Learn All Android Canvas Draw Functions

23 functions for drawing with Android Canvas

Aug 3, 2019 · 9 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Picture by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

If you would like to create custom view from ground up in Android, it’s helpful to know which draw functions are available on Canvas.

In this blog, I list every draw function available in Android Canvas: 23 of them. Do go through them. You might find some you never knew existed (I myself was surprised by some).

Below, I categorize them as:

  1. Geometrical Drawing
  2. Text Drawing
  3. Color Drawing
  4. Image Drawing

In case you don’t have experience making custom views, you can refer to the tutorials below:

Geometrical Drawing

Most people use Canvas to draw geometrical items.

1. drawLine

Simply draw one line.

canvas.drawLine(startX, startY, endX, endY, paint)
Image for post
Image for post

2. drawLines

If we want to draw more than a line, instead of performing drawLine multiple times, we could use drawLines. We just need to provide a flat float array list of the coordinate values as below.

startFirstX, startFirstY, endFirstX, endFirstY,
startSecondX, startSecondY, endSecondX, endSecondY),
Image for post
Image for post

3. drawPoint

While you could draw a point by drawing a line with the same start and end coordinates, this is considered a hack. So a drawPoint function is provided.

canvas.drawPoint(coordinateX, coordinateY, paint)

4. drawPoints

As with lines, you can draw multiple points with a flat float coordinate array.

startX, startY,
startSecondX, startSecondY),

5. drawRect

Draw a rectangle using coordinates or a Rect class.

Rect(startX, topY, endX, bottomY),
Image for post
Image for post

6. drawRoundRect

If you want a rectangle with rounded corners, use drawRoundedRect. It’s similar to drawRect but with the addition of radiusX and radiusY to define the curvature of the rounded corners.

canvas.drawRoundRect(rect, radiusX, radiusY, projectResources.paint)

It draws an evenly rounded corner if radiusX equals radiusY.

Image for post
Image for post

When radiusX = radiusY, it will have the usual rounded corners as below:

Image for post
Image for post

If radiusX is bigger than radiusY, it will end up similar to below:

Image for post
Image for post

If radiusX is smaller than radiusY, it will end up like this:

Image for post
Image for post

7. drawCircle

drawCircle is simple. It only requires the center coordinate and the radius.

centerCoordinateX, centerCoordinateY,
Image for post
Image for post

8. drawOval

Unlike drawing a circle, we don’t provide a radius. Instead, we provide a rect, and the oval will be drawn accordingly.

canvas.drawOval(rect, paint)
Image for post
Image for post

9. drawArc

Drawing an arc uses the same mechanism as drawing an oval: using a Rect. It has additional parameters, i.e. startAngle, sweepAngle, and useCenter.

canvas.drawArc(rect, startAngle, sweepAngle, useCenter, paint)

For the startAngle, count the middle end of the rect as the start, i.e. 90° clockwise. From there, the startAngle is considered 0°. The sweepAngle is then calculated from startAngle. Both use the angle degree ° value.

useCenter is a boolean variable to determine if the arc is connected to the center. The illustrations below depict the difference between useCenter as false and true.

Image for post
Image for post
useCenter = false
Image for post
Image for post
useCenter = true

10. drawPath

Sometimes, we want to draw something that’s not restricted to normal geometrical lines. We use drawPath here, where Path is an object that contains the paths we want to draw. It consists of functions such as moveTo and lineTo, like a pencil drawing and moving.

Below is an example where we drawPath of a cross mark.

val path = Path()
path.moveTo(startX, topY)
path.lineTo(endX, bottomY)
path.moveTo(startX, bottomY)
path.lineTo(endX, topY)
canvas.drawPath(path, paint)
Image for post
Image for post

drawPath is a very useful function. Many use it to make drawing app programs in Android. Examples below:

11. drawVertices

This is a relatively complex function, which draws triangles or vertices with the minimal points. For example, with six coordinates, one can draw four triangles:

Image for post
Image for post

When repeated, it can be used for complex 3D modeling. The art below (a 3D rose) is drawn with drawVertices.

Image for post
Image for post

Here is a detailed explanation of its function.

Text Drawing

If we had to draw text ourselves, that would be super-tricky. Thankfully, we have several nice options:

12. drawText

On Android, we normally use TextView for all our text. However, if we’d like better control of the text, such as dynamic changes, exact positioning, etc, the canvas drawText comes in handy.

The function follows, with text, coordinate, and paint:

canvas.drawText(text, coordinateX, coordinateY, paintText)

These are fun to play with if set correctly, as shown below:

Image for post
Image for post

You can find more detail here.

