Transparent Panel (Linear Layout) On MapView (Google Map)

This tutorial is for Google’s Android mobile operating system. If you haven’t already heard about Android, then check it out immediately because it’s way cool. We have benefited so much from the Android developer community that we want to give back our own insights into the platform and how to better design/develop on the platform.

For this tutorial, we’re going to help the several people that have asked us how to create transparent panels. While we show how to overlay onto a Google Map, you can use the same technique to overlay a transparent panel onto any other view.

Starting at the end, this what we’ll develop today – a transparent panel with a single button displayed at the base of an Android MapView

Tutorial 1 - final result

Tutorial 1 - final result (closeup)

We’ll assume that you already know the basics of Android programming and will only address these “advanced” topics:

1) Creating a class that can draw a transparent background and border.
2) Adding a custom View class as a declaration in your layout XML.

(1) Creating a Custom Layout as a Transparent Panel

We wanted our transparent panel to hold children so we looked for the most natural Android view to extend and selected Linear Layout because we wanted our TransparentPanel class to layout its children horizontally. We could just as easily chosen to extend RelativeLayout of any other layout class.

TransparentPanel extends LinearLayout

The ‘magic’ of TransparentPanel happens in the dispathDraw() method. For those of you that have already created their own custom Views, you might wonder why we override dispatchDraw() instead of onDraw(). For some reason, LinearLayout does not call it’s own onDraw() method…apparently because its developer assumes a LinearLayout would never have anything to draw. BUT we want our TransparentPanel to draw a background so we override dispatchDraw() to draw the background and then let super.dispatchDraw(canvas) render any child components.

protected void dispatchDraw(Canvas canvas) {

RectF drawRect = new RectF();
drawRect.set(0,0, getMeasuredWidth(), getMeasuredHeight());

canvas.drawRoundRect(drawRect, 5, 5, innerPaint);
canvas.drawRoundRect(drawRect, 5, 5, borderPaint);



For those new to drawing their own graphics, let’s review a few items here. First, we populate a RectF with the coordinates of the background that we want to draw. Next we make to calls to drawRoundRect(). The 1st call passes innerPaint to draw the transparent gray background while the 2nd call passes the white border that we want to paint. Lastly we call super.dispatchDraw(canvas) to render our child components (in this case a Button).

The gray background is rendered with an alpha (transparency ) == 225. This allows just enough of the map to show through.

innerPaint.setARGB(225, 75, 75, 75);

And borderPaint allows us to render a white border with a Stroke of width = 2.

borderPaint = new Paint();
borderPaint.setARGB(255, 255, 255, 255);

As we did above, make sure to setAntiAlias(true) so the borders of your paint blend seamlessly with its surroundings. Set this option to false to see how your borders would have jagged edges otherwise.

(2) Adding our custom TransparentPanel class as a declarations in the layout XML.

Now we’re ready to insert the TransparentPanel into our layout XML class and to add a button. To reference our new class, we simply provide the full classpath to our the TransparentPanel and then provide layout parameters as we would for any LinearLayout. In this case, we provide padding so our Button does not rest against the edges of our TransparentPanel’s border.



<Button android:id=”@+id/button_click_me”

android:text=”Click Me!”>


And that’s it. Here is the .apk you can use along with the source files:

Please give us your feedback and let us know any suggestions for improving this tutorial. Also please visit these other tutorials for more tips: