Skip to main content

Use Templates to Create Custom Shapes and Containers

  • 9 minutes to read

The DiagramControl allows you to use shape templates to define shapes and containers in XML:

Template Description
ShapeTemplate Describes a diagram shape.
ContainerShapeTemplate Describes a diagram container.

These templates can consist of the following segments:

Segment Description
Start Specifies the start point of the geometry and includes customization properties. A shape can consist of multiple geometries.
Line Defines a line with start and end points.
Arc Defines an arc with size and direction.

Refer to the following section for more information: Segments.

Create a Shape Template

The code sample below defines a simple shape template and displays it in the Shapes Panel:

Use Shape Templates

<Shapes xmlns:xsd="" xmlns:xsi="">
    <ShapeTemplate Id="MyEllipse" DefaultSize="120, 100">
        <Start X="0" Y="0.5"/>
        <Arc X="1" Y="0.5" Direction="Clockwise" Size="CreateSize(W/2,H/2)"/>
        <Arc X="0" Y="0.5" Direction="Clockwise" Size="CreateSize(W/2,H/2)"/>
using (var stream = Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly().GetManifestResourceStream("WinDiagramSample.CustomShapes.xml")) {
    var stencil = DiagramStencil.Create(
        "Custom Shapes",
        shapeName => shapeName
diagramControl1.SelectedStencils = new StencilCollection() { "CustomStencil" };

View Example: Create Custom Shapes with Connection Points

Pre-configure Custom Shapes

When you create diagram shapes from XAML (XML) templates, you cannot control the initial shape size and other settings. To pre-define those attributes, create and register a FactoryItemTool. For basic information about that class, review the first example in the overview topic: Create Custom Diagram Items.

Note that you must register both the shape class and the tool within the diagram. That means you will have two separate items in the Shapes Panel. If users do not need to access the original shape item without pre-defined settings, register the shape in an invisible stencil:

void RegisterStencil() {
    // Create a visible stencil:
    var stencil = new DiagramStencil("CustomStencil", "Custom Shapes");
    diagramControl1.SelectedStencils = new StencilCollection() { "CustomStencil" };

public void FactoryItemToolForCustomShape(DiagramStencil stencil) {
    // Create an invisible stencil that contains shapes from the CustomShapes.xml file:
    using (var stream = Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly().GetManifestResourceStream("WinDiagramSample.CustomShapes.xml")) {
        var invisibleStencil = DiagramStencil.Create(
            "Invisible Stencil",
            shapeName => shapeName,
            // Hide this stencil from the Shapes Panel:
    // Define a tool that obtains Shape1 form the invisible stencil and specifies its settings:
    var itemTool = new FactoryItemTool(
        () => "Custom Shape 2",
        diagram => new DiagramShapeEx() {
            Shape = DiagramToolboxRegistrator.GetStencil("InvisibleStencil").GetShape("MyEllipse"),
            CustomProperty = "Some value"
        new System.Windows.Size(200, 200),
    // Add this tool to the visible stencil:


ShapeTemplate and ContainerShapeTemplate support the following common parameters:

Specifies a unique identifier for the template.
Specifies a default size for the generated shape/container.
Specified a collection of connection points assigned to the shape/container.

Specifies bounds that display the content editor.

EditorBounds="CreateRect(0,Height - HeaderHeight,Width,HeaderHeight)"
Specifies rows that split the shape/container layout.
Specifies columns that split the shape/container layout.

ShapeTemplate and ContainerShapeTemplate also have parameters that specify options specific to each element.

ShapeTemplate Parameters

Specifies whether to display the shape in the Quick Shapes section of the Shapes Panel.
Specifies whether to use the shape’s background color as its foreground color.
Specifies a collection of parameters that transform shape geometry at runtime.

ContainerShapeTemplate Parameters


Specifies paddings for the container canvas.

ActualPadding="CreatePadding(Padding.Left, Padding.Top, Padding.Right, Padding.Bottom + HeaderHeight)"

Specifies paddings for the collapse button.


Specifies the collapse button location.

Specifies collapse button size.


Several properties (for example, Size) require that you use a function to specify this property value. The following table lists the default functions:

Function Description
CreateSize(double width, double height) Returns a Size object.
CreatePoint(double x, double y) Returns a Point object.
CreatePadding(double left, double top, double right, double bottom) Returns a Thickness object.
CreateRect(double top, double left, double width, double height) Returns a Rect object.

Segment properties also accept keywords that refer to shape/container attributes:

  • W – An element width.
  • H – An element height.
  • P – A Parameter value. Use indexes to refer to a specific parameter (P0, P1, and so on).

You can use these keywords in expressions that calculate values:

Size="CreateSize(W/2, H/2)"


ShapeTemplates accept functions that implement the ICustomFunctionOperator interface. The Criteria Language Syntax allows you to calculate shape parameters. You can register and use custom functions as described in the following help topic: Custom Function Criteria Operators.

View Example: Complex Expressions and Custom Functions in Shape Templates


Each segment has X and Y properties that define its coordinates within the element border. These properties use relative coordinates (from “0” to “1” relative to element height and width). X="0" Y="0" corresponds to the top-left element corner, X="1" Y="1" corresponds to the bottom-right corner.

Segments are drawn from the point defined by their X and Y values to the preceding segment’s X and Y values. The Arc segment has the additional Size parameter.

