ColorUtils 1.1.3

ColorUtils 1.1.3

LangLanguage Obj-CObjective C
License zlib
ReleasedLast Release Dec 2014

Maintained by Nick Lockwood.

  • By
  • Nick Lockwood


ColorUtils is a category on UIColor that extends it with some commonly needed features that were left out of the standard API.

UIColor is a thin wrapper around CGColor, which supports a wide variety of different formats, making it very flexible. This flexibility comes at a cost to usability for common tasks however; for example, it's non-trivial to access the red, green and blue components of an RGB color, and it is difficult to compare colors because [UIColor blackColor] is treated as different from [UIColor colorWithRed:0 green:0 blue:0 alpha:1] even though they are identical on screen. ColorUtils makes these tasks easy.

Another common problem is that RGBA UIColors are specified using four floating point values in the range 0.0 to 1.0, but virtually all graphics software treats colors as having integer components in the range 0 - 255, often represented as a hexadecimal string. ColorUtils lets you specify colors as hexadecimals so you can copy and paste values directly from PhotoShop.

Supported iOS & SDK Versions

  • Supported build target - iOS 8.0 (Xcode 6.0, Apple LLVM compiler 6.0)
  • Earliest supported deployment target - iOS 6.0
  • Earliest compatible deployment target - iOS 4.3

NOTE: 'Supported' means that the library has been tested with this version. 'Compatible' means that the library should work on this iOS version (i.e. it doesn't rely on any unavailable SDK features) but is no longer being tested for compatibility and may require tweaking or bug fixes to run correctly.

ARC Compatibility

As of version 1.1, ColorUtils requires ARC. If you wish to use ColorUtils in a non-ARC project, just add the -fobjc-arc compiler flag to the ColorUtils.m class. To do this, go to the Build Phases tab in your target settings, open the Compile Sources group, double-click iRate.m in the list and type -fobjc-arc into the popover.

If you wish to convert your whole project to ARC, comment out the #error line in ColorUtils.m, then run the Edit > Refactor > Convert to Objective-C ARC... tool in Xcode and make sure all files that you wish to use ARC for (including ColorUtils.m) are checked.


To use ColorUtils in an app, just drag the ColorUtils.h and .m files into your project.

Thread Safety

ColorUtils methods should be fully thread-safe, however note that calls to registerColor:forName: and colorWithString:/initWithString: will be queued and may cause deadlock if called concurrently from multiple threads.


@property (nonatomic, readonly) CGFloat red; @property (nonatomic, readonly) CGFloat green; @property (nonatomic, readonly) CGFloat blue; @property (nonatomic, readonly) CGFloat alpha;

These properties give you direct (read only) access to the red, green, blue and alpha color components. Now of course, not all UIColors have these attributes, so for monochromatic colors the red, green and blue values will all be the same value, and for non-RGB colors such as CMYK, patterned or indexed colors, these values will log a warning when accessed and return zero. To avoid generating these warnings, call the isMonochromeOrRGB method before attempting to access the components.


  • (void)registerColor:(UIColor *)color forName:(NSString *)name;

Register a custom color with a name for use with the colorWithString: method.

  • (UIColor *)colorWithString:(NSString *)string;
  • (UIColor *)initWithString:(NSString *)string;

These methods create a color object by parsing the supplied string. The string is first checked to see if it matches any standard color constants names (the check is case insensitive) and if not, an attempt is made to parse the string as a hexadecimal value.

Hexadecimal strings can be prefixed with #, 0x or nothing and can have 3, 6 or 8 digits. 6 digits is the standard rrggbb format, 8 is the same but with an alpha component, 3 is a shorthand used commonly in CSS, where each hex digit is repeated, so #29f becomes #2299ff, for example.

  • (UIColor *)colorWithRGBValue:(uint32_t)rgb;
  • (UIColor *)initWithRGBValue:(uint32_t)rgb;

These methods create a color using a single RGB value encoded as an integer. This may seem rather obscure until you realise that such a value can be created easily using a hexadecimal constant, e.g 0xff0000 for red. This is more efficient than using a hex string.

  • (UIColor *)colorWithRGBAValue:(uint32_t)rgba;
  • (UIColor *)initWithRGBAValue:(uint32_t)rgba;

This method is the same as colorWithRGBValue except that the input value includes an alpha component, e.g 0xff00007f for 50% transparent red. Do not mix up the colorWithRGBValue and colorWithRGBAValue methods as RGB integer values and RGBA integer values are not interchangeable.

