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Drawing interactive shapes with Canvas elements in a React application

Drawing interactive shapes with Canvas elements in a React application

In this blog post, we will build a React application through which we can draw interactive shapes with the help of the Canvas API.

We’ll also learn about Canvas HTML elements, the Canvas API, and drawing different shapes using this API with mouse interactions.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Prerequisites

To follow along with this blog post, I would highly recommend that you review the following topics:

Canvas HTML Element and the Canvas API

<canvas> is an HTML element that helps you to draw shapes. You can draw shapes inside a canvas element using the Canvas APIs provided by the browser. This element acts as a container in which you can draw different shapes. To draw inside a canvas element, a context for the element is required. A context is an entity that we can draw shapes on. We can use getContext to get the CanvasRenderingContext2D that returns the 2-D context.

Let’s look at a simple React component that draws a rectangle inside a canvas element.

import { useEffect, useRef } from "react";

export const Rectangle = () => {
const canvasRef = useRef<HTMLCanvasElement | null>(null);

useEffect(() => {
if (canvasRef.current) {
const ctx = canvasRef.current.getContext("2d");
ctx?.strokeRect(200, 200, 40, 50);
}
}, []);

return (
<canvas
ref={canvasRef}
width="400"
height="350"
style={{ border: "2px solid black" }}
/>
);
};

Here is what the Rectangle component will render:

Let’s take a peek into the above Rectangle component:

  • The Rectangle component returns a canvas element whose width and height are set to 400px and 300px, respectively.
  • We need to make sure that we pass a ref to the canvas element. This will help us to access the different properties of the canvas element.
  • Lastly, we want to draw inside the canvas element once the component is rendered. To do so, we’ll write a piece of code that gets the canvas element’s 2-D context using getContext("2d") and uses the above context to draw a rectangle with a function strokeRect.

Now, with this understanding, let’s dive into drawing some shapes.

Drawing Rectangle on click of the Canvas

In this section, we’re going to talk about drawing a rectangle on the click of the canvas, as in the gif below:

If we think about building an app like this in React or in JS, then we need to consider two important points: First, how we get the cursor’s x and y coordinates for drawing onto the Canvas, and second, how we’re going to draw on the mouse click.

Let’s investigate these points further:

How would we get the cursor’s x and y coordinates so that we can draw it onto the canvas?

    • In this scenario, we can simply add an event listener on the mousemove event.
    • The handler we will attach will simply set the x and y coordinates to the values that are relative to the edges of the given element, like this:
const handleCursorMovement = (event) => {
let rect = event.target.getBoundingClientRect();
return {
x: event.clientX - rect.left,
y: event.clientY - rect.top
};
};
    • The x-coordinate is the difference between the viewport's x-coordinate and the distance of the current object from the left edge of the viewport. This will give us the x-coordinate inside the rectangle. In this case, the current object is what we’re hovering over.
    • Similarly, we have y where it is the difference between the viewport’s y-coordinate and the distance of the current object from the top edge of the viewport. In this case, the current object is what we’re hovering over.

You can read more about clientX and getBoundingClientRect here and here. This is a really useful scenario, and it will be used in most of our examples.

So, let’s wrap this logic into a hook so that we can use it in any component we want.

Copy-paste the below code into a file named useMousePosition.tsx

import { useEffect, useState } from "react";

const useMousePosition = (
global: boolean = false
): [{ x: number; y: number }, (event: MouseEvent) => void] => {
const [mouseCoords, setMouseCoords] = useState<{
x: number;
y: number;
}>({
x: 0,
y: 0
});

const handleCursorMovement = (event: MouseEvent): void => {
//@ts-ignore
let rect = event.target.getBoundingClientRect();
setMouseCoords({
x: event.clientX - rect.left,
y: event.clientY - rect.top
});
};
useEffect(() => {
if (global) {
window.addEventListener("mousemove", handleCursorMovement);

return () => {
window.removeEventListener("mousemove", handleCursorMovement);
};
}
}, [global]);

return [mouseCoords, handleCursorMovement];
};

export default useMousePosition;
  • This hook returns an array that consists of two things: the current cursor coordinates, and a function that handles the setting of these coordinates.
  • This function also accepts a parameter called “global.” If set to true, this parameter makes sure that a listener is attached to the mousemove event over the entire window.
  • The default value of the global parameter is set to false.

