Creating Your Own Drawing Application with Visual Basic .NET, Part 1

Because I’m a Visual Basic 6 veteran, I’ve always wanted to be able to write a proper Drawing Application. Without the use of the Windows API, Visual Basic 6’s graphics capabilities was a bit too limited for my taste. GDI+ came to my rescue. This article series will introduce you to most of the features of GDI+ and how easy GDI+ actually is in a hands-on manner.

Designing the Interface

First, start with the Main Window. It probably comes as no surprise that this will be an MDI application. The reason for this is that you can have more than one drawing open at any given time. To add this MDI form to your application, Select Project, Add Windows Form…. Name this Form frmMDICanvas. The next thing you need to do with frmMDICanvas is to set the IsMdiContainer property to True.

Add a MainMenu component to this From; name the menu CMMFile. Include the following Menu items:

  • &File and leave the default name
  • &New and name this item mnuFNew

Voilà! Your first form is designed!

At a bare minimum, every graphics application has a ToolBox (to select tools and other various options, such as Colors and Drawing styles) and a Canvas on which to draw. With the included sample program, I have included the following options in the ToolBox:

  • Shapes
    • Circle
    • Square
    • Triangle
  • Drawing Options
    • Outlined
    • Filled
  • Color Selector
  • Eraser
  • Pencil Tool

In Design mode, the Toolbox looks like the following picture:

The Canvas in the included sample consists of an empty PictureBox, to be drawn on, and a Button to clear the drawing. In Design mode, the Canvas looks like the following picture:

As you can see, the design of this application is very basic at this stage.

Get Building!

  1. Start Visual Studio .NET.
  2. When prompted for a new Project name, enter Canvas for the Project’s name.
  3. When the first Form appears, open its Properties Window, and set the following properties:
    • Name: frmCanvas
    • Text: Computer Canvas
    • WindowState: Maximized
  4. Add a PictureBox control to frmCanvas by double-clicking on it in the Toolbox. Set the following properties for the PictureBox:
    • Name: picCDraw
    • BackColor: White
    • Cursor: Cross
    • Dock: Fill
  5. Add a Button to the PictureBox in the same way you did the PictureBox. Set the following properties for the Button control:
    • Name: butCClear
    • Anchor: Bottom, Left
    • BackColor: White
    • FlatStyle: Flat
    • Image: Set the Button’s Image Property to any picture that would describe the button’s use. If you choose not to include a picture for the button, set the Button’s Text Property to Clear.
    • Size: 75, 32. Width: 75 Height: 32
  6. Add a ToolTip control to the Designer, and set the following property for the ToolTip:
    • Name: tipCanvas

That’s it! Your canvas has been designed. It doesn’t look like much at this stage, but you will see further improvements to your canvas during the course of this article series. What you need now is a Toolbox for your drawing program.

Creating the Toolbox

To create your Toolbox, follow these steps:

  1. From the Project menu, select Add Windows Form… to add a new form to your project. When the Add New Item dialog box appears, type the following name for the new form: frmTools.vb.
  2. When the new form appears in the Designer Window, set the following properties for frmTools:
    • Name: frmTools
    • BackColor: White
    • ControlBox: False
    • FormBorderStyle: FixedToolWindow
    • ShowInTaskBar: False
    • Size: 112, 312 Width: 112 Height: 312
    • StartPosition: Manual
    • Text: Tools
    • TopMost: True
  3. Add a Button to your frmTools, and set the following properties:
    • Name: butCCircle
    • BackColor: White
    • FlatStyle: Popup
    • Font:Arial, Arial, 8.25pt
    • ForeColor: Black
    • Location: 16, 8 X: 16, Y: 8
    • Size: 75, 23 Width: 75, Height: 23
    • Text: Circle
  4. Add a Button to your frmTools, and set the following properties:
    • Name: butCSquare
    • BackColor: White
    • FlatStyle: Popup
    • Font:Arial, Arial, 8.25pt
    • ForeColor: Black
    • Location: 16, 8 X: 16, Y: 8
    • Size: 75, 23 Width: 75 Height: 23
    • Text: Square
  5. Add a Button to your frmTools, and set the following properties:
    • Name: butCTriangle
    • BackColor: White
    • FlatStyle: Popup
    • Font:Arial, Arial, 8.25pt
    • ForeColor: Black
    • Location: 16, 8 X: 16, Y: 8
    • Size: 75, 23 Width: 75 Height: 23
    • Text: Triangle
  6. Add a Button to your frmTools, and set the following properties:
    • Name: butCFillColor
    • BackColor: White
    • FlatStyle: Popup
    • Font:Arial, Arial, 8.25pt
    • ForeColor: Black
    • Image: Set the Button’s Image Property to any picture, that would describe the button’s use. If you choose not to include a picture for the button, set the Button’s Text Property to Fill.
    • Note: You may need to adjust the Width property if you choose to include Text instead of an Image.

    • Location: 16, 208 X: 16 Y: 208
    • Size: 32, 32 Width: 32 Height: 32
  7. Add a Button to your frmTools, and set the following properties:
    • Name: butCPencil
    • BackColor: White
    • FlatStyle: Popup
    • Font:Arial, Arial, 8.25pt
    • ForeColor: Black
    • Image: Set the Button’s Image Property to any picture that would describe the button’s use. If you choose not to include a picture for the button, set the Button’s Text Property to Pencil.
    • Note: You may need to adjust the Width property if you choose to include Text instead of an Image.

    • Location: 56, 208 X: 56, Y: 208
    • Size: 32, 32 Width: 32 Height: 32
  8. Add a Button to your frmTools, and set the following properties:
    • Name: butCColor
    • BackColor: White
    • FlatStyle: Popup
    • Font:Arial, Arial, 8.25pt
    • ForeColor: Black
    • Image: Set the Button’s Image Property to any picture that would describe the button’s use. If you choose not to include a picture for the button, set the Button’s Text Property to Color.
    • Note: You may need to adjust the Width property if you choose to include Text instead of an Image.

    • Location: 16, 248 X: 16 Y: 248
    • Size: 32, 32 Width: 32 Height: 32
  9. Add a Button to your frmTools, and set the following properties:
    • Name: butCEraser
    • BackColor: White
    • FlatStyle: Popup
    • Font:Arial, Arial, 8.25pt
    • ForeColor: Black
    • Image: Set the Button’s Image Property to any picture that would describe the button’s use. If you choose not to include a picture for the button, set the Button’s Text Property to Eraser.
    • Note: You may need to adjust the Width property if you choose to include Text instead of an Image.

    • Location: 56, 248 X: 56 Y: 248
    • Size: 32, 32 Width: 32 Height: 32
  10. Add a ToolTip control to the Designer, and set the following property for the ToolTip:
    • Name: tipCanvas

Now that you have finished the design of your first drawing application in .NET, you can start coding. Before you do that, however, let me explain what the whole goal of the above forms and their controls are.

Functions of the Various Controls

frmTools

Object Description
frmTools Provides a holding place for all drawing tools
butCCircle Draws a circle
butCSquare Draws a square
butCTriangle Draws a triangle
butCFillColor Draws a filled shape
butCPencil Draws freehand
butCColor Opens the color selector
butCEraser Erases drawings
tipCanvas Provides tooltips for the various tools

frmCanvas

Object Description
frmCanvas Provides the drawing canvas
picCDraw PictureBox to draw onto
butCClear Clears the entire drawing
tipCanvas Provides tooltips

Now, get coding!

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