Cairo Vector Graphics

Cairo is a famous 2D graphics library with support for multiple output devices. It provides powerful drawing operations to create a graphical experience that you desire, including stroking, filling, compositing images, and any affine transforms (such as scale, rotation, and shear). You can also render text with Cairo. Within the Tizen framework, Cairo is able to output to 2 different backends: Image and GL backend.

The main features of the Cairo API include:

Cairo in Tizen

Cairo is a part of the Tizen Graphics layer. As shown in the following figure, the rendering functionality of Cairo is provided through the use of the APIs of the lower modules, such as Pixman or OpenGL® ES.

Figure: Cairo within the Tizen framework

Cairo within the Tizen framework

The Cairo GL backend allows hardware-accelerated rendering by targeting the OpenGL® ES API. The goal of the Cairo GL backend is to achieve better performance with equal functionality to the Cairo Image backend, whenever possible.


Since Tizen only exposes EvasGL binding in place of EGL™, Cairo EvasGL APIs have been newly added and specified. To use the Cairo GL backend in Tizen, an application must include in its source code the cairo-evas-gl.h header file instead of cairo-gl.h.


To enable your application to use the Cairo functionality:

  1. Before using the Cairo library in Tizen:

  2. To use the functions and data types of the Cairo image and GL backends, include the <cairo.h> header file in your application. For the Cairo GL backend, you also need the <cairo-evas-gl.h>, and <Evas_GL.h> header files.

    #include <cairo.h>
    /* For the Cairo GL backend */
    #include <cairo-evas-gl.h>
    #include <Evas_GL.h>

Creating a Cairo Surface Linked with an Evas Object

To display the rendered output using Cairo APIs, an application must link a Cairo surface with an Evas object. In this context, the Cairo surface is an object that can hold the rendered result within Cairo. Cairo can draw an image on the surface appropriate for a particular backend, and Evas can access the image data from the Cairo surface.

Creating a Cairo Image Surface in the Evas GL Backend

To develop an application with Elementary, you create a window by using the Elementary utility function, elm_win_util_standard_add(). In order to make the GL application use the GPU, you must call the elm_config_accel_preference_set() function before creating the window. You also place an Evas_Object image into your application’s main window. For more information on creating and placing an Evas_Object image, see Manipulating Graphical Objects.

In the Cairo Image backend, you can create a new Cairo image surface by using the cairo_image_surface_create() or cairo_image_surface_create_for_data() function. The former function requires only the pixel format and dimensions to be specified, while the latter function requires additional data, such as a pointer to an image buffer (supplied by the application) in which to write the content. In order to display a result of Cairo rendering, you must also link an Evas image object to the created Cairo image surface. For this purpose, use the evas_object_image_data_set() function.

To create the image surface:

  • With the cairo_image_surface_create() function.

    Call the cairo_image_surface_get_data() function before calling the evas_object_image_data_set() function. The cairo_image_surface_get_data() function returns a pointer to the raw image data of the created image surface. This pointer is used for the raw data to be linked with an Evas image object in the evas_object_image_data_set() function.

    Evas_Object *win = elm_win_util_standard_add("Cairo Image Backend guide", " Cairo Image Backend guide");
    Evas_Object *img = evas_object_image_filled_add(evas_object_evas_get(win));
    evas_object_geometry_get(win, NULL, NULL, &WIDTH, &HEIGHT);
    elm_win_resize_object_add(win, img);
    evas_object_image_content_hint_set(img, EVAS_IMAGE_CONTENT_HINT_DYNAMIC);
    evas_object_image_size_set(img, WIDTH, HEIGHT);
    evas_object_image_colorspace_set(img, EVAS_COLORSPACE_ARGB8888);
    evas_object_image_alpha_set(img, 0);
    cairo_surface_t *cairo_surface = cairo_image_surface_create(CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB32, WIDTH, HEIGHT);
    cairo_t *cairo = cairo_create(cairo_surface);
    /* Cairo drawing */
    unsigned char *imageData = cairo_image_surface_get_data(cairo_surface);
    evas_object_image_data_set(img, imageData);
    evas_object_image_data_update_add(img, 0, 0, WIDTH, HEIGHT);
  • With the cairo_image_surface_create_for_data() function.

