Igor Kulman

Graying out images in Cocoa

· Igor Kulman

I have been working on a macOS application recently where I encountered an interesting task to grey out flags for countries that are disabled.

Colorful flags

I first tried overlaying a semi-transparent gray view (fun fact, you cannot directly set a background for a view in Cocoa, you need to use the layer) over the flag image but it did not look very good.

Luckily there is a way to convert a NSImage to grayscale directly in Cocoa.

You first need to create a bitmap representation your NSImage

let bitmap = NSBitmapImageRep(cgImage: cgImage)

convert it to grayscale

let grayscale = bitmap.converting(to: .genericGray, renderingIntent: .default)

and then construct an NSImage from the result.

let grayImage = NSImage(size: grayscale.size)

Putting it all together as an NSImage extension might look like this

extension NSImage {
    func grayOut() -> NSImage? {
        guard let image = cgImage else {
            return nil

        let bitmap = NSBitmapImageRep(cgImage: image)

        guard let grayscale = bitmap.converting(to: .genericGray, renderingIntent: .default) else {
            return nil

        let grayImage = NSImage(size: grayscale.size)
        return grayImage

Applying this method to the flags from the beginning of this post will get you this result

Grayed out flags

See also