Android Custom View Tutorial

Create an Android Custom View in Kotlin and learn how to draw shapes on the canvas, make views responsive, create new XML attributes, and save view state. By Ahmed Tarek.

Leave a rating/review
Download materials
Save for later

The Android platform has several View classes that cover many needs for a typical app. But sometimes these views don’t fit your needs and you need to build a custom view for reasons like:
  • Innovative UI design or animation
  • Different user interaction
  • Displaying different types of data
  • Some performance optimization
  • Reusability

In this tutorial, you will get a head start with Android custom views by learning how to make an emotional face view that can be set to happy or sad according to your user state, and through that you will see how to add new XML attributes to a custom view and how to draw some shapes and paths on the Android Canvas.

Prerequisites: This Android tutorial is all about custom views, so you need basic knowledge of Android programming and familiarity with Kotlin, Android Studio, and XML layouts.
If you’re completely new to Android, you might want to first check out Beginning Android Development Part One.

To follow along with this tutorial, you’ll need to use Android Studio 3.0.1 or later and Kotlin 1.2.21 or later.

Getting Started

To kick things off, start by downloading the materials for this tutorial (you can find a link at the top or bottom of the page) and then fire up Android Studio and import the starter project. It is (mostly) an empty project with some resources (colors, dimens and icon launcher).

Build and run the app, and you will see an empty screen like this:

Working with the Basic Widgets

Android has a set of basic widgets and the base class of any Android widget is the View class.
The following image shows a part of the basic widget hierarchy:

Basic Widget Hierarchy

You have two ways to create a new instance of an Android view and to set values for its attributes:

  1. From your XML files (layout files)
  2. From your Kotlin code

Working with Views in Kotlin

You can add a TextView to your layout from the Kotlin code. Open MainActivity and replace the setContentView(R.layout.activity_main) line in onCreate() with the following code:

// 1
val textView = TextView(this)
// 2
textView.text = "Hello Custom Views"
// 3

Here, you:

  1. Create a TextView by using the constructor which needs the activity context.
  2. Set “Hello Custom Views” as the text of the TextView.
  3. Set the TextView as the content view of the activity.

Build and run. You will see the text “Hello Custom Views” on your screen like this:

Working with Views in XML

Now open up res/layout/activity_main.xml. To use one of the basic Android widgets like TextView, just drag it from the palette window on the left into the design editor and drop it to the top center of the layout, or switch to the XML text editor and add the following lines to the XML code inside the RelativeLayout:

  android:text="Hello Custom Views"/>

You can change a lot of basic attributes from the View class in XML, such as id, layout_width, layout_height, alpha, visibility, elevation, padding, tag, etc.

To change an attribute, like the text of a TextView, just add the attribute name (android:text) and assign a value to it ("Hello Custom Views"), as in the last line of the previous snippet.

Reset onCreate() in MainActivity to use setContentView(R.layout.activity_main), and remove the code you added earlier. Build and run the project. You will see the text "Hello Custom Views" on your screen, like this:

Android Views

The Android View class is the basic building block of an Android user interface. A View occupies a rectangular area on the screen to draw itself and its children (for the case of a ViewGroup). Also, a View is responsible for user event handling.

ViewGroup is a subclass of the View class. ViewGroup is the base class for Android layouts, which are containers for a set of Views (or other ViewGroups), and define their own layout properties and also where each subview should draw itself.

Custom View and Custom ViewGroup

What is a custom View?

Sometimes you want to show a certain type of data and there is already a suitable view in the basic widget set. But if you want UI customization or a different user interaction, you may need to extend a widget.

Suppose that there were no Button widget in the basic widget set in the Android SDK and you want to make one. You would extend the TextView class to get all the capabilities related to the text like setting text, text color, text size, text style and so on. Then you will start your customization work, to give your new widget the look and feel of a button. this is what happens in the Android SDK the Button class extends the TextView class.

Or you could in theory extend the View class to start from scratch.

What is a custom ViewGroup?

Sometimes you want to group some views into one component to allow them to deal with each other easily through writing some specific code or business logic. You can call that a “compound view”. Compound views give you reusability and modularity.

For example, you may want to build an emotional face view with a sliding bar that the user can slide to the right to make the emotional face happier or slide to left to make it sadder. You may also want to show that state of happiness in a TextView.

