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WindowsVistaRenderer: A New Button Generation

, 23 Nov 2007 CPOL
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ToolStripRenderer that renders Vista like buttons
Screenshot - VistaRenderer.jpg


This article demonstrates how to use the WindowsVistaRenderer and how it was created.


Don't you miss the days when a button was drawn with a couple of lines to show a 3D effect? Drawing a button was as simple as drawing the light border and the shadow border. Those days are gone. Vista has arrived and our old apps may need to be renewed.

The first time you look at a button like the ones on Vista look and feel, you must feel dizzy. How to draw buttons like that? Well it turns out that it is not such a great deal. It took me a while to totally understand how these buttons are drawn, but I think the result is a good approach.

Using the Code

Thank God for the ToolStripRenderer technology.

To use this renderer on a ToolStrip you only need one line of code:

// Apply Windows Vista look and feel

toolStrip1.Renderer = new Renderers.WindowsVistaRenderer();

The Renderer initializes the necessary properties for the ToolStrip, except for the LayoutStyle property which I recommend to be the default HorizontalStackWithOverflow, otherwise the toolbar may look ugly in some cases.

The source solution contains a project named Renderers. Reference that DLL to your project or copy the source files to your project.

How to Draw a Button Like That

As I said before, the old-school buttons were drawn in a very easy way:

Screenshot - VistaRenderer1.gif Screenshot - VistaRenderer2.gif

The whole idea is to make the user think that he or she is really pushing a button, when clicked shadows were inverted, text pushed one pixel on x and one pixel on y, and the click effect was done.

The Vista buttons are way more complex. I've found different layers on the button drawing.


Three rounded rectangles are drown as a border, I call them the outer border, the border and the inner border.

Screenshot - VistaRenderer3.gif

Glossy Effect

A glossy effect is drawn on the north of the button. The green color represents an almost transparent color.

Screenshot - VistaRenderer4.gif


A radial gradient simulates a color glow on the south of the button. The green color represents an almost tansparent color.

Screenshot - VistaRenderer5.gif

Button Fill

Similar to the glossy effect, the inner border area is emphasized with a linear button fill from north to south.

Putting It All Together

Now, the order in which we draw these layers is critical. That order is:

  1. Outer border
  2. Button background color (if button is checked)
  3. Glossy effect
  4. Border
  5. Button fill glossy emphasis
  6. Inner border
  7. Glow
  8. Text and image of the button
Screenshot - VistaRenderer6.jpg

Some Other Details

To create the click effect, the color of the inner border and the button fill are changed. When clicked, the text is not pushed one pixel like in the old days.

When checked, the background color of the button changes. That color was extracted from the tabs on the MediaPlayer.

To make the toolbar a full-Vista-experience component, menus are drawn using the Windows Vista look and feel.


Thanks to Lukasz Swiatkowski for the methods on creating rounded rectangles and the bottom radial path.


  • 15 Oct 2007: Article creation
  • 25 Oct 2007: Subitem initialization by recursion solved (suggested by rvpilot)
  • 21 Nov 2007: Combobox and Textbox support. Better overflow chevron.
  • 23 Nov 2007: MenuStrip support.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Jose Menendez Póo
Team Leader
Mexico Mexico
I'm in game programming now:

Jose Manuel Menéndez Poó

- I've been programming Windows and Web apps since 1997.
- My greatest concern nowadays is user interface usability.

Questions and stuff by twitter: @menendezpoo


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Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 2 Pin
programmerdon17-Oct-12 8:15
memberprogrammerdon17-Oct-12 8:15 

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