The X, Y, and Size properties support Criteria Language Syntax.

<Line X="Cos(P0*3.14/2)" Y="Sin(P0*3.14/2)"/>

Start Segment

The Start segment specifies the start point for the geometry and describes geometry appearance. A template can contain several Start segments.

The Start segment has the following appearance options:

Property Description
FillBrightness Specifies the brightness level of the color used to fill in the geometry.
FillColor Specifies the color used to fill in the geometry.
IsSmoothJoin Specifies whether to round geometry corners.
StrokeColor Specifies the color that paints the geometry outline.
StrokeThickness Specifies the thickness of the geometry outline.
StrokeDashArray Specifies the dash pattern that draws the outline.
<Start X="0" Y="0" FillColor="Brown" StrokeThickness="2" StrokeColor="Red"/>

You can use the IsNewShape property to specify whether the Start segment initializes a new independent part of the geometry.

Line Segment

The Line segment specifies a point and draws a line from this point to the Start segment or the previous segment’s end point.

<Line X="1" Y="1"/>

This segment does not contain properties to control its appearance.

Arc Segment

The Arc segment draws an arc from the point specified by X and Y properties to the end point of the previous segment or the Start segment.

This segment contains the Direction property that specifies the arc direction (Clockwise or Counterclockwise).

<Arc X="1" Y="0" Size="CreateSize(W/2, H/2)" Direction="Counterclockwise"/>

This segment does not contain properties to control its appearance.

Connection Points

ShapeTemplate and ContainerShapeTemplate include the ConnectionPoints property that allows you to specify connection points. This property accepts ShapePoint objects that describe X and Y coordinates. These properties use relative coordinates (from “0” to “1” relative to element height and width). To use absolute coordinates, set the Kind property to Absolute.

    <ShapePoint X="0" Y="0"/>
    <ShapePoint X="1" Y="0"/>
    <ShapePoint X="0" Y="1"/>

Shape Transformations

ShapeTemplates allow you to define interactive points that transform shape geometry. Follow the steps below to add an interactive point:

  1. Add a Parameter object to the ShapeTemplate.Parameters collection.
  2. Specify its default, min, and max values (DefaultValue, Min, and Max properties).
  3. Define a function that describes a point position (a yellow handle) in the shape. Assign this function to the Point property.

    You can use the P variable to pass Parameter.Value to function parameters.

  4. Specify a function that transforms the point position into shape-relative coordinates. Assign this function to the Value property.

    You can use the P.X and P.Y variables (that correspond to the point’s X and Y coordinates) to pass Parameter.Point to the Parameter.Value property.


Each parameter can return only a single double value. As a result, each point can be used to change values along only one path.

The code snippet below uses a parameter to allow users to transform the shape (change size of the Arc segment):


<ShapeTemplate Id="CustomizableArc" DefaultSize="60, 120">
    <Start X="0" Y="0" FillColor="Green"/>
    <Arc X="1" Y="0" Size="CreateSize(W/2, P0 * H)" Direction="Counterclockwise"/>
    <Line X="1" Y="1"/>
    <Line X="0" Y="1"/>
    <Line X="0" Y="0"/>
        <Parameter DefaultValue="0" 
                   Point="CreatePoint(W / 2, P * H)" 
                   Value="P.Y / H" 
                   Min="0" Max="1"/>

The Point and Value properties accept any function that implements the ICustomFunctionOperator interface and returns the corresponding value type.

Rows and Columns

ShapeTemplate.Rows and ShapeTemplate.Columns properties (ContainerShapeTemplate.Rows and ContainerShapeTemplate.Columns) allow you to define a grid-based layout and arrange complex shape elements. Elements are automatically aligned in rows and columns.

Rows and Columns properties accept absolute values, H and W keywords, and expressions. You can use these keywords to define rows and columns with relative values.

The following code snippet defines a shape that consists of four rectangles arranged in two columns and two rows:

    Rows="H*0.5;H*0.5" Columns="W*0.5;W*0.5"
    <Start X="0" Y="0" FillColor="Blue"/>
    <Line X="1" Y="0"/>
    <Line X="1" Y="1"/>
    <Line X="0" Y="1"/>
    <Start X="0" Y="1" FillColor="Red"/>
    <Line X="1" Y="1"/>
    <Line X="1" Y="2"/>
    <Line X="0" Y="2"/>
    <Start X="1" Y="0" FillColor="Green"/>
    <Line X="2" Y="0"/>
    <Line X="2" Y="1"/>
    <Line X="1" Y="2"/>
    <Start X="1" Y="1" FillColor="Yellow"/>
    <Line X="2" Y="1"/>
    <Line X="2" Y="2"/>
    <Line X="1" Y="2"/>

Rows and Columns properties accept Parameter values. You can use the ShapeTemplate.Parameters property to create shapes with interactive row and column definitions:

Rows="H*P0;H*(1-P0)" Columns="W*P1;W*(1-P1)"

    <Parameter DefaultValue="0.5" 
               Point="CreatePoint(W, P * H)" 
               Value="P.Y / H" 
               Min="0" Max="1"/>
    <Parameter DefaultValue="0.5" 
               Point="CreatePoint(P * W, H)" 
               Value="P.X / W" 
               Min="0" Max="1"/>