You can group those views (ImageView, SeekBar, TextView) into one layout file, then create a new class that extends a layout (e.g. a LinearLayout or a RelativeLayout) and write your business logic in it.

Another reason for implementing a custom ViewGroup is if you want to make your custom ViewGroup align its children in a different and unique way. For example, laying out the children in a circle instead of linearly as in the LinearLayout.

How Android Draws Views

When an Android activity comes up into the foreground, Android asks it for its root view. The root view is the top parent of the layout hierarchy. Android then starts drawing the whole view hierarchy.

Android draws the hierarchy starting from the top parent, then its children, and if one of the children is also a ViewGroup, Android will draw its children before drawing the second child. So it’s a depth-first traversal.

Android draws the children of a ViewGroup according to the index of the child (its position in the XML file), so the view which you added first will be drawn first.

Android draws the layout hierarchy in three stages:

  1. Measuring stage: each view must measure itself.
  2. Layout stage: each ViewGroup finds the right position for its children on the screen by using the child size and also by following the layout rules.
  3. Drawing stage: after measuring and positioning all of the views, each view happily draws itself. :]

Creating a custom view

It’s finally time to start making a custom view yourself!

Start by creating a new Kotlin class and in the main app package and name it EmotionalFaceView. Make it inherit from the View class:

class EmotionalFaceView : View

Now if you hover on the word View you will get a message:
“This type has a constructor, and thus must be initialized here”

Android View Class Constructors

View has four constructors and you will need to override one of them at least to start your customization. Check out all of them to pick the suitable one for the tutorial:

  1. constructor(context: Context)
    To create a new View instance from Kotlin code, it needs the Activity context.
  2. constructor(context: Context, attrs: AttributeSet)
    To create a new View instance from XML.
  3. constructor(context: Context, attrs: AttributeSet, defStyleAttr: Int)
    To create a new view instance from XML with a style from theme attribute.
  4. constructor(context: Context, attrs: AttributeSet, defStyleAttr: Int, defStyleRes: Int)
    To create a new view instance from XML with a style from theme attribute and/or style resource.

Pick the second constructor to create your new instance from XML, you can override the constructor in the class body as:

constructor(context: Context, attrs: AttributeSet): super(context, attrs)

Or, make it the primary constructor using:

class EmotionalFaceView(context: Context, attrs: AttributeSet) : View(context, attrs)

Now you can add your custom view at the center of the layout and below the TextView, by adding the following lines to activity_main.xml

<!--Full path for the cusom view -->
   android:layout_below="@+id/textView" />

Congrats! You have created a custom view and you have added it to the layout! But it still has no your special customization.

Build and run the project, and as you expect there is no change in the UI, but don’t worry: you will start the fun part right now :]

Drawing on Canvas

Prepare your painting tools in EmotionalFaceView by declaring a Paint property for coloring and styling, and some colors:

// Paint object for coloring and styling
private val paint = Paint(Paint.ANTI_ALIAS_FLAG)
// Some colors for the face background, eyes and mouth.
private var faceColor = Color.YELLOW
private var eyesColor = Color.BLACK
private var mouthColor = Color.BLACK
private var borderColor = Color.BLACK
// Face border width in pixels
private var borderWidth = 4.0f
// View size in pixels
private var size = 320

Now start drawing by overriding the onDraw() method from the parent class. Android invokes onDraw() for you and pass a canvas for drawing:

override fun onDraw(canvas: Canvas) {
  // call the super method to keep any drawing from the parent side.

Create three new methods for drawing the happy face. All of them have a Canvas object as a parameter. Call them from onDraw():

override fun onDraw(canvas: Canvas) {
  // call the super method to keep any drawing from the parent side.


private fun drawFaceBackground(canvas: Canvas) {

private fun drawEyes(canvas: Canvas) {

private fun drawMouth(canvas: Canvas) {

Draw the face background
Add the following code to drawFaceBackground():

 // 1
 paint.color = faceColor = Paint.Style.FILL

 // 2
 val radius = size / 2f

 // 3
 canvas.drawCircle(size / 2f, size / 2f, radius, paint)

 // 4
 paint.color = borderColor = Paint.Style.STROKE
 paint.strokeWidth = borderWidth

 // 5
 canvas.drawCircle(size / 2f, size / 2f, radius - borderWidth / 2f, paint)

Here you:

  1. Set the paint color to the faceColor and make it fill the drawing area.
  2. Calculate a radius for a circle which you want to draw as the face background.
  3. Draw the background circle with a center of (x,y), where x and y are equal to the half of size, and with the calculated radius.
  4. Change the paint color to the borderColor and make it just draw a border around the drawing area by setting the style to STROKE
  5. Draw a border with the same center but with a radius shorter than the previous radius by the borderWidth.

