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Line Graph Component in C#

, 27 Oct 2011 CPOL
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Line graph is user control which can be integrated into Winforms. The X points are plotted against Y.
Sample Image - maximum width is 600 pixels


This is an article which explains how to create a user control which is generic in terms of functionality by considering a Line Graph Control. The Line Graph User control is the group of controls which includes panels, labels, Grids and so on. The control can be added to your tool box and can be dragged and dropped on to the winform. It contains all the features of a graph and can be just used like a component.


Any UI functionality we create should not be specific to the system that utilizes it. Always think in terms of its reusability as UI implementations require a lot of effort. For example, if you need to plot a graph on a winform, then most of us just implement the graph functionality on the form. Instead, think like implementing the functionality which can be reusable. To reuse the functionality, create a user control which can be reused by any system with minimal efforts. Creation of user control requires much of background work. It's just like collecting the requirements before we dive in to the actual implementation. Think in terms of the end user who uses the control and you get all the requirements to be met by the control.

Planning a Graph Control

Developing any graph component requires the following design options:

  • X Axis (Supporting x axis values, Label for the indication)
  • Y Axis (Supporting y axis values which includes different scaling features like logarithmic, linear so on. Label for the indication)
  • Plotting Area (Supporting Grids which includes scaling of Horizontal and Vertical grids)
  • Note: All the options related to Color (like grid color, Plot line color, background color) have to be taken care. The options to change the colors as and when required should be provided.

Using the Code

The Technical aspect in the implementation of the control is explained taking the design options as above into consideration.

Implementation of Y Axis

The Y axis contains the minimum and maximum range for the points that is to be plotted. The selection of minimum and maximum range depends on the application that utilizes it. There are two types of scaling that are supported by the graph as below:

  • Linear Graph: This graph consists of the range which has fixed value of increment. Here the increment factor is added to the previous values.
    Example: Increment Factor=2, Min =2 ,Values=2,4,6,8,10,12 and so on.
  • Logarithmic Graph: Here the increment factor is multiplied with the previous value.
    Example: Increment Factor=4, Min =1, Values=1,4,16,64,256,1024 and so on.
        //Method is called when we need to paint the y axis values
        private void mpanelYAxisPaint(object sender, PaintEventArgs e)
                //Take the graphics object to consideration
                Graphics g = e.Graphics;
                pnlYAxis.BackColor = Color.FromName(YAxisBackColor.Name);
                int l = 0;
                float k = LogarithmicMin;//Assign the minlogarithmic value
                int plen = 0;
                //Calculate the length of each grid
                int temp = plotArea.Height / NoOfYGrids;
                //Font object to paint Y axis
                Font mfYAxisFont = new Font("Arial", 7f, FontStyle.Regular);
                for (int i = 0; i <= NoOfYGrids; i++)
                    //If linear scale
                    if (!IsLogarithmic)
                        using (Pen p = new Pen(Color.Black))
                            //For correct alignment of characters to right 
                            //we are padding it.
                            mfYAxisFont, Brushes.Black,
                            new PointF(4f, this.plotArea.Height + 
					panelYExtra.Height - plen-7));
                        plen = plen + temp;
                        //Adding the increment factor
                        l = l + YGridInterval;
                        //if logarithmic
                        using (Pen p = new Pen(Color.Black))
                            //For correct alignment of characters to right,
                            //we are padding it.
                            mfYAxisFont, Brushes.Black,
                            new PointF(0f, this.plotArea.Height + 
					panelYExtra.Height - plen-7));
                        plen = plen + temp;
                        //multiply the increment factor
                        k = k * LogarithmicIncFactor;
                //Dispose the fone object as graphics object are very costly operations.
            catch (Exception ex)
                //Log the error

The drawing of the strings on y axis is implemented using the graphics object of y axis panel. Find the x value and the y value where the string has to be drawn.

