March 1, 2000

Java 2D Graphics, The Shape Interface, Part 1

Java Programming, Lecture Notes # 308


by Richard G. Baldwin



In an earlier lesson, I explained that the Graphics2D class extends the Graphics class to provide more sophisticated control over geometry, coordinate transformations, color management, and text layout. Beginning with JDK 1.2, Graphics2D is the fundamental class for rendering two-dimensional shapes, text and images.


I also explained that without understanding the behavior of other classes and interfaces such as Shape, AffineTransform, GraphicsConfiguration, PathIterator, and Stroke, it is not possible to fully understand the inner workings of the Graphics2D class. 


This and a subsequent lesson are intended to give you the necessary understanding of the Shape interface.

What is a Shape?

According to Sun:


“The Shape interface provides definitions for objects that represent some form of geometric shape. The Shape is described by a PathIterator object, which can express the outline of the Shape as well as a rule for determining how the outline divides the 2D plane into interior and exterior points.  Each Shape object provides callbacks to get the bounding box of the geometry, determine whether points or rectangles lie partly or entirely within the interior of the Shape, and retrieve a PathIterator object that describes the trajectory path of the Shape outline.”

What is a PathIterator Object?

A subsequent lesson will be dedicated entirely to the PathIterator interface, so I won’t go into detail on PathIterator in this lesson.  For the time being, this is part of what Sun has to say about PathIterator.


The PathIterator interface provides the mechanism for objects that implement the Shape interface to return the geometry of their boundary by allowing a caller to retrieve the path of that boundary a segment at a time.


In other words, PathIterator makes it possible for code in a program to obtain information about the geometric outline of an object that implements the Shape interface.

Geometric Objects Implement Shape

A shape need not enclose an area

In his book, Java Foundation Classes in a Nutshell, David Flanagan tells us that the Java 2D definition of a shape does not require the shape to enclose an area.  In other words, a Shape object can represent an open curve.  According to Flanagan, if an open curve is passed to a method that requires a closed curve (such as fill()), the curve is automatically closed by connecting its end points with a straight line.

Graphics2D methods require Shape parameters

The following methods of the Graphics2D class require an object that implements the Shape interface as a parameter:


I have illustrated the use of the draw() method in previous, and will illustrate the use of the other methods listed above in subsequent lessons.


In addition, both the Graphics2D class and the AffineTransform class provide methods that allow us to scale, rotate, translate, and shear objects that implement the Shape interface.  I have illustrated the use of these methods in previous lessons.

Shape is even used with text

The Shape interface even makes it way into the display of text, because the individual characters can be viewed as Shape objects.

Many geometric classes implement Shape

Java 2D provides a number of classes in the java.awt.geom package that implement the Shape interface, such as Rectangle2D.Double and Ellipse2D.Double.  I have illustrated the use of some of these classes in previous lessons, and undoubtedly will continue to illustrate them in subsequent lessons.  This lesson illustrates the use of the Line2D.Double, Rectangle2D.Double and Ellipse2D.Double classes.


According to Java 2D Graphics by Jonathan Knudsen,


“Directly or indirectly, every geometric class in Java 2D implements the Shape interface.  This means they can all be passed to Graphic2D’s draw() and paint() methods.”


Knudsen also points out that every Shape object has an interior and an exterior, and that we can determine if a point or a rectangle is inside the Shape object. 


He goes on to explain that what constitutes “inside” can be very complex for certain types of complex shapes.  There are some special rules, called winding rules that are used to determine if a point is inside a Shape object.  That is another topic that I will defer to a subsequent lesson.

The Area class combines Shape objects

Java 2D also provides an Area class that allows you to create new shapes by combining existing objects that implement the Shape interface.  The Area class supports union, intersection, subtraction, and exclusive OR of Shape objects.  I will defer a detailed discussion of those capabilities until a subsequent lesson.

GeneralPath class can create custom Shape objects

Another class, named GeneralPath, makes it possible for you to describe a Shape as a sequence of line segments and curves.  I will also defer the discussion of that class until a subsequent lesson.

What Does This Lesson Cover?

So, having deferred several topics to subsequent lessons, what will I cover in this lesson?


The Shape interface provides four groups of overloaded methods that make it possible to perform the following tasks:



I will discuss the first three capabilities in this lesson, and defer a discussion of the PathIterator to a subsequent lesson.

Why should you care about the Shape interface?

You might be saying that you don’t care about doing any of these four things, so why should you care about the Shape interface.  Even if you don’t care about bounding boxes, PathIterator objects, etc., you still need to know about the Shape interface.