How are we going to draw on the mouse click?

  • In this scenario, we’re going to draw inside the canvas whenever the user clicks on the canvas.
  • To do this, we are going to bind the canvas element with a function that executes itself on a click. It’s as simple as adding an onClick attribute to it.

To wrap up this scenario, place the following code inside a file named Square.tsx:

import { useRef } from "react";
import useMousePosition from "./hooks/useMousePosition";

export default function Sqaure() {
const canvasRef = useRef<HTMLCanvasElement | null>(null);
const [coords, handleCoords] = useMousePosition(true);

return (
<>
<h1>Sqaure on click</h1>
<canvas
ref={canvasRef}
width="400"
height="350"
style={{ border: "2px solid black" }}
onClick={(e) => {
handleCoords((e as unknown) as MouseEvent);
if (canvasRef.current) {
const ctx = canvasRef.current.getContext("2d");
ctx?.strokeRect(coords.x, coords.y, 40, 50);
}
}}
></canvas>
<button
onClick={() => {
if (canvasRef.current) {
const ctx = canvasRef.current.getContext("2d");
ctx?.clearRect(0, 0, 400, 350);
}
}}
>
CLEAR
</button>
</>
);
}

The output will look something like below:

In this, we also make sure to provide a “clear” button so that the Canvas can be cleared.

As you can see from the above code, we have attached a function on the onClick attribute of the canvas:

<canvas
ref={canvasRef}
width="400"
height="350"
style={{ border: "2px solid black" }}
onClick={(e) => {
handleCoords((e as unknown) as MouseEvent);
if (canvasRef.current) {
const ctx = canvasRef.current.getContext("2d");
ctx?.strokeRect(coords.x, coords.y, 40, 50);
}
}}
></canvas>

This function will do the following things:

  • It will execute the handleCoords function that sets the current mouse position coordinates.
  • Then it gets the current canvas’s 2-D context.
  • Finally, it draws a rectangle using the strokeRect function via passing the x and y coordinates of the mouse pointer.

Let’s go ahead and look at what else we can draw:

Animate canvas objects

In this section of the article, we’re going to talk about the interesting stuff: the animation of the objects present inside the canvas.

Things that we are going to do in this section are:

  • Draw the shape on the Canvas
  • Move the shape on the Canvas at a regular interval to get the animation effect

The animation that we are building here is a ball moving continuously in a horizontal direction. Here is a glimpse of it:

To draw a circle, we can use the below code:

export const drawCircle = (
ctx: CanvasRenderingContext2D,
circleDims: {
radius: number;
lineWidth: number;
strokeStyle: string;
colorFill?: string;
startX: number;
startY: number;
},
rectDims: { w: number; h: number } = { w: 400, h: 3500 }
) => {
const {
radius,
strokeStyle,
startX,
startY,
lineWidth,
colorFill
} = circleDims;
ctx?.clearRect(0, 0, rectDims.w, rectDims.h);
ctx.lineWidth = lineWidth;
ctx.strokeStyle = strokeStyle;

ctx?.beginPath();
ctx?.arc(startX, startY, radius, 0, Math.PI * 2, true);
ctx?.stroke();
if (colorFill) {
ctx.fillStyle = colorFill;
ctx.fill();
}
};

I have wrapped the logic of creating a circle in the function drawCircle. The logic of it is below:

ctx?.clearRect(0, 0, rectDims.w, rectDims.h);
ctx.lineWidth = lineWidth;
ctx.strokeStyle = strokeStyle;

ctx?.beginPath();
ctx?.arc(startX, startY, radius, 0, Math.PI * 2, true);
ctx?.stroke();
if (colorFill) {
ctx.fillStyle = colorFill;
ctx.fill();
}
  • First, we clear the Canvas using the clearRect function.
  • Next, we set the lineWidth of the circumference of the circle/ball.
  • We also set the strokeStyle that sets the color of the border.
  • Then, we start to create a new path using the beginPath function. We make use of the arc method that helps draw circular arcs with the given x-coordinate, y-coordinate, radius, start and end angle.
  • Once the arc is added as a sub-path, we can draw the arc onto the Canvas with the given stroke style using the stroke function.
  • Finally, if the colorFill is available, then it will fill the path with the available fillStyle.

