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Posted 2 Apr 2002

Color components editor control

, 2 Apr 2002
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This control lets you edit RGB or HSL components of a color, like in Paint Shop Pro.
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Sample Image - colors.jpg


When one comes to editing color values, a variety of free custom controls is available on internet. Most of the time they are color pickers, list boxes, property sheets with system and HTML colors, etc. They usually work with RGB components, sometimes with the HSL model. We felt that there was a lack with edit-based color editors and we decided to mimic one of the controls Jasc Software is using in Paint Shop Pro to edit a color value, component by component in the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and HSL (Hue, Saturation, Light) models.

You can see a screenshot of the well-known color dialog in PSP at the top of this article.

The goal is to develop a control having the same behavior and the exact same look. Why? Because we like this control and we feel it as a standard that should come naturally as an MFC class. We understand that this piece of code is not a revolution, but we are sure that some of you will find it valuable for their own project.

So let's go and first have a look at the object design of the classes we show in this article.


Our framework is composed of four GUI classes and two utility classes. As usual for a custom control, we derive the main class, GWCColorComponentEditCtrl (pretty long name), from CWnd. Doing this will allow the client to integrate the control in a Cdialog at design time (since we will also define a window class) or dynamically in any window.

This main class is linked to three internal components:

  • A CEdit instance: the user must be able to enter a value directly at the keyboard.
  • A CspinButtonCtrl instance: it's also convenient to modify a value by clicking on these small arrows.
  • A static window called GWCGradientColorWnd: this popup window makes easy to see the changes on the color by dragging the mouse from the minimum to the maximum value allowed (0 to 255).

Here is the class diagram showing the links between all these elements :

As you can see there is another class called GWCColorComponentSet. This is one of the utility classes we talked above. We created it for the following reason: most of the time, you won't use GWCColorComponentEditCtrl alone. Instead you will create three of them to edit the three components of a color (either RGB or HSL). As you can see on the PSP screenshot, they even show both models with six controls. GWCColorComponentSet allows to link all these components so that it keeps track of the edited color and notifies the group when one of them changes. It makes the client code and the effort to produce to use this framework minimals.

The other utility class, GWCColorFunc, is a static class providing utility functions for color conversions.

Note also the bottom colored line below the edit control. This is a convenient way to change the value with a quick drag of the mouse. There is no underlying window for this effect. Instead, the bar is drawn by GWCColorComponentEditCtrl.


We have made the code ready to be included as a library. Just unzip the source package in a directory. Open the workspace and compile all the desired configurations (a mix of release/debug/lib/dll/Unicode). All lib and dll files are produced in a sub-directory called bin.

In Visual C++ (tools -> options -> directories tab), add the bin directory to your list of library directories and its parent directory to the list of include directories. Either the bin directory is in your path or you copy the dlls in /windows/system32, it's up to you.

The source code is fully commented so we won't go into it. Let's just see how to use it in a dialog box. It's very simple:

In your stdafx.h file, add the following line:

#include <GWCCCEInc.h>

You don't need to insert a library file in your project because it will be done automatically with this included header file. However, you have to add a preprocessor variable in your project settings in the following cases:

  • If you want to use this control as a static library, define _GWCCCECTRL_STATIC_.
  • If you want to use this control as a DLL in one of your MFC DLL, define _GWCCCECTRL_IN_OTHER_DLL.

Of course, you must have somewhere a COLORREF variable (m_myColor) in your code to hold your color.


Create a GWCColorComponentSet instance to hold the controls we will create:

GWCColorComponentSet m_compSet;

In the dialog editor, create any number of custom controls you want and set their window class to "ColorCompEditCtrl". Their height should be the same as a standard edit control. Create the corresponding variables in the dialog header file.

GWCColorComponentEditCtrl m_myComponent;

One more step for the creation, in your dialog DoDataExchange method, add the following line for each of your controls:

DDX_Control(pDX, IDC_MYCOMPONENT, m_myComponent);

When created dynamically in a window instead of a dialog box, use the following method:

Allocate all the needed instances of GWCColorComponentEditCtrl and call their method Create. Use a height of 23 pixels for a standard look.


Now you must initialize each control and tell him what kind of component it represents. Basically, you do this in OnInitDialog:


Instead of RED you have the choice of GREEN, BLUE, HUE, SAT, LIGHT.

When you are done with that, you link all your components in the GWCColorComponentSet instance and set the initial color.




Your window or dialog box can be notified when one of the components changes. To do this you have to write a handler for a registered message.

In the header file add this in your message map:

afx_msg LRESULT OnColorCompChanged(WPARAM wParam, LPARAM lParam);

In the body add this:

// In your message map :

LRESULT CMyDialog::OnColorCompChanged(WPARAM wParam, LPARAM lParam)
	m_myColor = m_compSet.GetColor();
	return (LRESULT)0;

wParam contains the value of the component (0 to 255) and lParam contains the window identifier of the control that sent this message.


This software, source code and sample, is provided "as is". Aircom software makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety or suitability of the software, either expressed or implied, including without limitation any implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or non-infringement.


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

The Aircom team
United States United States
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Comments and Discussions

Answer Pin 8:02
suss 8:02 
GeneralProblem to create dynamically a GWCColorComponentEditCtrl Pin
tiousi25-Jun-03 23:58
membertiousi25-Jun-03 23:58 
Generalsample is not completed Pin
payamtooba22-Mar-03 5:52
memberpayamtooba22-Mar-03 5:52 
GeneralSorry dude, but you forgot to include the original copyright Pin
Miklos Dusza4-Oct-02 3:16
sussMiklos Dusza4-Oct-02 3:16 
GeneralRe: Sorry dude, but you forgot to include the original copyright Pin
payamtooba27-Nov-03 4:07
memberpayamtooba27-Nov-03 4:07 

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