Core Graphics – Drawing an angle dimension from 3 arbitrary points.

For a recent project, I needed to have the ability for a user to draw an angle dimension on top of a picture. They can drag the 3 points and the dimension lines should update in real time. I needed to draw two lines and an arc between the two lines. Drawing the two lines is simple, but drawing the arc took a little bit of thinking.

At first I was calculating the inscribed angle using the law of cosines, then trying to determine the starting angle. The end angle would be the starting angle + the inscribed angle. Big mistake. This is complicated and has too many edge cases for each quadrant a starting or ending point is located in. Then I tried the handy atan2 function, which previously proved very useful in game design, and worked perfectly. In this case, imagine a line of 3 points, where each point can be moved and the angle between the two segments are shown.

Below is my drawing code to achieve this:

- (void)drawRect:(CGRect)rect
    [super drawRect:rect];

    CGFloat lx =;// first point along edge
    CGFloat ly =;
    CGFloat mx =;// middle pt
    CGFloat my =;
    CGFloat rx =;// other point along edge
    CGFloat ry =;

    CGContextRef context = UIGraphicsGetCurrentContext();
    CGContextSetStrokeColorWithColor(context, [self.lineColor CGColor]);

    // thickness
    CGContextSetLineWidth(context, 2.0f);

    // starting pt
    CGContextMoveToPoint(context, lx, ly);
    // middle pt
    CGContextAddLineToPoint(context, mx, my);
    // ending pt
    CGContextAddLineToPoint(context, rx, ry);
    // draw path, make sure to call this here to reset the stoke path points

    // angle arc
    // distances
    CGFloat lmDist = sqrt(pow(lx - mx, 2) + pow(ly - my, 2));
    CGFloat mrDist = sqrt(pow(rx - mx, 2) + pow(ry - my, 2));
    // angles
    CGFloat startAngle = atan2(ry - my, rx - mx);// right to middle
    CGFloat endAngle = atan2(ly - my, lx - mx);// left to middle
    CGFloat radius = 0.20 * fmin(lmDist, mrDist);// 20% of min distance along lines
    int clockwise = YES;
    CGContextAddArc(context,,, radius, startAngle, endAngle, clockwise);

    // draw arc path

Here’s a screenshot from the prototype app:

(Ignore the background, it’s just something nice to look at while working)

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