    To use the function, you need a pointer to an image data, which can be retrieved with the evas_object_image_data_get() function. The function returns the data pointer of an image object and requires a parameter to determine whether the data is modified. If modification is enabled by setting the parameter to EINA_TRUE, Evas updates the image pixels in the next rendering cycle. Finally, you can link the pixel buffer with the image object by using the evas_object_image_data_set() function.

    Since the default backend for Evas is GL, the Cairo Image backend is much slower due to the memory copy operation, which occurs whenever the rendered result from Cairo is uploaded to Evas. To enhance the performance of Cairo Image backend to enable the zero copy feature, set the EVAS_IMAGE_CONTENT_HINT_DYNAMIC property with the evas_object_image_content_hint_set() function.

    To update a rectangular region on the screen, the evas_object_image_data_update_add() function can be used. For more information on the image object functions of Evas, see Image Objects.

    Evas_Object *win = elm_win_util_standard_add("Cairo Image Backend guide", " Cairo Image Backend guide");
    Evas_Object *img = evas_object_image_filled_add(evas_object_evas_get(win));
    evas_object_geometry_get(win, NULL, NULL, &WIDTH, &HEIGHT);
    elm_win_resize_object_add(win, img);
    evas_object_image_content_hint_set(img, EVAS_IMAGE_CONTENT_HINT_DYNAMIC);
    evas_object_image_size_set(img, WIDTH, HEIGHT);
    evas_object_image_colorspace_set(img, EVAS_COLORSPACE_ARGB8888);
    evas_object_image_alpha_set(img, 0);
    int row_stride = cairo_format_stride_for_width(CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB32, WIDTH);
    unsigned char *imageData = (unsigned char *)evas_object_image_data_get(img, EINA_TRUE);
    cairo_surface_t *cairo_surface = cairo_image_surface_create_for_data(imageData, CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB32, WIDTH, HEIGHT, row_stride);
    cairo_t *cairo = cairo_create(cairo_surface);
    /* Cairo drawing */
    evas_object_image_data_set(img, imageData);
    evas_object_image_data_update_add(img, 0, 0, WIDTH, HEIGHT);


Take care when using the evas_object_image_data_set() function. You must match the evas_object_image_data_get() and evas_object_image_data_set() functions as a pair. Since the evas_object_image_data_get() function keeps a rendering sink, the rendered result with Cairo can be reflected outside the Evas area, if the functions are not matched.

Creating a Cairo GL Surface in the Evas GL Backend

With the Cairo GL backend, you can create a Cairo surface using OpenGL®. For more information on OpenGL®, see the OpenGL® ES guide.

To create the GL surface:

  1. Since an application utilizing the Cairo GL backend in Tizen is based on Evas GL, an Evas GL handler must be created with the evas_gl_new() function during the initial stage.

    Afterwards, the evas_gl_config, evas_gl_surface, and evas_gl_context instances are created in that order. For more information on using Evas GL, see Creating OpenGL® ES Applications and the OpenGL® ES guide.