Build and run the app, and you should see a screen like this:

Draw the Eyes
Add the following code to drawEyes():

// 1
paint.color = eyesColor = Paint.Style.FILL

// 2
 val leftEyeRect = RectF(size * 0.32f, size * 0.23f, size * 0.43f, size * 0.50f)

canvas.drawOval(leftEyeRect, paint)

// 3
val rightEyeRect = RectF(size * 0.57f, size * 0.23f, size * 0.68f, size * 0.50f)

canvas.drawOval(rightEyeRect, paint)

Here you:

  1. Set the paint color to the eyesColor and make it fill the drawing area.
  2. Create a RectF object with left, top, right and bottom using the following percentages of the size: (32%, 23%, 43%, 50%). Then you draw the left eye by drawing an oval with the created RectF. For more info about RectF, check the docs.
  3. Do the same as the last step but with the following percentages of the size: (57%, 23%, 68%, 50%)

Build and run the app, and you should see a screen like this:

Draw the mouth

To draw curved paths on a canvas you need to create a path object. Add the following property to the EmotionalFaceView class:

private val mouthPath = Path()

After creating the Path object, set the curving instructions for it by adding the following code to the drawMouth() :

// 1
mouthPath.moveTo(size * 0.22f, size * 0.7f)
// 2
mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.50f, size * 0.80f, size * 0.78f, size * 0.70f)
// 3
mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.50f, size * 0.90f, size * 0.22f, size * 0.70f)
// 4
paint.color = mouthColor = Paint.Style.FILL
// 5
canvas.drawPath(mouthPath, paint)

Here you:

  1. Set the starting point of the path to (x0,y0) by using the moveTo() method where:
  • x0 is equal to 22% of the size.
  • y0 is equal to 70% of the size.
  • Draw a curved path from the starting point and through (x1,y1) that ends with (x2,y2) where:
    • x1 is equal to 50% of the size.
    • y1 is equal to 80% of the size.
    • x2 is equal to 78% of the size.
    • y2 is equal to 70% of the size.
  • Draw a curved path starting from the last end point (x2,y2) and through (x3,y3) and that ends with (x0,y0) where:
    • x3 is equal to 50% of the size.
    • y3 is equal to 90% of the size.
    • x0 is equal to 22% of the size.
    • y0 is equal to 70% of the size.
  • Set the paint color to the mouthColor and make it filling the drawing area.
  • Draw the path to the canvas.
  • Build and run the app, and you should see a screen like this:

    Responsive View

    Currently, your custom view has a fixed size, but you want it to be responsive and fit its parent. Also, you want the happy face to always be a circle, not an oval shape.

    Android measures the view width and heigh. You can get these values by using measuredWidth, measuredHeight.

    Override the onMeasure() method to provide an accurate and efficient measurement of the view contents:

    override fun onMeasure(widthMeasureSpec: Int, heightMeasureSpec: Int) {      super.onMeasure(widthMeasureSpec, heightMeasureSpec)

    Add the following lines of code to onMeasure():

    // 1
    size = Math.min(measuredWidth, measuredHeight)
    // 2
    setMeasuredDimension(size, size)

    Here you:

    1. Calculate the smaller dimension of your view
    2. Use setMeasuredDimension(int, int) to store the measured width and measured height of the view, in this case making your view width and height equivalent.

    Build and run the app, and you should see a screen like this:

    Creating Custom XML Attributes

    To create a new XML attribute go to res/values and create new values resource file named attrs.xml. Add the following lines to the file:

    <declare-styleable name="EmotionalFaceView">
      <attr name="faceColor" format="color" />
      <attr name="eyesColor" format="color" />
      <attr name="mouthColor" format="color" />
      <attr name="borderColor" format="color" />
      <attr name="borderWidth" format="dimension" />
      <attr name="state" format="enum">
        <enum name="happy" value="0" />
        <enum name="sad" value="1" />

    Here you:

    1. Open the declare-styleable tag and set the name attribute to your custom view class name.
    2. Add new attributes with different names and set their format to a suitable format.

