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Application Appearance and Skin Colors

  • 9 minutes to read

The look of any DevExpress control depends on Skin and Appearance objects.

  • Appearance objects can be accessed through Appearance properties. These objects store font settings, and background and foreground colors.
  • Skins store images drawn on top of visual elements (shadows, window corners, borders, etc.), colors that fill different control areas, default button icons, element sizes, and much more.

Custom Appearance settings can override Skin settings, work in combination with them, or be completely ignored. The behavior depends on the current Skin. If your custom appearance settings (for instance, BackColor or BorderColor) are ignored, run the Skin Editor tool and create a custom Skin. To locate the element you need to modify in the Skin Editor, hold the Ctrl key and click the preview area. The Editor then displays a list of all skin elements located under the mouse pointer.

Global settings

Individual control appearance settings


The Look-and-Feel settings are global style settings such as the default application font and skin. You can use the following approaches to specify these settings.

  • Use the Project Settings dialog (the recommended approach). To invoke this dialog, right-click a project in Visual Studio’s Solution Explorer and select “DevExpress Project Settings”.

    Project Settings Page

  • Call UserLookAndFeel class methods in code.

    using DevExpress.LookAndFeel;
    //apply raster skin
    //apply vector skin and choose a palette
    UserLookAndFeel.Default.SetSkinStyle(SkinStyle.Bezier, SkinSvgPalette.Bezier.CherryInk);
    //disable skinning, apply the "Flat" style
    //note that several DevExpress controls (for example, the Ribbon) cannot be displayed without a skin
    UserLookAndFeel.Default.SetStyle(LookAndFeelStyle.Flat, false, true);

Individual controls inherit global Look-and-Feel settings from their parents (forms, user controls, panels, etc.). You can override these inherited settings if you access these controls’ LookAndFeel properties in code (hidden in the VS Property Grid). However, only override global Look-and-Feel settings to change a control’s background (DevExpress controls v18.1 or older).

Appearance Objects

Individual controls provide Appearance properties that store AppearanceObject or AppearanceObjectEx class objects. These objects specify background, foreground, and font settings that affect their parent controls only.


For each supported visual state (normal, disabled, hovered, etc.), a control may provide individual Appearance settings. Note that if your application uses DevExpress skins, you can set custom background colors (Appearance.BackColor and Appearance.BackColor2 properties) only for the Normal state.


The StyleController component allows you to specify Appearance settings for multiple editors at once.

Highlight Individual Controls

You can specify background, foreground, and border colors of individual controls. For raster skins, custom background colors are blended in with element skin bitmaps. For vector skins, custom colors are displayed “as is”.

Use the following code to highlight a control in v18.2+:

simpleButton1.Appearance.BackColor = Color.Crimson;

See the WindowsFormsSettings.BackgroundSkinningMode topic for more information on UI element highlighting.

You can set a custom color for the Normal element state only; other element states (Pressed, Hovered, Disabled) will automatically receive slightly different hues of the same color. Additionally, starting with v18.2, when you change an element background color, this element automatically adjusts its foreground to increase contrast and improve readability. Use the WindowsFormsSettings.AutoCorrectForeColor setting to disable this behavior.

Appearance - States


Not all DevExpress control backgrounds are modified through the Appearance.BackColor settings. For example, to highlight a GroupControl you need to change its Appearance.BorderColor property instead. Refer to control-specific documentation to check whether this control can be highlighted with a custom background color and to find out which Appearance setting you need to modify in order to do so.

Skin Colors

DevExpress Skin Colors are primarily intended to allow you specify background and foreground colors for certain controls and UI elements to visually distinguish them from similar controls/elements (for example, buttons, column headers, tab pages, etc.):

DevExpress Skin Colors for WinForms Application

Skin colors are retrieved from DevExpress Skins, and are automatically updated when users change the application skin at runtime.


When using DX Skin Colors, you should only specify colors for the ‘normal’ state of the control or UI element. Colors for other states (such as hover, disabled, press) are automatically calculated based on the active/current skin and palette.

Assign DevExpress Skin Colors at Design Time

Switch to the “DX Skins” tab to specify a Skin Color:

Skin Colors

The same Skin Color may vary in different skins and vector skins palettes (see the image below):

Skin Colors Change

Assign DevExpress Skin Colors in Code


When using DX Skin Colors, you should only specify colors for the ‘normal’ state of the control or UI element. Colors for other states (such as hover, disabled, press) are automatically calculated based on the active/current skin and palette.

To assign Skin Colors in code, retrieve them from the DevExpress.LookAndFeel.DXSkinColors.FillColors (for background only) or DevExpress.LookAndFeel.DXSkinColors.ForeColors (for foreground only) classes:

Apply DevExpress Skin Colors

// Use DXSkinColors.FillColors for background colors
btnEnable.Appearance.BackColor = DXSkinColors.FillColors.Success;
// Use DXSkinColors.ForeColors for text colors
btnEnable.Appearance.ForeColor = DXSkinColors.ForeColors.WindowText;

Obtain DevExpress Skin Colors in Code

The following example obtains a Skin Color based on the active skin and color palette:

using DevExpress.LookAndFeel;
using DevExpress.Utils.Colors;

Color warningColor = DXSkinColorHelper.GetDXSkinColor(DXSkinColors.FillColors.Warning, LookAndFeel.ActiveSkinName, LookAndFeel.ActiveSvgPaletteName);