  • (uint32_t)RGBValue;

This returns the color's RGB components as single integer value. This is useful for saving color values to disk, and can be used as the input to the colorWithRGBValue method to re-create the UIColor later. This value can be hard to interpret, but you can convert it to a more readable hex value using NSLog(@"color: %.6x", intColorValue). Note that this method only works for monochrome or RGB(A) colors. Any other format (e.g. pattern) will log a warning and return 0 (black).

  • (uint32_t)RGBAValue;

This method is the same as RGBValue except that the returned value includes an alpha component. You can convert this to a hex string using NSLog(@"color: %.8x", intColorValue). As above, this only works with monochrome or RGB(A) colors.

  • (NSString *)stringValue;

This method converts the color to a string by first matching it against known color constants, and returning their name if there's a match, and then by converting it to a 6 or 8 digit hex string, depending on whether the color has an alpha component. This value is useful if you want to log or display the color, and can also be used to save and re-create the color by passing the string to the colorWithString method.

  • (BOOL)isMonochromeOrRGB;

This method returns YES if the color is a monochrome or RGB-formatted color. Many of the ColorUtils methods only work correctly on these color types, so this can be useful to check.

  • (BOOL)isEquivalent:(id)object;

The standard UIColor isEqual method returns NO if two colors have the same appearance but a different number of components. This means that [UIColor blackColor] is treated as different from [UIColor colorWithRed:0 green:0 blue:0 alpha:1] even though they are identical on screen. The isEquivalent method compares the RGBAValue values of the colors instead, and so is a more convenient way to compare colors for equality. If the colors are not monochrom or RGB, this returns the result of isEqual: instead.

  • (BOOL)isEquivalentToColor:(UIColor *)color;

Same as isEquivalent, but slightly more efficient if you already know that the object being compared is a UIColor.

  • (UIColor *)colorWithBrightness:(CGFloat)brightness;

Applies a multiplier to the red, green and blue components of the color to vary the brightness. The brightness argument should be in the range 0.0 - x, with 0.0 returning black and 1.0 returning the original color and values gretaer than 1.0 making the color brighter. Alpha is unaffected.

  • (UIColor *)colorBlendedWithColor:(UIColor *)color factor:(CGFloat)factor;

This method blends between two colors, using the supplied factor to control the level of blending. The factor value should be in the range 0.0 - 1.0, with 0.0 returning the receiver and 1.0 returning the supplied color.

Color Constant Names

The list of standard color constants can be found in the UIColor documentation, but is repeated here for convenience. Using color constants where possible reduces memory and improves performance by avoiding creating multiple identical UIColor objects in memory.

black -  Equivalent to 0.0 white
darkgray -  Equivalent to 0.333 white
lightgray -  Equivalent to 0.667 white
white -  Equivalent to 1.0 white
gray -  Equivalent to 0.5 white
red -  Equivalent to 1.0, 0.0, 0.0 RGB
green -  Equivalent to 0.0, 1.0, 0.0 RGB
blue -  Equivalent to 0.0, 0.0, 1.0 RGB
cyan -  Equivalent to 0.0, 1.0, 1.0 RGB
yellow -  Equivalent to 1.0, 1.0, 0.0 RGB
magenta -  Equivalent to 1.0, 0.0, 1.0 RGB
orange -  Equivalent to 1.0, 0.5, 0.0 RGB
purple -  Equivalent to 0.5, 0.0, 0.5 RGB
brown -  Equivalent to 0.6, 0.4, 0.2 RGB
clear -  Equivalent to 0.0 white, 0.0 alpha

You can register custom named colors using the registerColor:forName: method. Once registered, your custom color will be read/written by the colorWithString/stringValue methods, just like the standard colors.


Most of the methods and properties are fairly self-explanatory, but there is an example included that shows how to set colors by name or with hexadecimal strings.

Release notes

Version 1.1.3

  • Added missing UIKit import statement
  • ColorUtils is now fully thread-safe

Version 1.1.2

  • Removed upper limit on colorWithBrightness: method.

Version 1.1.1

  • Fixed some type mismatch warnings affecting arm64 builds

Version 1.1

  • Now requires ARC
  • Added registerColor:forName: method for adding bespoke named colors
  • Added colorWithBrightness: and colorBlendedWithColor: methods
  • Now complies with -Wextra warning level
  • Added CocoaPods podspec file

Version 1.0.3

  • Moved ARCHelper macros out of .h file
  • Renamed class files for future flexibility
  • Updated example for iOS6 and ARC

Version 1.0.2

  • Added automatic support for ARC compile targets
  • Now requires Apple LLVM 3.0 compiler target

Version 1.0.1

  • Fixed potential crash due to an incorrect retain count when initialising colors using a name string, e.g. 'blue'.

Version 1.0

  • Initial release