Adding [Text] Shadows in iOS

Although it’s very simple, I often forget how to add a shadow in iOS using Objective-C. It’s not so much that I forget, but that there are certain required parameters that need to be set in order for it to work.

So I’ll post some examples here.

Using CALayer on a UILabel (Should work with any UIView subclass):

self.lblChampionName.layer.shadowOffset = CGSizeMake(0, 3); //default is (0.0, -3.0)
self.lblChampionName.layer.shadowColor = [UIColor blackColor].CGColor; //Default value is opaque black.
self.lblChampionName.layer.shadowRadius = 1.0; //default is 3.0
self.lblChampionName.layer.shadowOpacity = .5; //default is 0.0

Important Notes:

  • CALayer’s shadowColor property takes a CGColor not a UIColor. You can convert UIColor to CGColor using UIColor’s CGColor property as shown above.
  • shadowOpacity defaults to 0.0, if you don’t set it, you will not see your shadow.

Check the CALayer documentation for more information on the default values and their types.

Adding to a UIButton:

self.btnRollTheDice.titleLabel.shadowOffset = CGSizeMake(0, 2);
[self.btnRollTheDice setTitleShadowColor:[UIColor blackColor] forState:UIControlStateNormal]; //setting stately shadow color, also takes a UIColor, not a CGColor.

Adding to a UILabel without CALayer:

self.lblChampionName.shadowOffset = CGSizeMake(0, 2);
self.lblChampionName.shadowColor = [UIColor blackColor]; //takes a UIColor

Adding to a UIButton without CALayer.

self.btnRollTheDice.titleLabel.layer.shadowOffset = CGSizeMake(0, 2);
self.btnRollTheDice.titleLabel.layer.shadowColor = [UIColor blackColor].CGColor;
self.btnRollTheDice.titleLabel.layer.shadowOpacity = .5;

Adding drop shadow to a UIView.

If you want to add a drop shadow to a UIView (not a text shadow) you can apply the same CALayer approach as detailed in the first example.

Tidying up

Usually if you have one drop shadow (or text shadow) you want more. We can tidy up and centralize that using a Category in objective-c. See also: Programming with Objective-C: Customizing Existing Classes.

In Xcode 6, select File > New > Objective-C File then select Category as your file type. I named mine DropShadow. Type UIView under Class. This creates the appropriate UIView+DropShadow files.

This is what my code looks like:


#import <UIKit/UIKit.h>

@interface UIView (DropShadow)

- (void)addDropShadow:(UIColor *)color


And the implementation file,

#import "UIView+DropShadow.h"

@implementation UIView (DropShadow)
- (void)addDropShadow:(UIColor *)color
  self.layer.shadowColor = color.CGColor;
  self.layer.shadowOffset = offset;
  self.layer.shadowRadius = radius;
  self.layer.shadowOpacity = opacity;


and a sample invocation:

  [self.lblChampionName addDropShadow:[UIColor blackColor]
                        withOffset:CGSizeMake(0, 3)

It’s ultimately the same amount of lines—if you are hard line wrapping like I am—however now we have autocompletion and tabbing.

The next step would be to add some sensible defaults and convenience methods. I added one to our new category, for example:

const CGSize DS_DEFAULT_OFFSET = {0, 2};
const CGFloat DS_DEFAULT_RADIUS = 1.0f;
const CGFloat DS_DEFAULT_OPACITY = 0.8f;

- (void)addDropShadow:(UIColor *)color
  [self addDropShadow:color

And now I can add shadows like this:

UIColor *shadowColor = [UIColor blackColor];

[self.btnRollTheDice addDropShadow:shadowColor];
[self.lblChampionName addDropShadow:shadowColor
                      withOffset:CGSizeMake(0, 3)

Learn more about const CGStruct and the possible caveats of using the initializer list.

If you wanted to, you could probably add some sort of class methods to change the defaults, that way you could on a per-project basis change your default shadow arguments without too much trouble. But I won’t go into that for now.

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