Fun with Kivy & drawing graphics

I recently starting using Kivy, a cross platform Python based native UI framework for a personal project. While searching forums, documentation, and Stackoverflow I have noticed several posts with code that takes the hard road to updating an on screen graphic. This post presents an example of using Kivy’s Kv language in combination with Python to draw an object that rotates in response to user input.

One of the reasons why I picked Kivy for a project was the included

Kv language. Kv provides a way to declaratively describe how an object looks when drawn on screen. The Kivy framework can also automatically tie variables used in the Kv description of an object to code in a python file. The other thing that Kv does is expose a way to manipulate the underlying OpenGL transformation matrix. Using the underlying transformation matrix we can scale, translate (move within a coordinate space), and rotate an object seen by the end user.

Let’s suppose that I want to draw an ellipse that rotates around a circle anchored to the left side of the screen.  We’ll represent the collection of both the circle and ellipse using a single Kivy Widget.A rotating ellipse Here is the definition of the widget code:

class MyWidget(Widget):
    """My Widget represents a circle and a rotating ellipse
    """
    angle = NumericProperty(0)

    def on_touch_down(self, touch):
        radians = math.atan2(touch.y - self.parent.center_y, touch.x)
        self.angle = math.degrees(radians)

The class uses the Kivy NumericProperty class to add a ‘angle’ property to each instance of MyWidget, we’ll see where that value gets used in a few moments. The class also implements the on_touch_down(self, touch) method which gets called when a user clicks inside of the Kivy application window.

That’s it, the only thing that needs to be done in Python is the calculation of the angle that the ellipse should rotate to when the user clicks in the application window.

Now let’s look at the Kv for the widget:

<MyWidget>:
    canvas.before:
        PushMatrix
        Rotate:
            angle: self.angle
            axis: 0, 0, 1
            origin: self.x, self.y
    canvas:
        Ellipse:
            pos: self.x + 10, self.y - 5
            size: 30, 10
    canvas.after:
        PopMatrix
        Ellipse:
            pos: self.x - 10, self.y - 10
            size: 20, 20

The magic of positioning the objects on screen relative to each other occurs in the Kv file. The first line associates the Kv definition with a Python class of the same name. We use the canvas.before and PushMatrix elements to push the current OpenGL transformation matrix onto the matrix stack (saving it in other words). We then rotate the scene using the angle provided by the Python class (self.angle), see here for more information about how Kivy ties these elements together. After rotating the scene (in canvas), we draw an ellipse positioned such that it will rotate around the circle we draw (in canvas.after). The final things we do are restore the previously saved matrix by calling PopMatrix and then draw a circle that the ellipse will rotate around.

When a user clicks in the Kivy app the rotation angle is recalculated in the Python code and the Kivy drawing code is notified of the change to the angle attribute. When the angle attribute changes the elements on screen are redrawn using the new values. There is no need for a timed update method, no need to calculate (x,y) coordinates in the Python code, and no need to clear and redraw the screen. All in all Kv (and Kivy) offer a pretty nifty way of drawing things on screen with minimal code effort. The linked example is fully operational source code for Kivy 1.8.0 and up.

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