As I explained earlier in this lesson, beginning with JDK 1.2, Graphics2D is the fundamental class for rendering two-dimensional shapes, text and images.  Many of the capabilities introduced in the Graphics2D class are available only when working with objects that implement the Shape interface.


Also, as I explained in an earlier lesson, the AffineTransform class is used to transform graphic coordinate information between user space and device space.  Similarly, most of the capabilities of the AffineTransform class are available only when working with objects that implement the Shape interface.

Shape interface is “new” to JDK 1.2

Flanagan tells us that even though the Shape interface was first defined in JDK 1.1,


“The interface is so central to Java 2D and has grown so much since the Java 1.1 version, ... it should generally be considered to be new in Java 1.2.”

Sample Program

This sample program, named illustrates the use of the Shape interface for


The Shape object, as well as the bounding rectangle, and three rectangles used in the tests are displayed in a Frame object in different colors.

Start with a Frame object

The program draws a four-inch by four-inch Frame on the screen.  It translates the origin to the center of the Frame.  Then it draws a pair of X and Y-axes centered on the new origin.


This discussion of dimensions in inches on the screen depends on the method named getScreenResolution() returning the correct value.  However, the getScreenResolution() method always seems to return 120 on my computer regardless of the actual screen resolution settings.


After this, it draws a black circle with a diameter of one inch, centered on the new origin.  Then it gets the bounding rectangle for the circle and draws it in red. 


After this, it draws a green half-inch square completely inside the circle.  Then it draws a blue half-inch square partially inside and partially outside the circle.  Finally, it draws a magenta half-inch square completely outside the circle.

Test for contains() and intersects()

Then it tests the bounding rectangle and the three half-inch squares to determine if they are contained in the circle.  It displays the results on the standard output device.


Finally, it tests the bounding rectangle and the three half-inch squares to determine if they intersect the circle, and displays the results on the standard output device.


In addition to drawing the circle and the squares in the Frame, the following output is presented on the command-line screen:


theCircle contains theBoundingBox: false

theCircle contains theInsideBox: true

theCircle contains theIntersectingBox: false

theCircle contains theOutsideBox: false


theCircle intersects theBoundingBox: true

theCircle intersects theInsideBox: true

theCircle intersects theIntersectingBox: true

theCircle intersects theOutsideBox: false


The program was tested using JDK 1.2.2 under WinNT Workstation 4.0.

Will discuss in fragments

As is my practice, I will discuss the program in fragments.  The entire program is presented intact at the end of the lesson for your review.


The controlling class and the constructor for the GUI class are almost identical to similar code that I have discussed in earlier lessons.  Therefore, I won’t discuss that code in this lesson.  You might want to take a quick look at the complete listing at the end of the lesson.  If you see something there that you don’t understand, you should go back and review the previous lessons in this series on the Java 2D API.

Overridden paint() method

All of the interesting action in this program takes place in the overridden paint() method.  Figure 1 shows the beginning of that method, including a reminder that it is necessary to downcast the incoming Graphics reference in order to gain access to the capabilities of the Graphics2D class.

Update the AffineTransform object

Figure 2 updates the AffineTransform object in the Graphics2D object to:


  1. Compensate for the difference in actual screen resolution and assumed screen resolution of 72 units per inch.
  2. Translate the origin to the center of the Frame object.

If you don’t understand this fragment, you should go back and review an earlier lesson that discussed Affine transforms in detail.

Draw the axes

Figure 3 draws a horizontal line and a vertical line through the origin to represent the X and Y-axes in the 2D plane.  This should be pretty intuitive.  If it isn’t clear what is happening here, you should take a look at the Sun documentation, particularly with respect to the parameters passed to the constructor for the Line2D.Double class.

Instantiate a circle object

Figure 4 instantiates a circle object as an object of the Ellipse2D.Double class.  Again, you might want to take a look at the Sun documentation, particularly with  regard to the parameters being passed to the constructor.


When creating an object of this class, the parameters that are passed are actually the location, width, and height of a bounding rectangle for the ellipse.  If the rectangle is a square (as in this case), the ellipse becomes a circle.  If the rectangle is centered on the origin (as in this case), the circle is also centered on the origin.

Instantiates but doesn’t render

Note that this fragment simply instantiates the object of the class Ellipse2D.Double.  This fragment doesn’t actually render that object onto the screen.  This is an important point because we sometimes tend to overlook the difference between instantiating a Shape object and passing that object to a method of the Graphics2D class to actually render it on the output device.

