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In Mac OS X 10.3 and later, use NSGradient. ~~ Alex Akers

How would I go about creating a gradient fill between a foreground and background color in a custom NSView?

Here is a very good example from the Omni Frameworks, annoted by Will Shipley:

I don’t think there is any API for this in Cocoa, so you’ll need to use CoreGraphics directly, here is an example of using the gradient fill support in an NSView subclass:

void Interpolate (void* info, float const* inData, float* outData) { outData[0] = inData[0]; outData[1] = sin(M_PI * inData[0]); outData[2] = 1.0; outData[3] = 1.0; }

@implementation MyView


How would I use this with two specific colors though?

The Interpolate-function receive a float in the range of [0..1] and should store the corresponding RGBA colour in the out array. So to go from red to yellow, use something like:

void Interpolate (void* info, float const* inData, float *outData) { static float red[4] = { 1.0f, 0.0f, 0.0f, 1.0f }; static float yellow[4] = { 1.0f, 1.0f, 0.0f, 1.0f };

float a = inData[0]; for(int i = 0; i < 4; i++) outData[i] = (1.0f-a)red[i] + ayellow[i]; }

Here is a category on NSBezierPath to do a linear gradient fill of an area using two specified colors.

//### globals CGColorSpaceRef colorspace = nil;

float start_red, start_green, start_blue, start_alpha; float end_red, end_green, end_blue, end_alpha; float d_red, d_green, d_blue, d_alpha;

@implementation NSBezierPath(MRGradientFill)

static void evaluate(void *info, const float *in, float *out) { // red *out++ = start_red + *in * d_red;

// green
*out++ = start_green + *in * d_green;

// blue
*out++ = start_blue + *in * d_blue;

*out++ = start_alpha + *in * d_alpha; }

-(void)linearGradientFill:(NSRect)thisRect startColor:(NSColor )startColor endColor:(NSColor *)endColor { CGShadingRef shading; static CGPoint startPoint = { 0, 0 }; static CGPoint endPoint = { 0, 0 }; int k; CGFunctionRef function; CGFunctionRef (getFunction)(CGColorSpaceRef); CGShadingRef (*getShading)(CGColorSpaceRef, CGFunctionRef);

// get my context
CGContextRef currentContext = 
	(CGContextRef)[[NSGraphicsContext currentContext] graphicsPort];

NSColor *s = [startColor colorUsingColorSpaceName:NSDeviceRGBColorSpace];
NSColor *e = [endColor colorUsingColorSpaceName:NSDeviceRGBColorSpace];

// set up colors for gradient
start_red		= [s redComponent];
start_green		= [s greenComponent];
start_blue		= [s blueComponent];
start_alpha		= [s alphaComponent];

end_red			= [e redComponent];
end_green		= [e greenComponent];
end_blue		= [e blueComponent];
end_alpha		= [e alphaComponent];

d_red		= absDiff(end_red, start_red);
d_green		= absDiff(end_green, start_green);
d_blue		= absDiff(end_blue, start_blue);
d_alpha		= absDiff(end_alpha ,start_alpha);

// draw gradient
colorspace = CGColorSpaceCreateDeviceRGB();

size_t components;
static const float domain[2] = { 0.0, 1.0 };
static const float range[10] = { 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1 };
static const CGFunctionCallbacks callbacks = { 0, &evaluate, NULL };

components = 1 + CGColorSpaceGetNumberOfComponents(colorspace);
function =  CGFunctionCreate((void *)components, 1, domain, components,
                        range, &callbacks);

// function = getFunction(colorspace);	

shading = CGShadingCreateAxial(colorspace, 
	startPoint, endPoint,
	NO, NO);

CGContextDrawShading(currentContext, shading);



You can use it like this:


The code above doesn’t free resources lit it should, so be careful about copy-and-paste. You might want to add something like this somewhere:


-Michael Rothwell (

I’m getting a ZeroLink ‘unknown symbol’ error relating to where() (and if I comment that out, absDiff()) … I assume I need to be including a library or several somewhere … Which ones? Jul 09 ‘05

Update - I feel like a moron. ;-) absDiff() isn’t some standard function in some library somewhere; it’s a relatively simple function like so:

float absDiff(float a, float b) { return (a < b) ? b-a : a-b; }

(sigh) As to where() - I have no idea what it is. Removing it (and adding the absDiff() function) made it run, but it’s still not really drawing anything. It compiled just fine, though. :-/ So … at least on Tiger, this example doesn’t seem to work.

Another Update: There’s definitely something wrong. Here’s what I’ve done so far. 1- I’ve removed the “where();” statement (I have no idea what this represents but that may be the problem). 2- Added the absDiff function above (also the only other difference). The problem is, I get a solid white rectangle surrounded by the stroked path. After some experimentation, I find that changing startColor (but not endColor) has mixed results. Some colors (such as redColor and greenColor) create the original color fading upwards into a different hue (corrected from ‘shade’) of the color. Other endColors make the rectangle remain a solid fill of startColor. I’m thinking that the alpha and / or the other color components on endColor might be zeroed out (but I’m having trouble visualizing what this would mean graphically).

So I guess the question is, what’s wrong with endColor?

Solution: Well for one thing I realized that the absDiff function should be handling floats to be more precise (to match the floats used in graphics functions). But the main problem appears to be things that are solid white or solid black. Using the following colors to get a pretty grey-white matte gradient:

NSColor * sColor = [NSColor colorWithCalibratedWhite:0.7 alpha:1.0];
NSColor * eColor = [NSColor colorWithCalibratedWhite:0.3 alpha:1.0]; 

What a night …

Since the code throughout this page is referencing NSRects, will it work with additions like NSBezierPathCategory or RoundedRectangles?

No, but you could make it work by sending the rounded path addClip before using the gradient. Just make sure to save and restore the graphics context beforehand. –AndyMatuschak

I’ve been playing with some code tonight to do a linear gradient fill in a bezier path using CoreImage. It’s not fully functional, but whatever, it kinda works (sorry, it’s just late and I don’t feel like playing with this code anymore). If anyone feels the need, please fix it up, it seems pretty fast. A few problems: if I apply an NSShadow before calling this fill method, it doesn’t really get applied (it does, but because of the clipping, it just doesn’t work as it should, not sure if there is a way around this).

Anyway, just post changes you make, this code seems somewhat simpler (and perhaps faster?) than the code above, and I think it could be made smarter to do caching (perhaps that’s overkill)…

@interface NSBezierPath (Additions)

@implementation NSBezierPath (Additions)


I’ve created a small class that does most of what’s done here. License is CC so feel free to use it.

see OAGradientTableView

You should also check out:

Andreas Mayer’s AMRollOverButton includes NSBezierCategories that do lovely gradient fills with rounded rectangles and everything. Very nice.

In 10.5 see NSGradient.