Using the new CoreImage features of iOS with Xamarin.iOS

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last updated: 2017-03

CoreImage is a new framework introduced with iOS 5 to provide image processing and live video enhancement functionality. This article introduces these features with Xamarin.iOS samples.


CoreImage is a new framework introduced in iOS 5 that provides a number of built-in filters and effects to apply to images and videos, including face detection.

This document contains simple examples of:

  • Face detection.
  • Applying filters to an image
  • Listing the available filters.

These examples should help get you started incorporating CoreImage features into your Xamarin.iOS applications.


You must use the latest version of Xcode.

Face Detection

The CoreImage face detection feature does just what it says – it attempts to identify faces in a photo and returns the coordinates of any faces that it recognizes. This information can be used to count the number of people in an image, draw indicators on the image (eg. for ‘tagging’ people in a photograph), or anything else you can think of.

This code from CoreImage\SampleCode.cs demonstrates how to create and use face detection on an embedded image:

var image = new UIImage("photoFace.JPG");
var context = CIContext.FromOptions(null);
var detector = CIDetector.CreateFaceDetector (context, true);
var ciImage = CIImage.FromCGImage(image.CGImage);
CIFeature[] features = detector.FeaturesInImage(ciImage);

The features array will be populated with CIFaceFeature objects (if any faces were detected). There is a CIFaceFeature for each face. CIFaceFeature has the following properties:

  • HasMouthPosition – Whether a mouth was detected for this face.
  • HasLeftEyePosition – Whether the left eye was detected for this face.
  • HasRightEyePosition – Whether the right eye was detected for this face.
  • MouthPosition – The coordinates of the mouth for this face.
  • LeftEyePosition – The coordinates of the left eye for this face.
  • RightEyePosition – The coordinates of the right eye for this face.

The coordinates for all these properties have their origin in the bottom-left – unlike UIKit which uses the top-left as the origin. When using the coordinates on CIFaceFeature be sure to ‘flip’ them. This very basic custom image view in CoreImage\CoreImageViewController.cs demonstrates how to draw ‘face indicator’ triangles on the image (note the FlipForBottomOrigin method):

public class FaceDetectImageView : UIView
    public Xamarin.iOS.CoreImage.CIFeature[] Features;
    public UIImage Image;
    public FaceDetectImageView (RectangleF rect) : base(rect) {}
    CGPath path;
    public override void Draw (RectangleF rect) {
        base.Draw (rect);
        if (Image != null)

        using (var context = UIGraphics.GetCurrentContext()) {
            UIColor.Red.SetStroke ();
            UIColor.Clear.SetFill ();
            if (Features != null) {
                foreach (var feature in Features) { // for each face
                    var facefeature = (CIFaceFeature)feature;
                    path = new CGPath ();
                    path.AddLines(new PointF[]{ // assumes all 3 features found
                        FlipForBottomOrigin(facefeature.LeftEyePosition, 200),
                        FlipForBottomOrigin(facefeature.RightEyePosition, 200),
                        FlipForBottomOrigin(facefeature.MouthPosition, 200)
    /// <summary>
    /// Face recognition coordinates have their origin in the bottom-left
    /// but we are drawing with the origin in the top-left, so "flip" the point
    /// </summary>
    PointF FlipForBottomOrigin (PointF point, int height)
        return new PointF(point.X, height - point.Y);

Then in the SampleCode.cs file the image and features are assigned before the image is redrawn:

faceView.Image = image;
faceView.Features = features;

The screenshot shows the sample output: the locations of the detected facial features are displayed in a UITextView and drawn onto the source image using CoreGraphics.

Because of the way facial recognition works it will occasionally detect things besides human faces (like these toy monkeys!).


There are over 50 different built-in filters, and the framework is extensible so that new filters can be implemented .

Using Filters

Applying a filter to an image has four distinct steps: loading the image, creating the filter, applying the filter and saving (or displaying) the result.

First, load an image into a CIImage object.

var uiimage = UIImage.FromFile ("photo.JPG");
var ciimage = new CIImage (uiimage);

Second, create the filter class and set its properties.

var sepia = new CISepiaTone();
sepia.Image = ciimage;
sepia.Intensity = 0.8f;

Third, access the OutputImage property and call the CreateCGImage method to render the final result.

CIImage output = sepia.OutputImage;
var context = CIContext.FromOptions(null);
var cgimage = context.CreateCGImage (output, output.Extent);

Finally, assign the image to a view to see the result. In a real-world application the resulting image might be saved to the filesystem, the Photo Album, a Tweet or email.

var ui = UIImage.FromImage (cgimage);
imgview.Image = ui;

These screenshots show the result of the CISepia and CIHueAdjust filters that are demonstrated in the sample code.

See the Adjust Contract and Brightness of an Image Recipe for an example of the CIColorControls filter.

var uiimage = UIImage.FromFile("photo.JPG");
var ciimage = new CIImage(uiimage);
var hueAdjust = new CIHueAdjust();   // first filter
hueAdjust.Image = ciimage;
hueAdjust.Angle = 2.094f;
var sepia = new CISepiaTone();       // second filter
sepia.Image = hueAdjust.OutputImage; // output from last filter, input to this one
sepia.Intensity = 0.3f;
CIFilter color = new CIColorControls() { // third filter
    Saturation = 2,
    Brightness = 1,
    Contrast = 3,
    Image = sepia.OutputImage    // output from last filter, input to this one
var output = color.OutputImage;
var context = CIContext.FromOptions(null);
// ONLY when CreateCGImage is called do all the effects get rendered
var cgimage = context.CreateCGImage (output, output.Extent);
var ui = UIImage.FromImage (cgimage);
imgview.Image = ui;
var context = CIContext.FromOptions (null);
var context = CIContext.FromOptions(new CIContextOptions() {
    UseSoftwareRenderer = true  // CPU
var cgimage = context.CreateCGImage (output, output.Extent);
var ui = UIImage.FromImage (cgimage);
imgview.Image = ui;

Listing Filters and their Properties

This code from CoreImage\SampleCode.cs outputs the complete list of built-in filters and their parameters.

var filters = CIFilter.FilterNamesInCategories(new string[0]);
foreach (var filter in filters){
   display.Text += filter +"\n";
   var f = CIFilter.FromName (filter);
   foreach (var key in f.InputKeys){
     var attributes = (NSDictionary)f.Attributes[new NSString(key)];
     var attributeClass = attributes[new NSString("CIAttributeClass")];
     display.Text += "   " + key;
     display.Text += "   " + attributeClass + "\n";

The CIFilter Class Reference describes the 50 built-in filters and their properties. Using the code above you can query the filter classes, including default values for parameters and the maximum and minimum allowable values (which could be used to validate inputs before applying a filter).

The List Categories output looks like this on the simulator – you can scroll through the list to see all the filters and their parameters.

Each filter listed has been exposed as a class in Xamarin.iOS, so you can also explore the Xamarin.iOS.CoreImage API in the Assembly Browser or using auto-complete in either Xamarin Studio or Visual Studio. A subset of the classes is shown here:


This article has shown how to use some of the new iOS 5 CoreImage framework features like face detection and applying filters to an image. There are dozens of different image filters available in the framework for you to use.

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