Design Teardowns: API Cheatsheet

Hi there! I hope to summarize here the key elements in creating custom designs on iOS as a quick reference that will be useful to you.

General Views and Layers

With UIView being a thin wrapper over CALayer, many of techniques applying to layers also work with views.

Rounded Corners

Set the properties cornerRadius and masksToBounds on CALayer to get quick rounded corners.

view.layer.cornerRadius = 4  
view.layer.masksToBounds = true  

We need to set masksToBounds to true to allow clipping. Rounded corners also work with borders below.


Use the properties borderWidth and borderColor to create quick borders on a CALayer. The borders are drawn inside the bounds.

view.layer.borderWidth = 2  
view.layer.borderColor = UIColor.redColor().CGColor  

We set a CGColor, not UIColor, on the borderColor property. Borders work with rounded corners above.


The shadowRadius property determines the amount of blur the shadow gets while the shadowOpacity property affects how visible the shadow is. We're actually setting the properties on CALayer so if you're working with layers they work too.

view.layer.shadowRadius = 4  
view.layer.shadowOpacity = 0.5  

Shadows do not work when clipping is enabled using masksToBounds and hence you can't use this with rounded corners. A good workaround is to wrap your view in a container view and apply the rounded corners to the subview and shadows to the parent.

You can also change the color of the shadow using the shadowColor property.

view.layer.shadowColor = UIColor.redColor().CGColor  

Shadows also have a slight inset by default that makes them appear higher than the view. You can tweak or remove that effect using shadowOffset.

view.layer.shadowOffset = CGSizeZero  

Background and Opacity

Use the backgroundColor and alpha properties on UIView or the corresponding backgroundColor and opacity properties on CALayer to set the background and transparency of a view.

view.backgroundColor = UIColor.redColor()  
view.alpha = 0.5  

The alpha or opacity property takes a value from 0 (invisible) to 1 (fully visible). On CALayer, backgroundColor takes a CGColor.


A view's position is specified in 3 properties, center, bounds and transform. The frame property is a shorthand for setting/retrieving all 3 at once.

center - Determines the origin in the superview's coordinate space. You can use the anchorPoint property on CALayer to change how this is rendered (see below).

bounds - Determines the visible region (and size) of a view in its own coordinate space. Typically, the bounds starts at an origin of CGPointZero or (0,0) but some cases, like in UIScrollView, it also determines the visible region of the view.

transform - Determines the transformation of a view. This takes a value of type CGAffineTransform, which you create using the Core Graphics functions prefixed with CGAffineTransform. The default value is CGAffineTransformIdentity which resets the transform of the view/layer.

  • Scale; You can set the factor to scale (stretch) in both the horizontal and vertical directions. The value 1 is the default size.
view.transform = CGAffineTransformMakeScale(0.5, 0.5)  
  • Rotation; You specify the angle to rotate the view. Typically, you would pass in factor of the constant M_PI which is the value of mathematical constant Pi in radius (180 degrees.) You can also use the constants M_PI_2 (Pi divided by 2, 90 degrees) and M_PI_4 (Pi over 4.)
view.transform = CGAffineTransformMakeRotation(CGFloat(30.0 / 180.0 * M_PI))  
  • Translation; You can specify a distance (both horizontally and veritically) to move your view without changing its center/frame.
view.transform = CGAffineTransformMakeTranslation(100, 50)  

What's interesting is that you can mix and match the order of the above transforms to create more complex effects. We used the functions prefixed with CGAffineTransformMake above but you can use those without the Make prefix to combine transformations.

let transform = CGAffineTransformMakeScale(0.5, 0.5)  
view.transform = CGAffineTransformTranslate(transform, 100, 50)  

The order you apply the transformations matter. The Make functions are simply applying transformations to CGAffineTransformIdentity.

Anchor Point

The layer's anchor point, takes a value between 0 and 1 for both the horizontal and vertical direction in a CGPoint. This determines how far into the layer we will consider the origin (or center in a UIView or position in CALayer) to be.

The following example puts the origin on the right of the view but vertically centered.

view.layer.anchorPoint = CGPoint(x: 1, y: 0.5)  

The anchor point is critical when dealing with rotation transforms and decides where to rotate the view about.

Image Views

Positioning and Cropping

While contentMode is a general UIView property, the effect is most pronounced in UIImageView. When your image view's size is different from the size of the UIImage it is displaying, use this to get the right presentation.

imageView.contentMode = .ScaleAspectFill  

Here's some of the more interesting options:

  • .ScaleToFill - The default behavior; stretches your image to fit the image view (this may distort your image)

  • .ScaleAspectFit - Resizes your image proportionally so the entire image fits within the bounds of the image view

  • .ScaleAspectFill - Resizes your image proportionally so the entire bounds of the image view is filled with your image.

  • .Center, .Top, .Bottom, .Left, .Right, other combinations of directions - Positions your image so that the said edge/position of the image view and image are aligned.

Use this in conjugation with clipsToBounds set to true for a nice cropping effect.

Scroll Views

Scroll views are everywhere and the following techniques also apply to subclasses like UITableView and UICollectionView.


Use the contentInset property to add space around the content. You also use this property to move content above the keyboard when typing.

tableView.contentInset = UIEdgeInsets(top: 100, left: 0, bottom: 0, right: 0)  

You should also use the corresponding scrollIndicatorInsets to inset the scroll bars.

Scroll Position

Set contentOffset or setContentOffset(animated) to change the visible region of your scroll view.

tableView.contentOffset = CGPoint(x: 0, y: 100)  

If you're working with UIScrollView directly, you also need to set contentSize to tell the scroll view how wide and tall it should be before scrolling will work.

By default if the contentSize is smaller than the scroll view's bounds, scrolling is disabled. If you want the scroll view to scroll before bouncing back, set alwaysBounceVertical and alwaysBounceHorizontal to true.