Changing the Background Color of an Edit Control


This is my first article, so bear with me. I know it is a simple control, but I spent quite a lot of time figuring this out. I hope someone can read this and figure it out quicker.

The Problem

I needed a read-only text box. I created one using the CEdit control. The problem was that it had a grey background. There is no option or function to change it directly.

The Solution

I derived a class from CEdit, called CReadOnlyEdit. I intercepted the background ON_WM_CTLCOLOR_REFLECT() message. This message's function looks like this:

HBRUSH CReadOnlyEdit::CtlColor(CDC* pDC, UINT nCtlColor) 
   // TODO: Return a non-NULL brush if the parent's handler should
   // not be called
   return NULL;

To change the background color of the Edit Box, instead of returning NULL for the function above, I returned a brush with the color I wanted for the background. Also, if you notice in the function above, one of the parameters is a pointer to the Device Context (pDC) of the control. I used the pDC->SetTextColor(COLORREF rgb) function to change the text color. I then ran into a slight problem. The background changed to the correct color and the text did as well, but the background of the text stayed white. This was a simple fix. I simply set the background color of the text using pDC->SetBkColor(COLORREF rgb) function. This is my modifed function:

HBRUSH CReadOnlyEdit::CtlColor(CDC* pDC, UINT nCtlColor)
   // TODO: Return a non-NULL brush if the parent's handler should
   // not be called

   //set text color
   //set the text's background color

   //return the brush used for background; this sets control
   return m_brBackGnd;

As you can see, my control has three variables: COLORREF m_crText, COLORREF m_crBackGnd, and CBrush m_brBackGnd. I added two functions to my control, one to change the background color (and update the brush) and one to change the text color. Those two functions look like this:

void CReadOnlyEdit::SetBackColor(COLORREF rgb)
   //set background color ref (used for text's background)
   m_crBackGnd = rgb;

   //free brush
   if (m_brBackGnd.GetSafeHandle())
   //set brush to new color

void CReadOnlyEdit::SetTextColor(COLORREF rgb)
   //set text color ref
   m_crText = rgb;


The reason I have a COLORREF background variable is because I need a COLORREF to change the background color of the device context. A problem I ran into was that the entire edit control was not being colored right away; this is why I added the Invalidate(TRUE) call, to repaint the control.

That's all there was to it. By the way, my control doesn't set a background or text color by default. This can easily be done in the constructor.

Using the Code

Dialog Based:
Create a CEdit control. Control double-click it. The Add Member Variable dialog appears. Choose Control for the Category and CEdit for the Variable type. Set the variable name to something like m_wndEdit. When modifying the control, that remember m_wndEdit is the control, not a string containing the window text. To access the text, you will have to use the proper funtions for the control (such as CEdit::SetWindowText()).

The simplest way I can think of to use this is just change all the CEdit controls you want to be read-only to CReadOnlyEdit.

Changing the colors:
To change the background and text color of the control, use the SetBack Color(COLORREF rgb) and SetTextColor(COLORREF rgb) functions. In the demo, I use a CColorDialog to get a color. The following is code from my demo. It is located in the Change Back Color button's click function:

void CReadOnlyDlg::OnBack()
   // call color dialog and change background color
   CColorDialog dlg;
   if (dlg.DoModal() == IDOK)


Where m_wndReadOnly is the CReadOnlyEdit control.

Note: My control doesn't set the read-only flag; you have to do this yourself in the CReadOnlyEdit::Create function or in the dialog control properties. Also, this can be done with the CEdit::SetReadOnly(BOOL) function.


Jan 21 2005 - Update

  • Fixed Bugs
  • Added SetBackColor and SetTextColor functions

Jan 18 2005 - Posted

  • Basic bontrol, changed background color to white

About the Author

Kevin Bond

My name is Kevin Bond. I am 20 years old and I live in Kitchener, Ontario. I have been programming since I was 10 years old. I started with QBasic, then up to Visual Basic, and finally C++. I am an avid programmer of Windows as well. Besides that, I am also interested in automation, PLCs, and electronics. I will be attending Conestoga College in Sept. 2005 for their Mechanical Engineering: Automation and Robotics program. I hope to someday have a job where I can incorporate my skills with programming Windows with the skills I learn in that program.



  • Selection

    Posted by Elena on 06/27/2012 03:47am

    Thanks, but how change the colors of the selected text?

  • Thanks!

    Posted by Jonha on 12/04/2006 01:54am

    Thanks! Yes,the solution can change the background color and test color, but that's a problem that if you don't call the SetBackColor() as first(at least once) then you can't set the text color by call SetTextColor(). There is a solution that you can call the two function while the control was be created. I put them in the PreSubclassWindow().

  • hi

    Posted by g_suneel_y2k on 02/16/2005 10:02pm

    this article is very i have a doubt how to add our own icons in a toolbar vc++ dialog box. thank u

Leave a Comment
  • Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

Top White Papers and Webcasts

  • Packaged application development teams frequently operate with limited testing environments due to time and labor constraints. By virtualizing the entire application stack, packaged application development teams can deliver business results faster, at higher quality, and with lower risk.

  • Do you know where your data is? Consumer cloud-based file sharing services store your sensitive company data on servers outside of your control, outside of your policy and regulatory guidelines – maybe even outside your country – and not managed by you. The potential for data leakage, security breaches, and harm to your business is enormous. Download this white paper to learn about file sync and share alternatives that allow you to manage and protect your sensitive data while integrating and …

Most Popular Programming Stories

More for Developers

Latest Developer Headlines

RSS Feeds