Implementation of X Axis

The x axis contains the values for which the points are plotted against y. There are many technical aspects to be considered while drawing the strings on the X axis as below:

  • Synchronization of the values to be moved with the plotting of the graph
  • The interval between the two values displayed on the axis
  • The values have to be updated accordingly when the scroll bar event occurs

The code below shows the handling of graphics objects and the values accordingly updated when any event occurs.

//Method is called to point the x axis values i.e., time
private void mpanelXaxisPaint(object sender, PaintEventArgs e)
        int temp = 0;
        //Consider the graphics object of the x axis panel.
        Graphics g = e.Graphics;
        pnlXAxis.BackColor = Color.FromName(XAxisBackColor.Name);
        //The smoothing mode is set to Antialias which gives very smooth effect
        g.SmoothingMode = System.Drawing.Drawing2D.SmoothingMode.AntiAlias;
        int j = 0;
        //If scroll bar visible then calculate the number of 
        //moves the scroll bar as scrolled.
        if (!scrollBar.Visible)
            temp = Convert.ToInt32(totalPointTime) * GridSpacingX;
            temp = Convert.ToInt32(totalPointTime) * GridSpacingX -
            (((this.scrollBar.Maximum - this.scrollBar.LargeChange) -
            noOfMoves) * GridSpacingX);

        if (j < 0) return;
        for (int i = (this.pnlXAxis.Width - temp - this.panelExtra.Width);
        i <= this.pnlXAxis.Width && j >= 0; i += GridSpacingX, j++)
            if (j >= this.values.timeCount)
            //Draw the string by calculating the x and y values.
            if (Convert.ToInt32(this.values.GetTIMEIndex(j, "Time"))
            	% XValueDisplayInterval == 0)
                g.DrawString(this.values.GetTIMEIndex(j, "Time"),
                new Font("Arial", 8f, FontStyle.Regular), Brushes.Black,
                new PointF(i-3, this.pnlXAxis.Height / 12));
    catch (Exception ex)
        //Log the error

The number of moves in the scroll bar event is considered to update the values accordingly.

Implementation of Plot Area

The plot area consists of Grids and the values which are plotted against x and y. Before locating the points on the plot area Grids (Horizontal and Vertical) have to be drawn. The drawing of Horizontal and Vertical Grids with the required scale is user configurable. The number of Horizontal lines is determined by NoOfYGrids property and the interval between the Vertical lines is determined by the GridSpacingX property. The implementation is as shown below:


Here we divide the plot area with the NoOfYGrids, so that we get the Height of each Grid where a horizontal line can be plotted. To calculate the Vertical lines, we start plotting the lines from right corner and go on incrementing by the GridSpacingX value and is stopped while the incrementing value reaches beyond the plot area.

//This method paints the grid each time called
private void PaintGrid(Graphics g)
        //For smoothing.
        g.SmoothingMode = System.Drawing.Drawing2D.SmoothingMode.AntiAlias;
        using (Pen p = new Pen(Color.FromName(XGridColor.Name)))
            // Draw all visible, vertical gridlines
            for (int i = this.plotArea.Width - gridScrollOffset;
            	i >= 0; i -= GridSpacingX)
                g.DrawLine(p, i, 0, i, this.plotArea.Height);

        //Draw all horizontal lines.
        using (Pen p = new Pen(Color.FromName(YGridColor.Name)))
            // Draw all visible, horizontal gridlines
            for (int i = this.plotArea.Height; i >= 0; i -= GridSpacingY)
                g.DrawLine(p, 0, i, this.plotArea.Width, i);
    catch (Exception ex)
        //Log Error

Next comes the interesting aspect that is plotting the point on the plot area. The point is placed on the plot area with respect to X and Y value. These X and Y values are with respect to pixels. The code below explains the methodology used in the determination of points:

//This method paints the graph i.e., points on the graph

void PaintGraph(Graphics g)
        //For smooth drawing.
        g.SmoothingMode = System.Drawing.Drawing2D.SmoothingMode.HighQuality;