    Evas_Object *win = elm_win_util_standard_add("Cairo GL Backend guide", " Cairo GL Backend guide");
    Evas_Object *img = evas_object_image_filled_add(evas_object_evas_get(win));
    Evas_Native_Surface ns;
    Evas_GL *evas_gl = evas_gl_new(evas_object_evas_get(img));
    Evas_GL_Config *evas_gl_config = evas_gl_config_new();
    evas_gl_config->color_format = EVAS_GL_RGBA_8888;
    evas_gl_config->stencil_bits = EVAS_GL_STENCIL_BIT_8;
    evas_gl_config->multisample_bits = EVAS_GL_MULTISAMPLE_MED;
    Evas_GL_Surface *evas_gl_surface = evas_gl_surface_create(evas_gl, evas_gl_config, WIDTH, HEIGHT);
    Evas_GL_Context *evas_gl_context = evas_gl_context_create(evas_gl, NULL);
    evas_gl_native_surface_get(evas_gl, evas_gl_surface, &ns);
    evas_object_image_native_surface_set(img, &ns);
  2. A Cairo GL application can use the evas_object_image_pixels_dirty_set() function in Tizen to show the rendered output on the screen. This function allows the rendered result to be redrawn on the screen for every animator callback in the default update refresh rate. The rendered results are saved inside the Evas object (in this example, the img object) connected to the Cairo GL backend during the Cairo drawing.

    evas_object_image_pixels_dirty_set(img, EINA_TRUE);
    evas_object_image_pixels_get_callback_set(img, cairo_drawing, 0);
  3. If your application employs the Cairo GL backend in Tizen, include the cairo-evas-gl.h header file instead of cairo-gl.h.

  4. To fully use the GPU acceleration, set the CAIRO_GL_COMPOSITOR property to MSAA.

    In addition, call the cairo_gl_device_set_thread_aware() function with cairo_device and 0 as input parameters to prevent unnecessary context switches. Cairo can be used in multithreaded environments, and switches out the current GL context by default after each draw finishes. Therefore, if no other thread uses Cairo for GL rendering, set the thread_aware parameter to 0.

    To create the Cairo GL surface with the cairo_gl_surface_create_for_evas_gl() function, a cairo_device and an evas_gl_surface must be created beforehand:

    • A cairo_device can be created with the cairo_evas_gl_device_create() function, which is an interface to the underlying rendering system. You also need the evas_gl_object and evas_gl_context as input parameters to the cairo_evas_gl_device_create() function.
    • A evas_gl_surface object is needed to render 2D graphics through the rendering functionality of the Cairo GL backend.
    setenv("CAIRO_GL_COMPOSITOR", "msaa", 1);
    cairo_device_t *cairo_device = cairo_evas_gl_device_create(evas_gl, evas_gl_context);
    cairo_boot_t thread_aware = 0;
    cairo_gl_device_set_thread_aware(cairo_device, thread_aware);
    cairo_surface_t *cairo_surface = cairo_gl_surface_create_for_evas_gl(cairo_device, evas_gl_surface, evas_gl_config, WIDTH, HEIGHT);
    cairo_t *cairo = cairo_create(cairo_surface);
    /* Cairo drawing */
  5. When any drawing with the Cairo API is finished, call the cairo_surface_flush() function. It guarantees a complete rendered result, because it does any pending drawing for the surface and also restores any temporary modifications Cairo has made to the surface state. Specially, this function must be called before switching from drawing on the surface with Cairo to drawing on it directly with native APIs.


Drawing with Cairo

Drawing with Cairo to a surface is accomplished by calling the common backend interface functions. These rendering functions must be called properly for each backend. For more information on the common rendering functions, see the Cairo: A Vector Graphics Library manual.

The following sections introduce a general example for drawing a line using Cairo APIs, including some special guidelines. Occasionally, you need to adhere to special guidelines to overcome any Cairo drawing limitations in Tizen.

Using a Surface to Source Pattern

Within the Cairo API, some functions, such as cairo_set_source_surface() and cairo_mask_surface(), use a surface to set the source pattern. However, the performance of these functions in Tizen, under certain circumstances, can be heavily degraded if the source surface is created using the cairo_gl_surface_create_for_evas_gl() function.

In Tizen, you can create a Cairo GL surface with either the cairo_gl_surface_create() or cairo_gl_surface_create_for_evas_gl() function. To prevent performance issues, always create the source surface with the cairo_gl_surface_create() function.

