respectively. The FromKnownColor method takes only one argument, of KnownColor enumeration. The FromName method takes one argument of string type as the color name. All members defined in the KnownColor enumeration are valid names for this method.


All three "from" methods (FromArgb, FromKnownColor, and FromName) are static.

The ToArgb and ToKnownColor methods convert an ARGB or KnownColor value, respectively, to a Color structure.

Listing 5.1 illustrates different ways to create Color objects and use them in an application to draw various graphics objects, including a filled ellipse with a red brush, a filled rectangle with a blue brush, and a line with a green pen. The application first creates four Color objects via the FromArgb, FromName, FromKnownColor, and Empty methods. The FromArgb method creates a translucent pure red Color object, using parameters 120, 255, 0, and 0. The FromName method creates a Color object from the string "Blue". The FromKnownColor method creates a color object from the known color Green.

Listing 5.1 Using the methods and properties of the Color structure

private void ColorStructMenu_Click(object sender,
 System.EventArgs e)
 // Create Graphics object
 Graphics g = this.CreateGraphics();
 // Create Color object from ARGB
 Color redColor = Color.FromArgb(120, 255, 0, 0);
 // Create Color object form color name
 Color blueColor = Color.FromName("Blue");
 // Create Color object from known color
 Color greenColor =
 // Create empty color
 Color tstColor = Color.Empty;
 // See if a color is empty
 tstColor = Color.DarkGoldenrod;
 // Create brushes and pens from colors
 SolidBrush redBrush = new SolidBrush(redColor);
 SolidBrush blueBrush = new SolidBrush(blueColor);
 SolidBrush greenBrush = new SolidBrush(greenColor);
 Pen greenPen = new Pen(greenBrush, 4);
 // Draw GDI+ objects
 g.FillEllipse(redBrush, 10, 10, 50, 50);
 g.FillRectangle(blueBrush, 60, 10, 50, 50);
 g.DrawLine(greenPen, 20, 60, 200, 60);
 // Check property values
 MessageBox.Show("Color Name :"+ blueColor.Name +
 ", A:"+blueColor.A.ToString() +
 ", R:"+blueColor.R.ToString() +
 ", B:"+blueColor.B.ToString() +
 ", G:"+blueColor.G.ToString() );
 // Dispose of GDI+ objects

Figure 5.1 shows the output from Listing 5.1.

Figure 5.1. Creating colors using different methods


The GetBrightness, GetHue, and GetSaturation methods return a color's brightness, hue, and saturation component values, respectively. Listing 5.2 reads the hue, saturation, and brightness components of a color and displays their values on the form by using the DrawString method.

Listing 5.2 Getting brightness, hue, and saturation of a color

private void HSBMenu_Click(object sender,
 System.EventArgs e)
 // Create a Graphics object
 Graphics g = this.CreateGraphics();
 // Create a color
 Color clr = Color.FromArgb(255, 200, 0, 100);
 // Get hue, saturation, and brightness components
 float h = clr.GetHue();
 float s = clr.GetSaturation();
 float v = clr.GetBrightness();
 string str = "Hue: "+ h.ToString() + "
" +
 "Saturation: "+ s.ToString() + "
" +
 "Brightness: "+ v.ToString();
 // Display data
 g.DrawString(str, new Font("verdana", 12),
 Brushes.Blue, 50, 50);
 // Dispose of object

Figure 5.2 shows the output from Listing 5.2. The values of hue, saturation, and brightness in this particular color are 330, 1, and 0.3921569, respectively.

Figure 5.2. Getting brightness, hue, and saturation components of a color


5.2.3 System Colors

The SystemColors class represents the Windows system colors; it provides 26 read-only properties, each of which returns a Color object. Table 5.1 lists the properties of the SystemColors class.

The following code snippet uses the SystemColors class to set colors of a few Windows controls. In this code we set the background colors of a text box, a radio button, and a button to inactive border, active caption, and control dark system colors, respectively.

textBox1.BackColor = SystemColors.InactiveBorder;
radioButton1.BackColor = SystemColors.ActiveCaption;
button1.BackColor = SystemColors.ControlDarkDark;


If you're wondering whether you can create a brush or a pen from the SystemColors class to fill and draw shapes, curves, and text, the answer is, absolutely. The following code snippet uses SystemColors to create SolidBrush and Pen objects. This code creates a solid brush and a pen from active caption system and highlight text system colors, respectively.

Table 5.1. SystemColors properties




Active window border color


Active window title bar background color


Active window title bar text color


Multiple-document interface (MDI) workspace background color


Control background color


3D control shadow color


3D control dark shadow color


3D control highlight color


3D control light highlight color


Text color of controls


Windows desktop color


Disabled text color


Highlighted text background color


Highlighted text color


Hot track color


Inactive window border color


Inactive window caption bar color


Inactive window caption bar text color


ToolTip background color


ToolTip text color


Menu background color


Menu text color


Background color of scroll bars


Background color of window


Thin window frame color


Window text color

SolidBrush brush =
new SolidBrush(SystemColors.ActiveCaption);
Pen pn = new Pen(SystemColors.HighlightText);


For performance reasons, GDI+ provides SystemPens and SystemBrushes classes, which should be used instead of creating a brush or pen from the SystemColors class. For example, the following method is advisable for creating system brushes and pens. This code snippet creates a solid brush and a pen from active caption and highlight text system colors, respectively.