DevExpress Controls that Support Skin Colors

Control UI Element Appearance Property Appearance Setting
Data Grid Column Header AppearanceHeader BackColor
Data Grid Band Header AppearanceHeader BackColor
Data Grid Layout View Card Caption Appearance.CardCaption BorderColor
Data Grid Layout View Focused Card Caption Appearance.FocusedCardCaption BorderColor
Data Grid Layout View Selected Card Caption Appearance.SelectedCardCaption BorderColor
Data Grid Layout View Hide Selection Card Caption Appearance.HideSelectionCardCaption BorderColor
TreeList Column Header AppearanceHeader BackColor
TreeList Band Header AppearanceHeader BackColor
Pivot Grid Field Header Appearance.Header BackColor
Ribbon Bar Button Items displayed within Page Headers BarButtonItem.ItemAppearance.Normal BackColor
Dock Manager Dock Panel Appearance BorderColor
Application UI Manager Tabbed View Document Header Appearance.Header BackColor
Application UI Manager Widget View Document Caption AppearanceCaption BackColor
Application UI Manager Widget View Document Active Caption AppearanceActiveCaption BackColor
Application UI Manager Native MDI View Document Caption AppearanceCaption BackColor
Application UI Manager Native MDI View Document Active Caption AppearanceActiveCaption BackColor
Tab Pane Tab Navigation Page Caption TabNavigationPage.Properties.AppearanceCaption BackColor
Navigation Pane Navigation Page Caption NavigationPage.Properties.AppearanceCaption BackColor
Group Control Caption AppearanceCaption BorderColor
Tab Control Tab Page Header XtraTabPage.Appearance.Header BackColor
Layout Control Group LayoutControlGroup.AppearanceGroup BorderColor
Layout Control Tab Page Header LayoutControlGroup.AppearanceTabPage.Header BackColor
SimpleButton Button SimpleButton.Appearance BackColor
TextEdit-based Controls (WXI Skin only) Edit Box TextEdit.Properties.Appearance BackColor
MemoEdit Edit Box MemoEdit.Properties.Appearance BackColor

Appearance Editor - Reuse Appearance Settings

The Appearance Editor allows you to customize, save, and apply appearance settings to objects at design time. Click the ellipsis button next to a control’s Appearance property to invoke the Appearance Editor.

Appearance Editor - St1

Customize the appearance settings and click the “Save As…” button to save these settings as a template.

Appearance Editor - St2

You can access saved templates from the drop-down selector when you invoke the Appearance Editor for a control/visual element. To apply these settings to the current AppearanceObject, select a template and click “Apply”.

Appearance Editor - St3

Appearance styles are saved as .xml files to the “C:\Users\Public\Documents\DevExpress\AppearanceTemplates” folder. You can reuse saved appearance settings in other Visual Studio projects.

Appearance Priority

Data Grid, Tree List and Vertical Grid appearance properties return the AppearanceObjectEx class objects. This class provides the AppearanceOptionsEx.HighPriority property that allows you to change the Appearance priority. For instance, the following code sample prioritizes cell appearance settings.

treeList1.Columns["Employee"].AppearanceCell.Options.HighPriority = true;

Appearance Priority

The following example demonstrates how to prioritize the appearance of a Conditional Formatting rule and override the appearance of selected and focused cells in a data grid.

Override appearance priority

using DevExpress.XtraEditors;
using DevExpress.XtraGrid;
using DevExpress.XtraGrid.Views.Grid;
using System.Drawing;

GridFormatRule freightRule;

public Form1() {
    // . . .

    //selected row appearance
    gridView1.Appearance.FocusedRow.BackColor = Color.DarkSalmon;
    gridView1.Appearance.FocusedRow.FontStyleDelta = FontStyle.Bold;
    //rule condition and condition settings
    FormatConditionRuleValue freightRuleCondition = new FormatConditionRuleValue();
    freightRuleCondition.Condition = FormatCondition.Less;
    freightRuleCondition.Value1 = 20;
    freightRuleCondition.Appearance.BackColor = Color.MediumSeaGreen;
    freightRuleCondition.Appearance.Options.UseBackColor = true;
    freightRuleCondition.Appearance.Options.UseFont = true;
    freightRuleCondition.Appearance.FontStyleDelta = FontStyle.Italic;
    freightRuleCondition.Appearance.Options.UseBackColor = true;
    //override default appearances for focused and selected rows
    freightRuleCondition.Appearance.Options.HighPriority = true; 
    //format rule
    freightRule = new GridFormatRule() { Column = colFreight, Rule = freightRuleCondition };

Since custom draw and custom style events (GridView.RowStyle, GridView.RowCellStyle, GridView.CustomDrawCell, etc.) have the highest priority, you can use them more effectively instead of changing the appearance priority.

GridFormatRule freightRule;

private void GridView1_RowCellStyle(object sender, DevExpress.XtraGrid.Views.Grid.RowCellStyleEventArgs e) {
    GridView view = sender as GridView;
    if (view.IsRowSelected(e.RowHandle) && e.Column.FieldName == "Freight" &&
        freightRule.IsFit(e.CellValue, view.GetDataSourceRowIndex(e.RowHandle))) {
            e.Appearance.Assign((freightRule.Rule as FormatConditionRuleAppearanceBase).Appearance);

Reset Appearance Settings

The following example demonstrates how to reset the button’s appearance settings to their defaults.

// Resents all appearance settings to their defaults.

// Resets the button's background color.
simpleButton2.Appearance.BackColor = Color.Empty;

DevExpress controls expose AppearancePrint properties that store appearance settings applied when the control is printed and/or exported. The AppearancePrint settings provide properties that specify whether printed/exported controls should use these unique appearances.

If these properties are set to false, printed and/or exported controls are the same as those that appear on-screen. See the following help topic for more information: Printing and Exporting.

Cheat Sheets and Best Practices

DevExpress WinForms UI controls share the same appearance customization techniques. Read the following quick-reference guides for detailed information:

See Also