/* Create a surface for destination */
cairo_surface_t *cairo_surface = cairo_gl_surface_create_for_evas_gl(cr, evas_gl_surface, evas_gl_config, WIDTH, HEIGHT);

Evas_GL_Config *evas_gl_config_source = evas_gl_config_new();
evas_gl_config_source->color_format = EVAS_GL_RGBA_8888;
evas_gl_config_source->stencil_bits = EVAS_GL_STENCIL_BIT_1;
evas_gl_config_source->multisample_bits = EVAS_GL_MULTISAMPLE_LOW;
evas_gl_surface_source = evas_gl_surface_create(evas_gl, evas_gl_config_source, WIDTH, HEIGHT);

/* Create a surface for source */
cairo_surface_t *image_surface = cairo_image_surface_create_from_png(image);
cairo_surface_t *gl_surface = cairo_gl_surface_create(cairo_device, CAIRO_CONTENT_COLOR_ALPHA, image_width, image_height);
cairo_t *cairo = cairo_create(gl_surface);
cairo_set_source_surface(cairo, image_surface, 0, 0);

Support for Reading Various Image Files

Cairo does not support a functionality for reading image files in JPEG or SPI format; only PNG is supported. With a PNG file, you can use the cairo_image_surface_create_from_png() function to make a new image surface from the image. However, handle this function with care, because it is experimental and only offers very simple functionality for reading PNG files.

cairo_surface_t *image = cairo_image_surface_create_from_png("test_image.png");
cairo_set_source_surface(cairo, image, 0, 0);

On the other hand, Cairo applications in Tizen can read JPEG and other image formats by using the Evas APIs. Evas supports image loaders for various formats as plug-in modules:

  1. Create an image buffer as a temporary buffer for decoding an image file with the evas_object_image_add() function.
  2. Use the evas_object_image_file_set() function to set the image file on the object (in this example, the decoded_img object).
  3. Use other Evas functions for the image object to manage it. Since the temporary buffers are only used for the decoded content of the given image file (in this example, inline_buffr and decoded_img), you do not need to call the evas_object_show() function.
evas_object_geometry_get(win, NULL, NULL, &surface_w, &surface_h);
Evas_Object *inline_buffr = elm_win_add(win, "Img Read", ELM_WIN_INLINED_IMAGE);
evas_object_move(inline_buffr, 0, 0);
evas_object_resize(inline_buffr, surface_w, surface_h);

/* As a temporary buffer */
Evas_Object *decoded_img = evas_object_image_add(evas_object_evas_get(inline_buffer));
evas_object_image_file_set(decoded_img, "test_image.jpeg", NULL);
evas_object_image_size_get(decoded_img, &w, &h);
evas_object_image_fill_set(decoded_img, 0, 0, w, h);
evas_object_image_filled_set(decoded_img, EINA_TRUE);
evas_object_resize(decoded_img, w, h);

After the image file reading is complete, you can create a Cairo surface for the image object by using the evas_object_image_data_get() and cairo_image_surface_create_for_data() functions. The Cairo surface is used to create a pattern with the cairo_set_source_surface() function for the Cairo drawing. In addition, to prevent memory leaks, delete the temporary buffers that are no longer used.

src_buffer = (unsigned char *)evas_object_image_data_get(decoded_img, EINA_TRUE);
cairo_surface_t *source = cairo_image_surface_create_for_data(src_buffer, CAIRO_FORMAT_ARGB32, w, h, evas_object_image_stride_get(decoded_img));
cairo_set_source_surface(cr, source, 0, 0);


Drawing a Line

When drawing an image with Cairo, you must prepare the context (nouns) for each of the drawing verbs. For example, if you want to use the cairo_stroke() or cairo_fill() function, create a path first. Similarly, when using the cairo_show_text() function, you must position your text by its insertion point. A primary source is needed for using the cairo_paint() function and a second source pattern or surface is prepared for using the cairo_mask() function. For more information, see the Cairo Tutorial in

The following example creates a line drawing with a rectangle, and a path that uses straight sections, arcs, and Bézier curves.

