Working with Images

Custom imagery enhances the presentation of a rich user interface. A significant portion of a Storyboard application's user interface objects are made up of custom visual elements. The Designer environment works hard to ensure that the management and use of those images is as flexible as possible.

Images are applied to a UI design using the image render extension. The image render extension uses its name property to identify an image file (png, jpg, bmp among others) that is to be rendered when the control is redrawn. The name of this image file is generally relative to the project root and by convention is located in the images directory of the project. Like all properties, the name field can be bound to a variable in order to make it dynamic and changeable at runtime. The Storyboard Samples > Animation > ImageRotation and Thermostat (among many others) demonstrate how images and image properties can be manipulated to provide different visual effects.

Any image content that is directly in the images directory of a project will be loaded into image selection dialogs and made readily available to the user. Since the images directory is part of the filesystem, it is relatively straightforward to add content into it, however Storyboard also provides some import facilities directly within the Designer environment:

  • Directly placing images into your project’s images directory. This can be done using copy and paste, drag and drop directly to the underlying filesystem folder or into the folder within the Designer environment.

  • An image may be dragged and dropped from your filesystem directly into the application editor. When this happens the image will automatically be copied into the images directory and then a new control and image render extension will be created where you dropped the image.

  • The Images View has functionality to import images using a toolbar icon. Multiple images may be imported at a time.

  • The Image Selection Dialog. This is the dialog associated with the Name property of the image render extension. By default this dialog will show you the currently available images, but if you need to bring in a new image then there is an import button within the dialog.

The Image Selection dialog is presented when creating a new image control or when we are selecting to change the Name property of an image render extension. The primary difference between creating a new image control and changing the name property on an existing image render extension is that only newly created image controls will have the option to Resize the control to the image dimensions. This option allows you to drag out an area for a control but then properly fit the control to match the size of an image.

The Storyboard image loader is fully libpng compliant at the expense of requiring an extra plugin. If you don’t need or want this capability, you can either remove libgre-plugin-sbimage-png.(so|dll) from your engine directory or use the argument, -osbimage_png,disable to use the older Simple OpenGL Image Loader (SOIL) based image loading.

SVG Support

Storyboard supports SVG images like any other image format in Designer. On export and simulate, Designer walks through the application model, rasterizes SVG images at every size found in the application, and embeds them as metadata in the SVG document so the Engine can render them without needing to perform expensive rasterization operations at runtime.

The SVG metadata is stripped and regenerated on every export and simulate, and can be manually removed by right clicking the image in the Images view and selecting Strip SVG Metadata. The Load Content Scaled flag has no effect on SVG images.


Your engine deployment needs to include the libgre-plugin-sbimage-svg.(so|dll) plugin to render SVG images.

Image Rotation

Rotate At Center

Storyboard image render extensions have an option to facilitate the rotation of an image at the center of the image. For images that are not scaled, this option behaves exactly as one might expect it would and as the rotation property is changed the image rotates accordingly.

When an image is scaled and there is need to rotate it the rotate at center provides an automatic scaling facility that may not be what you are expecting. In these situations the selection of rotating at center or selecting a custom rotation co-ordinate and making it the center of the image will provide different results.

In all situations, the option to rotate at center works best with the image render extension alignment configured center-center as such:


The rotate at center option uses a specific transformation path that will scale the image to fit the original size of the render extension after the rotation has taken place, this means that as it is rotated, it will be scaled to fit into its original bounds.


Rotate At Custom Point

The option to use custom rotation points works well with scaled images. The image will be scaled to fit its render extension bounds before being rotated and the image rotation will be performed without modifying the size of the image on screen.

In order to see the visual representation of the custom rotation point in Storyboard Designer, a render extension must have 'Rotate around center of control' disabled and must either have a non-zero rotation angle or must have a variable bound to the rotation property of the render extension. Hovering the mouse cursor over the crosshair will display the name of the render extension and the position of the rotation center point. Changes made to the rotation center x and y in the Properties View will be reflected by the crosshair in the editor.


Clicking on a control with a visible center rotation point crosshair will enter the control into direct edit mode. Upon entering this mode, the center rotation point crosshair will change to indicate that it is in direct edit mode and the mouse cursor will change to indicate that the point can be dragged. Direct edit mode allows you to drag the center rotation point crosshair within the bounds of the control, the center rotation x and y properties will be updated to reflect changes to the crosshair position. When multiple image render extensions which are rotated at custom points exist on the same control, only the topmost render extension's crosshair will become active in direct edit mode.


When images are rotated dynamically at runtime, there is rarely a one-to-one correspondence between the original source pixels and the destination pixels so some level of interpolation, or mapping, is going to occur. There are many different algorithms for this interpolation each of which trades visual image quality for the cost of the computation to perform the interpolation. This trade off can be adjusted globally by configuring the quality render manager option for sbengine, with Storyboard defaulting to a higher visual quality mid-CPU cost option. On OpenGL based rendering platforms, another option that can have an equally significant impact on the visual quality of rotated images is the multisample render manager option which controls how the edges of image textures are blended with one another. Higher multisampling means smoother edges and lower multisampling results in more jagged edges.

Alpha and Transparency in Images

Since much of a Storyboard UI is composed of images, the format and organization of those images can have a dramatic impact on performance. One of the key performance issues related to image rendering and composition is the use of full or partial transparency. Large areas of full transparency can result in may CPU or GPU cycles consumed needlessly traversing pixel areas. Similarly images that are fully opaque but in a format that indicates they may have some level of per pixel level transparency can be optimized at Design into a different format. Image format optimization and consolidation is covered in more detail in the optimization chapter of this manual.

Creating Scalable 9-Patch Bitmap Images

9-Patch is technique used to scale an image in such a way that the 4 corners remain unscaled. The four edges are scaled in one axis and the middle is scaled in both axis. 9-Patch support has been added to Storyboard Designer to make scaling images on embedded applications easier. Instead of having multiple button images of various sizes, customers can now have one image that scales and maintains image quality.


9-Patch images can be designed and edited directly in the Storyboard Design environment. You can quickly analyze and convert existing large or scaled image content to 9-Patch format to achieve immediate memory and runtime performance improvements. In order to be converted to 9-Patch, the source image must have full 32 bit color depth.

Multi-Frame Animated GIF Images

While Storyboard animations provide a very powerful mechanism to create custom interactions, simple single image animations can be created using the industry standard animated GIF format. Simply reference the animated GIF file in the standard image render extension and when the image is rendered for the first time it will start running the frames of the image. In the current implementation, animations specified as an animated GIF will loop forever. To stop the animation, change the image reference to a non-multi-frame image or mark the control as hidden.

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