        #region general

            float dx = this.DX;
            float x = this.plotArea.Width;
            int t = this.values.timeValCount;
            int i = this.values.PointCount;
            int pointtracker = 0;

            #region Point

            if (this.values.PointCount == 0)

            if (--t <= 0)
                float distance = this.plotArea.Width;
                //To determine the distance after the plot area.
                    distance -= Convert.ToInt32(totalPointTime) * GridSpacingX;
                    distance -= Convert.ToInt32(totalPointTime) * GridSpacingX -
                    (((this.scrollBar.Maximum - this.scrollBar.LargeChange) -
                    noOfMoves) * GridSpacingX);

                //To determine the distance in the plot area.
                if (!this.scrollBar.Visible)
                    x -= Convert.ToInt32(totalPointTime) * GridSpacingX;
                    x -= Convert.ToInt32(totalPointTime) * GridSpacingX -
                    (((this.scrollBar.Maximum - this.scrollBar.LargeChange) -
                    noOfMoves) * GridSpacingX);

                //Assign the x and y points here
                //Here the ScaleY function is called where the
                //function returns the height in terms of pixels.
                p.Y=ScaleY(this.values.GetIndex(0, "Point"));
                //For Graph2
                if (NoOfGraphs == 2)
                    p1.Y = ScaleY(this.values.GetIndex2(0, "Point")) ;

            pointtracker =  1;
            //Continuous looping till all the points are plotted from the buffer.
            for (; ; )
                if (pointtracker == i || i <= 0)
                //Scale X is called here to determine the x point
                //where the point has to be plotted on to the plot area.
			(pointtracker, "PointTime"))), ref x);
                q.Y=ScaleY(this.values.GetIndex(pointtracker, "Point"));
                //Actual drawing takes place here
                using (Pen pen = new Pen
			(Color.FromName(PlotLine1Color.Name), PlotLine1Width))
                    g.DrawLine(pen, p, q);
                //Here the first point become the previous point.
                p = q;
                if (NoOfGraphs == 2)
                    q1.Y=ScaleY(this.values.GetIndex2(pointtracker, "Point"));
                    using (Pen pen = new Pen(Color.FromName(PlotLine2Color.Name), 
                        g.DrawLine(pen, p1, q1);
                    p1 = q1;

                //Incremented to check whether all the points from the buffer 
                //have been plotted.


    catch (Exception ex)
        //Log the error

In the process of plotting the points on the plot area, there are two points to be calculated dynamically as shown below:

  • X Axis point: The X axis contains the time in milliseconds. So each grid represents a second in the graph. Each grid is divided in such a way that the second should exactly point to the grid in terms of x value. For example:
    Sample Collected = 1100 ms
    Each Grid = 1 sec(1000 ms)
    Division of Each Grid= 10 parts(100ms*10)=1000ms
    So 1100 falls on the point as shown below:


    The code for the explained calculation is as given below:

