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Stop maintaining a separate icon file of every color, style, and resolution for your iOS projects.
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Demo Project
Editor Support

Masked Icons


MOOMaskedIconView is a UIView subclass that uses black-and-white masks to draw icons of different styles at various sizes and resolutions. It uses the same technique as UITabBar to generate disparate effects from a single icon file.

Tab bar icons

MOOMaskedIconView displays common image formats and PDFs, the native vector file format of iOS and OS X. PDFs are best—they're easy to maintain and resolution independent.


Create a green icon from a PNG

MOOMaskedIconView *iconView = [[MOOMaskedIconView alloc] initWithResourceNamed:@"icon.png"]
iconView.color = [UIColor greenColor];
[self.view addSubview:iconView];

Resize a PDF icon and add a subtle gray gradient

MOOMaskedIconView *iconView = [[MOOMaskedIconView alloc] initWithPDFNamed:@"icon.pdf" size:CGSizeMake(32.0f, 26.0f)];
iconView.gradientStartColor = [UIColor colorWithWhite:0.7f alpha:1.0f];
iconView.gradientEndColor = [UIColor colorWithWhite:0.5f alpha:1.0f];
[self.view addSubview:iconView];

Add an overlay to a red icon

UIImage *overlay = [UIImage imageNamed:@"overlay.png"];
MOOMaskedIconView *iconView = [[MOOMaskedIconView alloc] initWithImageNamed:@"icon.png"];
iconView.color = [UIColor redColor];
iconView.overlay = overlay;
[self.view addSubview:iconView];

Render a PDF icon into a UIButton

MOOMaskedIconView *iconView = [[MOOMaskedIconView alloc] initWithResourceNamed:@"icon.pdf"];
iconView.color = [UIColor magentaColor];
iconView.highlightedColor = [UIColor orangeColor];
UIButton *button = [UIButton buttonWithType:UIButtonTypeCustom];
[button setImage:[iconView renderImage] forState:UIControlStateNormal]
[button setImage:[iconView renderHighlightedImage] forState:UIControlStateHighlighted];
[self.view addSubview:button];

For more examples, check out the Demo Project.

How to use

First: Clone into a submodule

In your project's folder, type:

git submodule add git://

A submodule allows your repository to contain a clone of an external project. If you don't want a submodule, use:

git clone git://

Next: Add classes

Drag MOOMaskedIconView.h and MOOMaskedIconView.m into your Xcode project's file browser.

Note: An options dialog will pop up. If you're using MOOMaskedIconView as a submodule, you should uncheck "Copy items into destination group's folder (if needed)."

Then: Import the header

#import "MOOMaskedIconView.h"

Later: Update to the latest version

cd into the MOOMaskedIconView directory and run:

git pull

Creating image masks

Image mask process

An image mask is a black-and-white image that clips drawing. Quartz clipping follows three simple rules:

  • Black pixels render opaquely.
  • White pixels render transparently.
  • Gray pixels render with an alpha value of 1 - source pixel's gray value.

Mask images may not use an alpha channel, so icons with transparency must be set on a white background. For more information about Quartz image masking, see the Quartz 2D Programming Guide.

Scalable icons with PDFs

MOOMaskedIconView makes it easy to use PDFs as icons, eliminating "*@2x.*" files. Many Apple applications on OS X use PDF icons for resolution independence.

Next to the network, the biggest source of latency on an iPhone is the disk. For small, simple icons the PDF format adds a few KB of overhead over PNG. Because the iPhone loads data in chunks, in practice the difference in loading time is nothing. For larger icons a PDF of vectors can save space.

Some editors need a little massaging to export PDFs suitable for iOS icons. How-to instructions are here.


Forks, patches, and other suggestions are always welcome. Here's a quick guide to the process.

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