Create shadows and clip views

Try the Compose way
Jetpack Compose is the recommended UI toolkit for Android. Learn how to work with theming in Compose.

Material Design introduces elevation for UI elements. Elevation helps users understand the relative importance of each element and focus their attention to the current task.

The elevation of a view, represented by the Z property, determines the visual appearance of its shadow. Views with higher Z values cast larger, softer shadows, and they occlude views with lower Z values. However, the Z value of a view doesn't affect the view's size.

An image showing how a view elevation produces a shadow.
Figure 1. Elevation on the Z-axis and the resulting shadow.

Shadows are drawn by the parent of the elevated view. They are subject to standard view clipping and are clipped by the parent by default.

Elevation is also useful to create animations where widgets temporarily rise above the view plane when performing actions.

For more information, see Elevation in Material Design.

Assign elevation to your views

The Z value for a view has two components:

  • Elevation: the static component
  • Translation: the dynamic component used for animations

Z = elevation + translationZ

The Z values are measured in dp (density-independent pixels).

An image showing different shadows for different elevations in dp
Figure 2. Different shadows for different elevations in dp.

To set the default (resting) elevation of a view, use the android:elevation attribute in the XML layout. To set the elevation of a view in the code of an activity, use the View.setElevation() method.

To set the translation of a view, use the View.setTranslationZ() method.

The ViewPropertyAnimator.z() and ViewPropertyAnimator.translationZ() methods let you animate the elevation of views. For more information, see the API reference for ViewPropertyAnimator and the property animation developer guide.

You can also use a StateListAnimator to specify these animations in a declarative way. This is especially useful for cases where state changes trigger animations, like when the user taps a button. For more information, see Animate view state changes using StateListAnimator.

Customize view shadows and outlines

The bounds of a view's background drawable determine the default shape of its shadow. Outlines represent the outer shape of a graphics object and define the ripple area for touch feedback.

Consider the following view, which is defined with a background drawable:

    android:background="@drawable/myrect" />

The background drawable is defined as a rectangle with rounded corners:

<!-- res/drawable/myrect.xml -->
<shape xmlns:android=""
    <solid android:color="#42000000" />
    <corners android:radius="5dp" />

The view casts a shadow with rounded corners, since the background drawable defines the view's outline. Providing a custom outline overrides the default shape of a view's shadow.

To define a custom outline for a view in your code, do the following:

  1. Extend the ViewOutlineProvider class.
  2. Override the getOutline() method.
  3. Assign the new outline provider to your view with the View.setOutlineProvider() method.

You can create oval and rectangular outlines with rounded corners using the methods in the Outline class. The default outline provider for views obtains the outline from the view's background. To prevent a view from casting a shadow, set its outline provider to null.

Clip views

Clipping views lets you change the shape of a view. You can clip views for consistency with other design elements or to change the shape of a view in response to user input. You can clip a view to its outline area using the View.setClipToOutline() method. Only outlines that are rectangles, circles, and round rectangles support clipping, as determined by the Outline.canClip() method.

To clip a view to the shape of a drawable, set the drawable as the background of the view—as shown in the preceding example—and call the View.setClipToOutline() method.

Clipping views is an expensive operation, so don't animate the shape you use to clip a view. To achieve this effect, use the reveal animation.