    Go to res/layout/activity_main.xml and add the following new views to the RelativeLayout:

       app:state="happy" />
       app:state="sad" />

    You have added two EmotionalFaceView objects to the layout, and are using the new custom XML attributes. This proves the reusability concept for the custom view.

    The first view has a happy state and the second view has a sad state. You will use both of them later to act as buttons with different themes and different happiness states, and

    Build and run the app, and you should see a screen like this:

    As you can see, the new XML attributes have no effect yet on the EmotionalFaceView. In order to receive the values of the XML attributes and to use them in the EmotionalFaceView class, update all the lines of code setting up the properties above onDraw() to be:

    // 1
    companion object {
      private const val DEFAULT_FACE_COLOR = Color.YELLOW
      private const val DEFAULT_EYES_COLOR = Color.BLACK
      private const val DEFAULT_MOUTH_COLOR = Color.BLACK
      private const val DEFAULT_BORDER_COLOR = Color.BLACK
      private const val DEFAULT_BORDER_WIDTH = 4.0f
      const val HAPPY = 0L
      const val SAD = 1L
    // 2
    private var faceColor = DEFAULT_FACE_COLOR
    private var eyesColor = DEFAULT_EYES_COLOR
    private var mouthColor = DEFAULT_MOUTH_COLOR
    private var borderColor = DEFAULT_BORDER_COLOR
    private var borderWidth = DEFAULT_BORDER_WIDTH
    private val paint = Paint()
    private val mouthPath = Path()
    private var size = 0
    // 3
    var happinessState = HAPPY
      set(state) {
        field = state
        // 4
    // 5
    init {
      paint.isAntiAlias = true
    private fun setupAttributes(attrs: AttributeSet?) {
      // 6
      // Obtain a typed array of attributes
      val typedArray = context.theme.obtainStyledAttributes(attrs, R.styleable.EmotionalFaceView,
          0, 0)
      // 7
      // Extract custom attributes into member variables
      happinessState = typedArray.getInt(R.styleable.EmotionalFaceView_state, HAPPY.toInt()).toLong()
      faceColor = typedArray.getColor(R.styleable.EmotionalFaceView_faceColor, DEFAULT_FACE_COLOR)
      eyesColor = typedArray.getColor(R.styleable.EmotionalFaceView_eyesColor, DEFAULT_EYES_COLOR)
      mouthColor = typedArray.getColor(R.styleable.EmotionalFaceView_mouthColor, DEFAULT_MOUTH_COLOR)
      borderColor = typedArray.getColor(R.styleable.EmotionalFaceView_borderColor,
      borderWidth = typedArray.getDimension(R.styleable.EmotionalFaceView_borderWidth,
      // 8
      // TypedArray objects are shared and must be recycled.

    Here you:

    1. Add two constants, one for the HAPPY state and one for the SAD state.
    2. Setup default values of the XML attribute properties, in case a user of the custom view does not set one of them
    3. Add a new property called happinessState for the face happiness state.
    4. Call the invalidate() method in the set happinessState method. The invalidate() method makes Android redraw the view by calling onDraw().
    5. Call a new private setupAttributes() method from the init block.
    6. Obtain a typed array of the XML attributes
    7. Extract custom attributes into member variables
    8. Recycle the typedArray to make the data associated with it ready for garbage collection.

    Build and run the app, and you should see a screen like this:

    As you see in the previous screenshot, the happinessState still has no effect, and both of the EmotionalFaceView buttons are happy.

    At the beginning of the drawMouth() method, add the following line


    This will reset the path and remove any old path before drawing a new path, to avoid drawing the mouth more than one time while Android calls the onDraw() method again and again.