13. Draw StaticLayout

drawText does have limitations. It doesn’t wrap the longer word to the second line. It also doesn’t handle the /n carry return.

For that, we need a StaticLayout to draw text that can wrap a long word to the second line.

StaticLayout is not really a draw function of the canvas, but instead draws itself into the canvas. Below is how it is drawn:

val staticLayout =
TEXT, 0, TEXT.length, textPaint, width

canvas.translate(coordinateX, coordinateY)

The result:

Image for post
Image for post

14. drawPosText

drawPosText enables each character to be placed at a specified position. Below, the word fly is written at different Y positions.

Image for post
Image for post

The API is below:

val posArray = listOf(x1, y1, x2, y2, x3, y3 ...).toFloatArray()canvas.drawPosText(TEXT, startIndex, endIndex, posArray, paint)

The provided coordinate points need to be at least same as the letters to be drawn, or it will crash. The documentation notes:

[This API is deprecated] because this method does not support glyph composition and decomposition and should therefore not be used to render complex scripts. It also doesn’t handle supplementary characters (eg emoji)

15. drawTextOnPath

Coupled with a path, we can position our text along the provided path.

The x and y positions are relative to the position of the given path.

canvas.drawTextOnPath(TEXT, path, x, y, paint)

Below is an example of a V-shaped path, and we draw our text along the path.

Image for post
Image for post

16. drawTextRun

This is a little more complicated, as it is generally not used with English words. It only applies to language with letters that are drawn differently depending on the visibility of surrounding letters.

For example, the image below has two lines of two letters. The two letters in both lines are the same. However, they are written differently. In the first line, they are part of a larger word, while the second line states the two letters individually.

Image for post
Image for post

To understand better, refer to this blog.

Color Drawing

Coloring is useful for the foreground and background of the canvas we’re drawing on. Check it out, as there’s a fancy one…

17. drawRGB

This is just drawing a color over the canvas. This is useful for setting a background color.

canvas.drawRGB(red, green, blue)
// Each is between 0 and 255, where 0 is not there, and 255 is full.
// When alpha is 255, it is opaque, and 0 is transparent.

18. drawARGB

Similar to drawRGB, this adds the ability to make the color semi-transparent.

canvas.drawARGB(alpha, red, green, blue)
// When alpha is 255, it is opaque, and 0 is transparent.

This is useful to set the front color and dim the item behind.

Image for post
Image for post
Original Image
Image for post
Image for post
Semi transparent red dimming the image

19. drawColor

In case we’d like to use a resource’s color instead of setting our own ARGB color, we can use this API.


20. drawPaint

Sometimes, we like to paint fancier colors. Instead of using ARGB or a resource color, we could create a Paint object. Below is an example:

val gradientPaint by lazy {
Paint().apply {
shader = RadialGradient(
Image for post
Image for post

Image Drawing

Without the ability to load images to draw and manipulate them, canvas drawing would be incomplete. So let’s explore what we have…

21. drawBitmap

Given a bitmap, we can draw it into the canvas.

private val bitmap by lazy {
BitmapFactory.decodeResource(resources, R.drawable.image)
canvas.drawBitmap(bitmap, sourceRect, destRect, paint)

The required parameters are bitmap and destRect.

  • The bitmap can be extracted from resources.
  • destRect is the rectangle area of the canvas to be drawn onto.

The optional ones (could be null) are sourceRect and paint.

  • sourceRect is a rectangle representing which subset of the picture to draw. When it is null, the entire picture is taken. (Note: this is very useful for some animation, when a picture of the entire animated drawing is added, and only a subset is shown at a time, as seen here.)
  • paint could be set to null, and the Bitmap will still be drawn as usual. paint is useful if we plan to mask it out with another image. An example is shown in this StackOverflow.

22. drawPicture

If you have a combination of things to draw, and this happens multiple times, and you don’t want the processing to be slow and have to redraw them each tim, you could put your entire drawing into Picture.

Below is a simple example where we store our drawing into a Picture:

private val picture by lazy {
val picture = Picture()
val pCanvas = picture.beginRecording(width, height)
pCanvas.drawBitmap(bitmap, null, rect, null)

When needed, just perform this:


This would speed up your entire process of drawing for things that need to be drawn over and over again.

23. drawBitmapMesh

This is to manipulate the bitmap image drawn. Given an image, we could set coordinates within the image, and translate a point to another position, hence transforming the image of it.

E.g. the below image with the center X, Y is shown in the white line cross-section.

Image for post
Image for post

However, using drawBitmapMesh, we could shift the coordinate and transform the image accordingly.

Image for post
Image for post

Refer to this blog for more information.

You can find all these code examples of Canvas drawing here.

Have fun with Android Canvas Drawing!

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store