Figure: Rectangle and path drawing with Cairo

Rectangle and path drawing with Cairo

To draw lines with Cairo APIs:

  1. Prepare the sources.

    Prior to drawing a line, prepare and select sources. There are 3 main sources in Cairo - colors, gradients, and images:

    • Colors use a uniform hue and opacity for the entire source. You can select these without any preparation with the cairo_set_source_rgb() function and cairo_set_source_rgba() functions.

      In this example, the color is opaque red:

      cairo_set_source_rgba(cairo, 1.0, 0.0, 0.0, 1.0);
    • Gradients describe a progression of colors by setting a start and stop reference location and a series of “stops” along the way. There are linear and radial gradients built from 2 points. Stops are added to the gradient with the cairo_add_color_stop_rgb() and cairo_add_color_stop_rgba() functions which take a color like the cairo_add_color_stop_rgb() or cairo_add_color_stop_rgba() function, as well as an offset to indicate where it lies between the reference locations.

    • Images include both surfaces loaded from the existing files with the cairo_image_surface_create_from_png() function and surfaces created from within Cairo as an earlier destination. For more information on these Cairo APIs, see the cairo_pattern_t in

  2. Set the line width.

    In this example, the line width is 2:

    cairo_set_line_width(cairo, 2);
  3. To create the path:

    1. To set the starting point with a user-specified offset, use the cairo_translate() function to modify the user-space origin (x, y) by translating it with the current transformation matrix (CTM):

      cairo_translate(cairo, 40, 40);

      Cairo uses a connect-the-dots style system for creating paths. You can also set the starting point of the line with the cairo_move_to() function. This sets the current reference point without making the path connect the previous point to it.

      cairo_move_to(cairo, 40, 40);
    2. To draw a line from point (100,100) to point (200,150) on a surface, use the cairo_move_to() and cairo_line_to() functions:

      cairo_move_to(cairo, 100, 100);
      cairo_line_to(cairo, 200, 150);
    3. To add a line on a path from the current point to a point at the offset (dx, dy), use the cairo_rel_line_to() function. In this example, the offset is (100, -50).

      cairo_rel_line_to(cairo, 100, -50);
    4. To draw a circular arc of a given radius on the current path, use the cairo_arc() function.

      Arcs are parts of the outside of a circle. The point you directly specify is the center of the circle that makes up the addition to the path. Both a starting and an ending point on the circle must be specified, and these points are connected either clockwise using the cairo_arc() or counter-clockwise using the cairo_arc_negative() function.

      In this example, the radius is (100 * sqrt(2)), the arc is centered at (200, 200), begins at an angle (-0.25 * M_PI) and proceeds in the direction of increasing angles to end at an angle (0.25 * M_PI). If the end angle is less than the begin angle, the end angle is progressively increased by 2*M_PI until it is greater than the begin angle.

      cairo_arc(cairo, 200, 200, 100 * sqrt(2), -0.25 * M_PI, 0.25 * M_PI);
    5. To draw a curve, use the cairo_rel_curve_to() function.

      Curves in Cairo are cubic Bézier splines. They start at the current reference point and smoothly follow the direction of 2 other points (without going through them) to get to a third specified point. Like lines, there are both absolute (cairo_curve_to()) and relative (cairo_rel_curve_to()) functions. Note that the relative variant specifies all points relative to the previous reference point, rather than each relative to the preceding control point of the curve.

      In this example, the offsets of (-100, -50) and (-100, 50) are used as the control points. After this function call, the current point is offset by (-200, 0).

      cairo_rel_curve_to(cairo, -100, -50, -100, 50, -200, 0);
    6. To add a line segment on the path from the current point to the beginning of the current sub-path, use the cairo_close_path() function. After this call, the current point is repositioned at the joined endpoint of the sub-path.

      The behavior of the cairo_close_path() function differs from the cairo_line_to() function with the equivalent coordinates very little: for stroking, a line joining the final and initial segments of the sub-path is also created.