    //For scaling the x axis point for 60sec and 10 min graph.
    private void ScaleX(float source, ref float x)
            double tempsource = Math.Ceiling(source);
             //Divide the grid to ten equal parts
            float temp = (float)this.GridSpacingX / 10;
             //Difference is divided by 100 to make it 100 equal parts
            double d = tempsource / 100;
             //The difference is multiplied with gridspacing ten equal parts
            double ans = d * temp;
             //Round the obtained result.
            ans = Math.Round(ans, 2);
             //Add the result to the reference variable for further action.
            x += (float)ans;
        catch (Exception ex)
            //Log the error
  • Y Axis point: The Y axis point contains the actual calculated point dynamically. The Y point represents the pixel(point) within the plot area.The calculation of the points with respect to linear and logarithmic is as shown in the code below:
  • //This method scales the point based on the height of the plot area
    float ScaleY(float y)
            //Calculate the height of each grid.
            float eachgrid = this.plotArea.Height / NoOfYGrids;
            //Calculate the extra space if any
            float extraspace = this.plotArea.Height - (eachgrid * NoOfYGrids);
            if (!IsLogarithmic)
                int h = this.plotArea.Height - 2;
                float t = h - ((y - 0) / ((NoOfYGrids * YGridInterval) - Min)) * h;
                if (t < 0)//if t exceeds the limit of graph then make it saturated point
                    t = 1;
                //Return the point in terms of pixels.
                return t + extraspace;
                //If the point is 0 then return the height of the plot area
                //which represents a point on the plot area as 0.
                if (y == 0)
                    return this.plotArea.Height;
                double ans = y;
                //Assign the Min and Max value for logarithmic scale.
                double min = LogarithmicMin;
                double max = LogarithmicMax;
                if (ans <= min)
                    return this.plotArea.Height - extraspace - 1;
                //logarthmic formula to calculate Y-point on logarthmic scale
                float t = (float)((this.plotArea.Height-extraspace) *
                ((Math.Log10(ans) - Math.Log10(min)) / 
    			(Math.Log10(max) - Math.Log10(min))));
                float ypoint = t;
                //if Calculated point is less or equal to 0 then ypoiny is 0
                if (ypoint < 0)
                    ypoint = 0;
                //If its more than the plot area than return the height - extra space
                if (ypoint > (this.plotArea.Height - extraspace))
                    ypoint = (this.plotArea.Height - extraspace);
                //Return the actual point.
                return (this.plotArea.Height - ypoint);
        catch (Exception ex)
            //Log the error
        return 0f;

Properties supported by the Line Graph Component


The actual logic behind the plotting of the Graph is that whenever a point is added to buffer, the plotArea is invalidated which causes the plotarea to paint again. So in the process of painting, all the points from the buffer are painted including the recent points that are added to the buffer which produces the view of running graph. The points that are to be plotted on the plotArea are added using the Add() method that is being exposed by the component as shown below:

lineGraph1.Add(graph1point,graph2point,time(in milliseconds));

Each time, the point added using the method as shown above redraws the graph which leads the user to experience the graph as runtime graph. If the user wants to clear the points form the buffer, then the method as shown below can be used.


This method clears all the points placed in the buffer and leaves the graph in the state as it was first launched.

Features Supported by Line Graph

  • Supports Cross thread reference (i.e., the graph can be updated from any thread)
  • Supports any number of points just by incrementing the Buffersize value
  • Supports 2 graphs to be plotted simultaneously
  • Supports user configurable layout and colors
  • Supports two scaling options (Linear and Logarithmic)
  • Accurate placing of points in terms of X and Y axis
  • Supports design time preview for all the properties
  • Supports buffer functionality i.e., a scroll bar appears to see the previous values
  • Scrolling the scroll bar towards left pauses the plotting of the graph but points are collected in to buffer in the back end. Double Click on the graph resumes the plotting with all the collected points.

Points of Interest

Developing a user control enriches the coding capability in terms reusability, logical ideas, meeting end user requirements and so on. After developing the line graph component, any solution to be provided I started thinking in terms of reusability. It was great fun and a challenging task developing the component as it includes many features. Each feature was very interesting to me as it requires some amount of designing as well as implementation methodology. Supporting design time preview was very interesting. I obtained a lot of information regarding GDI+ stuff as well as UI designing in the process of development. Interested people can just start with a small control which will be very useful to them in most of the scenarios. During the process of development you gain hands on many conceptual information. Next version of this component will be in WPF.

Note: The values used for the plotting of the graph in the demo are just hardcoded values taken from an array. If you use the control in your solution, you can add the points using Add() method from the realtime scenario calculated or obtained.


  • 27th October, 2011: Initial version


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


About the Author

Sandeep sunku
Software Developer Bangalore
India India
He is a software developer. He loves programming. Always willing to work on new technologies.

His only passion is "Updating on technologies"

Want to know more about me?

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