Next, we will make use of this function to create a component that animates the shape.

Create a file named Circle.tsx file and place the below code:

import { useEffect, useRef, useState } from "react";
import { drawCircle } from "./utilities";

const Circle = () => {
const canvasRef = useRef<HTMLCanvasElement | null>(null);
const [startX, setStartX] = useState<number>(0);
useEffect(() => {
if (canvasRef?.current) {
const ctx = canvasRef.current.getContext("2d");

requestAnimationFrame(function ball() {
//@ts-ignore
drawCircle(ctx, {
radius: 50,
lineWidth: 3,
strokeStyle: "#4F7CAC",
colorFill: "#4F7CAC",
startY: 150,
startX
});
setStartX((prevStartX) => prevStartX + 5);
ctx?.stroke();
if (startX > 400) {
setStartX(0);
}
});
}
}, [startX]);
return (
<>
<h1>Moving Circle</h1>
<canvas
ref={canvasRef}
width="400"
height="350"
style={{ border: "2px solid black" }}
/>
</>
);
};

export default Circle;

Let’s analyze this code a bit:

  • The Circle component returns a canvas element. This is similar to the Square component that we saw in the earlier section.
  • The aim of this animation is to move the circle continuously in the horizontal direction. So, in this case, we need to make sure we change the x-coordinate. For this, we created a new state variable called startX. We’ll look later at how we update startX continuously.
  • Next, we have a useEffect. This useEffect gets the 2-D context of the canvas and then executes the function requestAnimationFrame.
  • requestAnimationFrame is a function that tells the browser it needs to perform an animation. The provided function will be executed before the next repaint. In this case, we are going to pass a function, ball, that draws a new circle on every new x-coordinate with the help of startX.
  • We make use of the setStartX update handler that updates the current startX by 5.
  • Lastly, we check if the startX state is crossing the right edge of the canvas. If yes, then we set the value to 0. This ensures that whenever the ball hits the right edge, it can start the animation again from the left edge.

Moving shapes along with mouse events

In this section, we’re going to talk about how we can make the shapes inside the canvas interact with mouse events.

The process that we are going to follow is very similar to what we had in the Square component. In the square component, we made use of the onClick attribute of the canvas element to draw a rectangle on the mouse click event. Similarly, we are going to make use of the onMouseMove attribute of the canvas element.

Create a file named TrackingBall.tsx and paste the below code:

import { useEffect, useRef } from "react";
import useMousePosition from "./hooks/useMousePosition";
import { drawCircle } from "./utilities";
const MouseBall = () => {
const canvasRef = useRef<HTMLCanvasElement | null>(null);
const [coords, handleCoords] = useMousePosition();

useEffect(() => {
if (canvasRef?.current) {
const ctx = canvasRef.current.getContext("2d");

requestAnimationFrame(function ball() {
//@ts-ignore
drawCircle(ctx, {
radius: 50,
lineWidth: 3,
strokeStyle: "#4F7CAC",
colorFill: "#4F7CAC",
startY: coords.y,
startX: coords.x
});
});
}
}, [coords.x, coords.y]);
return (
<>
<h1>Tracking ball</h1>
<canvas
id="canvas2"
ref={canvasRef}
width="400"
height="350"
onMouseMove={(e) => {
handleCoords((e as unknown) as MouseEvent);
}}
style={{ border: "2px solid black" }}
></canvas>
</>
);
};

export default MouseBall;

The MouseBall component is pretty similar to the Sqaure component. The only change is that we are executing the handleCoords function inside the onMouseMove event. Also, we are making use of the requestAnimationFrame function to execute the ball handler on the change of coords.x and coords.y.

The final output will look like the below:

Summary

In this article, we talked about the following things:

  • What is a canvas HTML element?
  • How are Canvas APIs used to draw inside the canvas?
  • How the Canvas APIs work with the help of a simple example.
  • How to draw rectangles and circle shapes with the Canvas API.
  • Building a custom hook to track the position of the cursor.
  • How the requestAnimationFrame function can be used.
  • Lastly, we also saw how we can make use of the mouse events to interact with shapes present inside the canvas.

So in this way, we can make use of the Canvas HTML element, Canvas API, and React to draw different interactive shapes.

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