  4. To draw a rectangle, use the cairo_rectangle() function.

    In this example, the function draws a rectangle starting from the point (0, 0) with the width and height of 400 px.

    cairo_rectangle(cairo, 0, 0, 400, 400);
  5. If you need to create a stroke on a path, the cairo_stroke() function is a drawing operator that draws a stroke on the current path, using the current line width and line color. After the function call, the current path is cleared from the Cairo context.

  6. To ensure that any pending Cairo operations are drawn, use the cairo_surface_flush() function after finishing the Cairo drawing:

  7. Destroy the Cairo objects when you terminate the application:


Painting with Image Files

Cairo supports the painting with image files functionality only for images in the PNG format. These functions for PNG are experimental, so use them with care. For more information on PNG support, see PNG Support in

The following figure shows an example of painting with an image file.

Figure: Painting with image file

Lines drawn using Cairo

To paint with image files:

  1. Get the image resource.

    The following code snippet shows how to prepare image data for your application. To get an application’s resource image data, use the app_get_resource_path() function. This gets a stored PNG image file path to use as a resource. For more information on the app_get_resource_path() function, see the App Common API (in mobile and wearable applications.

    char image_filepath[256];
    char *source_filename = "image.png";
    char *resource_path = app_get_resource_path();
    snprintf(image_filepath, 256, "%s/%s", resource_path, source_filename);
  2. Create the source surface.

    To paint using the image data from the PNG file, first create a source surface. The image data is a source surface to paint on the destination surface.

    cairo_surface_t *image = cairo_image_surface_create_from_png(image_filepath);
    cairo_set_source_surface(cairo, image, 0, 0);
  3. Paint the Cairo surface.

    The cairo_paint() function uses a mask that transfers the entire source to the destination. It can be considered an infinitely large mask, or no mask, but the result is the same. To set a compositing operator, use the cairo_set_operator() and paint a Cairo surface using the source pattern obtained before. For more information on the cairo_set_operator() function, see operators in

    cairo_set_operator(cairo, CAIRO_OPERATOR_SOURCE);

Showing Text

In Cairo, the cairo_font_face_t class represents a particular font at a particular weight, slant, and other characteristics. For more information on using the cairo font, see cairo_font_face_t of

The following figure shows an example of text shown using Cairo.

Figure: Text shown using Cairo

Text shown using Cairo

To show text:

  1. Prepare a text to use as a resource:

    const char *utf8 = "Hello, Tizen!";
  2. Set text configurations.

    In this example, create a font face implicitly using the cairo_select_font_face() function. The text is a kind of “mask” you are about to work with. To use a mask, you need a font type and font size. Set the font type as “Sans”, and font size as 52.

    cairo_select_font_face(cairo, "Sans", CAIRO_FONT_SLANT_NORMAL, CAIRO_FONT_WEIGHT_NORMAL);
    cairo_set_font_size(cairo, 52.0);
  3. Show the text.

    The cairo_show_text() function forms the mask from the text. You can think of the cairo_show_text() function as a shortcut for creating a path with the cairo_text_path() and using the cairo_fill() function to transfer it.

    The cairo_show_text() function caches glyphs, and it is much more efficient if you work with a lot of text. Note that this function is experimental and must be handled with care. For more information on Cairo text, see the description of cairo_text.

    cairo_text_extents_t extents;
    cairo_text_extents(cairo, utf8, &extents);
    cairo_move_to(cairo, 10, 10);
    cairo_show_text(cairo, utf8);

Deleting Cairo

Delete the Cairo resources when they are no longer needed.

In the cairo_destroy() function, a reference count for a Cairo context is decreased by one. If the count is to be zero, the Cairo context and all associated resources must be freed. The same steps apply for the cairo_surface_destroy() function as well.

  • Dependencies
    • Tizen 2.4 and Higher for Mobile
    • Tizen 2.3.1 and Higher for Wearable