Creating Custom iOS User Interfaces

Written by Yi Ding

Description: Make your app stand out from the competition with a compelling, yet familiar, user interface, and custom controls that match your app's personality and effectively reveal it's key features. Learn advanced Core Animation techniques such as spring view animations, and see new visual effects such as blur and vibrancy and how they can give your apps a visual edge.

1. Spring animations

Spring Animation is the base of almost every animation in the iOS 8 system, which means almost all of the animations in iOS 8 are using spring animation. It was introduced in iOS 7 via one single function:


This function is very similar with ordinary animation functions we used to using a lot. The only difference here is two additional parameters: Damping Ratio and Initial Spring Velocity.

  • The damping ratio defines how much the oscillation oscillate at the end state of the animation, ranging from 0.0 to 1.0. 0.0 defines high frequency oscillation, while 1.0 defines no oscillation at all. This is place where can help us make a bouncing effect.
  • The initial spring velocity defines how fast the animation starts. The smaller the volecity is, the sooner the animation object will move to the end state, verse vice.

The following demo code imitates the Animation of Opening Folder on iOS Home Screen:

const static CGFloat BOXSIZE = 100.f;
- (void)tapped:(UITapGestureRecognizer *)gesture
[self initBox];
[UIView animateWithDuration:1.f
[self endBox];
} completion:^(BOOL finished) {

- (void)initBox
self.movingBox.frame = CGRectMake(0.f, self.view.bounds.size.height - BOXSIZE, BOXSIZE, BOXSIZE);

- (void)endBox
self.movingBox.frame = CGRectMake(CGRectGetMidX(self.view.bounds) - BOXSIZE * 3.f / 2.f, CGRectGetMidY(self.view.bounds) - BOXSIZE * 3.f / 2.f, BOXSIZE * 3.f, BOXSIZE * 3.f);

2. Vibrancy and blur

In iOS 8, UIBlurEffect and UIVibrancyEffect are introduced for developers have Dynamic Blur Effect more easily. In the talk, Apple still recommends using static blur effect code if dynamic blur effect views are not actually what you need, since dynamic blur effect takes a lot of computing power.

The UIBlurEffect gives blur effect to an associated UIView, while UIVibrancyEffect gives the clear part which is not blurred on the blurred view. So, this is a three layer structure. UIView at the bottom, then comes the UIBlurEffect, at last the UIVibrancyEffect comes. The UIVibrancyEffect consumes the most computing power. The UIBlurEffect gives three styles for the developer to use, UIBlurEffectStyleExtraLight, UIBlurEffectStyleLight, UIBlurEffectStyleDark.

The example could be found at Siri User Interface, where user could clearly see the app icons on the Home Screen of the iPhone.

3. Shape layers

This section covers CAShapeLayer.

How to use CAShapeLayer back up the UIView as the base layer. In UIView subclass,

+ (Class)layerClass {
return [CAShapeLayer Class];

- (void)awakeFromNib {
CAShapeLayer *layer = (CAShapeLayer *)self.layer;
// init layer properties here.
// Also, everytime to update layer property, convert it to CAShaperLayer and use a local variable for it.

How to draw part of the path for CAShapeLayer, by setting strokeStart and strokeEnd.

4. Dynamic Core Animation behaviors

This is probably the most challenging part for me, so many sample code on CABasicAnimation. I think have a good use of CAAction Protocol and CALayerDelegate method could greatly help your custom UIView subclass have great animation effect when UIView’s properties are changed. Also, the developer could define customized property, which could be very powerful. By using this technique, developers could not only customize animation behavior, but also disable system’s default animation behaviors.

Here is a simple piece of demo:

#import "CustomAnimationView.h"

@interface CustomAnimationAction : NSObject <CAAction>

@implementation CustomAnimationAction

- (void)runActionForKey:(NSString *)event object:(id)anObject arguments:(NSDictionary *)dict
if ([event isEqualToString:@"opacity"]) {
CALayer *layer = (CALayer *)anObject;
CFTimeInterval duration = .75;

CABasicAnimation *bgAnimation = [CABasicAnimation animationWithKeyPath:@"backgroundColor"];
bgAnimation.duration = duration;
bgAnimation.fromValue = (id)[layer.presentationLayer backgroundColor];
bgAnimation.toValue = (id)([UIColor colorWithHue:layer.opacity saturation:1.f brightness:1.f alpha:1.f].CGColor);
bgAnimation.fillMode = kCAFillModeForwards;
bgAnimation.removedOnCompletion = NO;
[layer addAnimation:bgAnimation forKey:@"bgColorAnim"];

CABasicAnimation *animation = [CABasicAnimation animationWithKeyPath:@"opacity"];
animation.duration = duration;
animation.fromValue = @([layer.presentationLayer opacity]);
animation.toValue = @(layer.opacity);
animation.removedOnCompletion = NO;
[layer addAnimation:animation forKey:@"customKey"];


@implementation CustomAnimationView

+ (Class)layerClass
return [CAShapeLayer class];

- (void)awakeFromNib
[self setup];

- (instancetype)initWithFrame:(CGRect)frame
if (self = [super initWithFrame:frame]) {
[self setup];
return self;

- (void)setup
CAShapeLayer *layer = (CAShapeLayer *)self.layer;

UIBezierPath *path = [UIBezierPath bezierPathWithRect:self.bounds];

[layer setPath:path.CGPath];
[layer setStrokeColor:[UIColor purpleColor].CGColor];
[layer setLineWidth:6];
[layer setFillColor:nil];
[layer setLineCap:kCALineCapRound];
[layer setLineJoin:kCALineJoinBevel];

UITapGestureRecognizer *gesture = [[UITapGestureRecognizer alloc] initWithTarget:self action:@selector(tapped:)];
[self addGestureRecognizer:gesture];

- (void)tapped:(UITapGestureRecognizer *)gesture
[UIView animateWithDuration:1.0 animations:^{
[self setAlpha:(CGFloat)(arc4random() % 10) / 10.f];

- (id<CAAction>)actionForLayer:(CALayer *)layer
forKey:(NSString *)key
if ([key isEqualToString:@"opacity"]) {
return [[CustomAnimationAction alloc] init];
return [super actionForLayer:layer forKey:key];


Worth to mention here: when Custom View's frame origin changed, the Key for the change will be "Position", rather than "Frame". This is because UIView is backed by CALayer, where essentially all the animations added to. My guess would be: any animation of changing property of UIView will be "mirrored" to some action of changing property of CALayer.

For more information, here is a link to the Apple Developer Official Page.

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Missing anything? Corrections? Contributions are welcome 😃

Written by

Yi Ding

Yi Ding

Write the Code, Change the World.