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Recipe: Testing Against a Bitmap

Unfortunately, most views don’t fall into the simple geometries that make the hit test from Recipe 1-5 so straightforward. The flowers shown in Figure 1-1, for example, offer irregular boundaries and varied transparencies. For complicated art, it helps to test touches against a bitmap. Bitmaps provide byte-by-byte information about the contents of an image-based view, allowing you to test whether a touch hits a solid portion of the image or should pass through to any views below.

Recipe 1-6 extracts an image bitmap from a UIImageView. It assumes that the image used provides a pixel-by-pixel representation of the view in question. When you distort that view (normally by resizing a frame or applying a transform), update the math accordingly. CGPoints can be transformed via CGPointApplyAffineTransform() to handle scaling and rotation changes. Keeping the art at a 1:1 proportion to the actual view pixels simplifies lookup and avoids any messy math. You can recover the pixel in question, test its alpha level, and determine whether the touch has hit a solid portion of the view.

This example uses a cutoff of 85. That corresponds to a minimum alpha level of 33% (that is, 85 / 255). This custom pointInside: method considers any pixel with an alpha level below 33% to be transparent. This is arbitrary. Use any level (or other test for that matter) that works with the demands of your actual GUI.

Recipe 1-6. Testing Touches Against Bitmap Alpha Levels

// Return the offset for the alpha pixel at (x,y) for RGBA
// 4-bytes-per-pixel bitmap data
static NSUInteger alphaOffset(NSUInteger x, NSUInteger y, NSUInteger w)
    {return y * w * 4 + x * 4;}

// Return the bitmap from a provided image
NSData *getBitmapFromImage(UIImage *image)
    CGColorSpaceRef colorSpace = CGColorSpaceCreateDeviceRGB();
    if (colorSpace == NULL)
        fprintf(stderr, "Error allocating color space\n");
        return NULL;

    CGSize size = image.size;
    unsigned char *bitmapData = calloc(size.width * size.height * 4, 1);
    if (bitmapData == NULL)

        fprintf (stderr, "Error: Memory not allocated!");
        return NULL;

    CGContextRef context = CGBitmapContextCreate (bitmapData,
        size.width, size.height, 8, size.width * 4, colorSpace,
    CGColorSpaceRelease(colorSpace );
    if (context == NULL)
        fprintf (stderr, "Error: Context not created!");
        free (bitmapData);
        return NULL;

    CGRect rect = CGRectMake(0.0f, 0.0f, size.width, size.height);
    CGContextDrawImage(context, rect, image.CGImage);
    unsigned char *data = CGBitmapContextGetData(context);

    NSData *bytes = [NSData dataWithBytes:data length:size.width * size.height * 4];

    return bytes;

// Store the bitmap data into an NSData instance variable
- (id) initWithImage: (UIImage *) anImage
    if (self = [super initWithImage:anImage])
        self.userInteractionEnabled = YES;
        data = getBitmapFromImage(anImage);
    return self;

// Does the point hit the view?
- (BOOL) pointInside:(CGPoint)point withEvent:(UIEvent *)event
    if (!CGRectContainsPoint(self.bounds, point)) return NO;
    Byte *bytes = (Byte *)data.bytes;
    uint offset = alphaOffset(point.x, point.y, self.image.size.width);
    return (bytes[offset] > 85);
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