SolidBrush brush1 =
Pen pn1 = SystemPens.FromSystemColor


Listing 5.3 uses the SystemBrushes and SystemPens classes to create a SolidBrush object and three Pen objects, which are used later to draw and fill graphics objects. The solid brush is created from the active caption system color, and the three pens are created from highlight text, control light light, and control dark system colors, respectively. Later the brush and pens are used to draw two lines, a rectangle, and an ellipse.

Listing 5.3 Using SystemPens and SystemBrushes

private void SystemColorsMenu_Click(object sender,
 System.EventArgs e)
 // Create a Graphics object
 Graphics g = this.CreateGraphics();
 // Create brushes and pens
 SolidBrush brush1 =
 Pen pn1 = SystemPens.FromSystemColor
 Pen pn2 = SystemPens.FromSystemColor
 Pen pn3 = SystemPens.FromSystemColor
 // Draw and fill graphics objects
 g.DrawLine(pn1, 10, 10, 10, 200);
 g.FillRectangle(brush1, 60, 60, 100, 100);
 g.DrawEllipse(pn3, 20, 20, 170, 170);
 g.DrawLine(pn2, 10, 10, 200, 10);
 // Dispose of object

Figure 5.3 shows the output from Listing 5.3. System colors were used to draw two lines, an ellipse, and a rectangle.

Figure 5.3. Using system colors to draw graphics objects



When you create pens using SystemPens, you cannot modify the width or other properties of the pen. The code will compile but will throw an unhandled exception when executed. If you create a pen using SystemColors, however, you can modify its width like this:

Pen pn = new Pen(SystemColors.HighlightText);

Pn.Width = 4;


5.2.4 The ColorConverter and ColorTranslator Classes

The ColorConverter class is used to convert colors from one data type to another. This class is inherited from the TypeConverter class, which defines the functionality for conversion of types and accessing values and properties of types. The TypeConverter class serves as a base class for many conversion classes, and ColorConverter and FontConverter are two of them. We will discuss FontConverter in more detail later in this chapter. Some of the common methods of the TypeConverter class (which are available in the ColorConverter class) are described in Table 5.2.

Table 5.2. Common TypeConverter methods




Takes a type as a parameter and returns true if the converter can convert an object to the type of the converter; otherwise returns false.


Takes a type as a parameter and returns true if the converter can convert an object to a given type; otherwise returns false.


Converts an object to the type of the converter and returns the converted object.


Converts a specified object to a new type and returns the object.


Returns a collection of standard values (collection type) for the data type for which this type converter is designed.


Identifies whether this object supports a standard set of values.

Listing 5.4 uses the ColorConverter class methods to convert colors. We store a color in a string and call the ConvertFromString method, which returns the Color object. Later we will use the Color objects to create two brushes that we will use to fill a rectangle and an ellipse.

Listing 5.4 Using the ColorConverter class to convert colors

private void ColorConvert_Click(object sender,
 System.EventArgs e)
 Graphics g = this.CreateGraphics();
 string str = "#FF00FF";
 ColorConverter clrConverter = new ColorConverter();
 Color clr1 =
 // Use colors
 SolidBrush clr2 = new SolidBrush(clr1);
 SolidBrush clr3 = new SolidBrush(clr1);
 // Draw GDI+ objects
 g.FillEllipse(clr2, 10, 10, 50, 50);
 g.FillRectangle(clr3, 60, 10, 50, 50);
 // Dispose of objects

Figure 5.4 shows the output from Listing 5.4.

Figure 5.4. Converting colors


The ColorTranslator class provides methods to translate colors to and from HTML, OLE, and Win32 color values. These methods are useful when you're using legacy color structures that pre-date the .NET Framework. For example, you may have legacy code that gives the HTML color representation of a color. Table 5.3 describes the methods of the ColorTranslator class. All of the methods are static.

Listing 5.5 uses the ColorTranslator class to translate colors from Win32 and HTML colors. Later these colors will be used to create brushes.

Listing 5.5 Translating colors

private void ColorTranslator_Click(object sender,
 System.EventArgs e)
 Graphics g = this.CreateGraphics();
 // Translate colors
 Color win32Color =
 Color htmlColor =
 // Use colors
 SolidBrush clr1 = new SolidBrush(win32Color);
 SolidBrush clr2 = new SolidBrush(htmlColor);
 // Draw GDI+ objects
 g.FillEllipse(clr1, 10, 10, 50, 50);
 g.FillRectangle(clr2, 60, 10, 50, 50);
 // Dispose of objects

Table 5.3. ColorTranslator methods




Translates from an HTML color representation to a Color structure.


Translates from an OLE color value to a Color structure.


Translates from a Windows color value to a Color structure.


Translates from a Color structure to an HTML color representation.


Translates from a Color structure to an OLE color.


Translates from a Color structure to a Windows color.

In a manner similar to the "from" methods just discussed, you can translate a Color structure into Win32, HTML, and OLE values using the ToWin32, ToHtml, and ToOle methods, respectively.


You can also transform colors using transformation methods. Some of the transformation methods are for scaling, translating, rotating, and shearing. We cover this functionality in Chapter 10.

GDI+: The Next-Generation Graphics Interface

Your First GDI+ Application

The Graphics Class

Working with Brushes and Pens

Colors, Fonts, and Text

Rectangles and Regions

Working with Images

Advanced Imaging

Advanced 2D Graphics



Developing GDI+ Web Applications

GDI+ Best Practices and Performance Techniques

GDI Interoperability

Miscellaneous GDI+ Examples

Appendix A. Exception Handling in .NET

GDI+ Programming with C#
GDI+ Programming with C#
ISBN: 073561265X
Year: 2003
Pages: 145 © 2008-2020.
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