Rendering the circle

Figure 5 passes the reference to the Shape (circle) object to the draw() method to have it rendered on the output device.  Recall that the rendering process implements the current state of the AffineTransform object.


In this case, the transform provides scaling to convert from user space units to inches on the screen. 


The transform also translates the origin to the center of the Frame object.  Therefore, the circle is drawn centered in the Frame object with a diameter of one inch.


The circle is drawn in the default drawing color, which is black.


If you manually resize the Frame, the size and location of the circle doesn’t change.

Get the bounding box

Figure 6 invokes the getBounds2D() method of the Shape interface to get the bounding rectangle for the circle.  Since the Shape is a circle, the bounding rectangle is actually a square whose horizontal and vertical dimensions are the same the diameter of the circle.


A reference to the bounding box is saved in the reference variable named theBoundingBox because it will be needed later.

Set the Color property

The Graphics2D object has several properties that are used to control certain aspects of the rendering process.  One of those properties is Color.   This property defines the actual drawing color that is used when the draw() method is invoked and passed a reference to a Shape object as a parameter.


Figure 7 uses a standard setter method to change the drawing color to red.  Then it invokes the draw() method to draw theBoundingBox in red.

The test boxes

The next fragment instantiates three objects of the class Rectangle2D.Double that will be used later to illustrate the contains() method and the intersects() method of the Shape interface.

The contains() method

Here is part of what Sun has to say about the contains() method:


“Tests if the interior of the Shape entirely contains the specified rectangular area. All coordinates that lie inside the rectangular area must lie within the Shape for the entire rectangular area to be considered contained within the Shape.”


Sun goes on to explain some cases when this method might return false when the answer is really true due to arithmetic accuracy issues.  If this is of interest to you, take a look at the Sun documentation.

The intersects() method

Here is part of what Sun has to say about the intersects() method:


“Tests if the interior of the Shape intersects the interior of a specified rectangular area. The rectangular area is considered to intersect the Shape if any point is contained in both the interior of the Shape and the specified rectangular area.”


Again, Sun provides some caveats having to do with arithmetic accuracy that may be of interest to you as well.  If so, refer to the Sun documentation.

Instantiate the test boxes

Figure 8 instantiates three boxes.  Given the coordinates passed as parameters to the constructor, one box is clearly contained in the circle.  One box intersects the circle, and the third box is clearly outside the circle.

Draw the boxes in the Frame

Figure 9 draws the three boxes in colors of green, blue, and magenta.

Perform the contains() test and display results

Figure 10 invokes the contains() method on theCircle to determine if theBoundingBox is contained in the circle.  If so, the method returns true.  Otherwise, the method returns false


The return value is formatted along with some explanatory text and displayed on the standard output device.  In this case, the method returns false because theBoundingBox is not contained in theCircle.


I am going to skip over three other almost identical statements that test the other three boxes to see if they are contained in the circle.  You can view these statements in the complete listing of the program at the end of the lesson.

Perform the intersects() test and display results

Figure 11 invokes the intersects() method on theCircle to determine if theBoundingBox intersects the circle.  In this case, the screen output was


theCircle intersects theBoundingBox: true


This means that the bounding box has some coordinate values in common with the circle.  Because of the symmetry involved, it is probably reasonable to think that there are four points on the circle that are common with the bounding box.


Again, I am going to skip over three other almost identical statements that test the other three boxes to see if they intersect the circle.  You can view those statements at the end of the lesson.


That brings us to the end of this lesson.  We now know how to use three of the four primary capabilities of the Shape interface: getBounds(), contains(), and intersects().


I will discuss the fourth primary capability, getPathIterator() in a subsequent lesson.

Complete Program Listing

A complete listing of the program is provided in Figure 12.

Copyright 2000, Richard G. Baldwin.  Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without  express written permission from Richard Baldwin is prohibited. 

About the author

Richard Baldwin is a college professor and private consultant whose primary focus is a combination of Java and XML. In addition to the many platform-independent benefits of Java applications, he believes that a combination of Java and XML will become the primary driving force in the delivery of structured information on the Web.

Richard has participated in numerous consulting projects involving Java, XML, or a combination of the two.  He frequently provides onsite Java and/or XML training at the high-tech companies located in and around Austin, Texas.  He is the author of Baldwin's Java Programming Tutorials, which has gained a worldwide following among experienced and aspiring Java programmers. He has also published articles on Java Programming in Java Pro magazine.

Richard holds an MSEE degree from Southern Methodist University and has many years of experience in the application of computer technology to real-world problems.