    You want to make the face happy or sad, according to the state, in drawMouth(). Replace the mouthPath() drawing with the following lines of code:

    if (happinessState == HAPPY) {
     // 1
     mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.5f, size * 0.80f, size * 0.78f, size * 0.7f)
     mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.5f, size * 0.90f, size * 0.22f, size * 0.7f)
    } else {
     // 2
     mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.5f, size * 0.50f, size * 0.78f, size * 0.7f)
     mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.5f, size * 0.60f, size * 0.22f, size * 0.7f)

    Here you:

    1. Draw a happy mouth path by using quadTo() method as you learned before.
    2. Draw a sad mouth path.

    The whole drawMouth() method will be like this

    private fun drawMouth(canvas: Canvas) {
      // Clear
      mouthPath.moveTo(size * 0.22f, size * 0.7f)
      if (happinessState == HAPPY) {
        // Happy mouth path
        mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.5f, size * 0.80f, size * 0.78f, size * 0.7f)
        mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.5f, size * 0.90f, size * 0.22f, size * 0.7f)
      } else {
        // Sad mouth path
        mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.5f, size * 0.50f, size * 0.78f, size * 0.7f)
        mouthPath.quadTo(size * 0.5f, size * 0.60f, size * 0.22f, size * 0.7f)
      paint.color = mouthColor = Paint.Style.FILL
      // Draw mouth path
      canvas.drawPath(mouthPath, paint)

    Build and run the app, and you should see the top right button become a sad face, like the following screenshot:

    User Interaction

    You can let your user change the happiness state of the center emotional face view by clicking on the top left button to make it happy or by clicking on the top right button to make it sad. First, add the following line of code to the MainActivity import statements:


    Kotlin Android Extensions provide a handy way for view binding by importing all widgets in the layout in one go. This allows avoiding the use of findViewById(), which is a source of potential bugs and is hard to read and support.

    Now add the following click listeners to onCreate() in MainActivity:

    // 1
       emotionalFaceView.happinessState = EmotionalFaceView.HAPPY
    // 2
       emotionalFaceView.happinessState = EmotionalFaceView.SAD

    Here you:

    1. Set the emotionalFaceView‘s happinessState to HAPPY when the user clicks on the happy button.
    2. Set the emotionalFaceView‘s happinessState to SAD when the user clicks on the sad button.

    Build and run the app, and click on the both of buttons to change the happiness state:

    Saving View State

    You can save your view state in case there is any change in the device configuration, e.g., orientation, by overriding the onSaveInstanceState() and onRestoreInstanceState() methods.

    Add the following method overrides to EmotionalFaceView:

    override fun onSaveInstanceState(): Parcelable {
     // 1
     val bundle = Bundle()
     // 2
     bundle.putLong("happinessState", happinessState)
     // 3
     bundle.putParcelable("superState", super.onSaveInstanceState())
     return bundle
    override fun onRestoreInstanceState(state: Parcelable) {
     // 4
     var viewState = state
     if (viewState is Bundle) {
       // 5
       happinessState = viewState.getLong("happinessState", HAPPY)
       // 6
       viewState = viewState.getParcelable("superState")

    Here you:

    1. Create anew Bundle object to put your data into.
    2. Put the happiness state value into the bundle.
    3. Put the state coming from the superclass, in order to not lose any data saved by the superclass, then return the bundle.
    4. Check the type of the Parcelable to cast it to a Bundle object.
    5. Get the happinessState value.
    6. Get the superstate then pass it to the super method.

    Build and run the app, change the happiness state to sad, and change the orientation of your device. The center face should remain sad after device rotation:

    Where To Go From Here?

    Yes! You have created your own custom view :]

    You can download the completed project using the download button at the top or bottom of this tutorial.

    During this tutorial you:

    • Drew a circle, oval and a path on a canvas. You can learn more about custom drawing here.
    • Made the custom view responsive.
    • Created new XML attributes for the custom view.
    • Saved the view state.
    • Reused the custom view for different use cases.

    You can make your custom view even more interactive by detecting special gestures; check for more info here.

    Adding animation to your custom view can enhance the UX strongly. Check out Android Animation Tutorial with Kotlin.

    You can also learn more about drawable animation and Canvas and Drawables.

    Feel free to share your feedback or ask any questions in the comments below or in the forums. Thanks!

    Ahmed Tarek


    Ahmed Tarek


    Arun Sasidharan

    Tech Editor

    Joe Howard

    Final Pass Editor

    Over 300 content creators. Join our team.