Cocos2D keeps improving and iterating at rapid speed. The Cocos2D 3.2 beta is now available (download) and it comes with a huge new feature called CCEffects. CCEffects make it simple to add stunning visual details, such as reflections or blur to your game.

Today we will give you brief preview of the new CCEffects feature. We will take a look at three different effects and will show you how easy they can be implemented. We will start with the Pixelate effect.


Using Pixelation is very simple. Here is the original image that we used for this demo:


And here is how it looks in our demo project after applying a CCEffectPixelate:

Pixelated spaceship

How does it work?

Here's the code for the example above, and it is amazingly simple:

_spaceship.effect = [CCEffectPixellate effectWithBlockSize: 5];

That's it. With CCEffectPixellate you can now create retro effects for your game in one line of code.


The Glass effect is definitely one of the most amazing effects that Cocos2D 3.2 provides. The glass effect reflects and refracts the environment which adds real 3D feel to your 2D game. Here is what the glass effect in our demo looks like:

Glass effect

You can clearly see how the refraction and the reflection of the background adds a 3D feel to this demo.

How does it work?

Creating a glass effect is definitely more complicated then adding pixellation to your game but it still can be done in a few lines of code:

CCSpriteFrame *normalMap = [CCSpriteFrame frameWithImageNamed:@"crystals/normalmaps/crystal-1-normal.png"];
    CCEffectGlass *glassEffect = [CCEffectGlass effectWithRefraction:0.1f refractionEnvironment:_background reflectionEnvironment:_background normalMap:normalMap];
    _crystal.effect = glassEffect;

In this demo _crystal and _background are code connections for two CCSprites that have been created in SpriteBuilder. The most complicated part about creating a glass effect, is creating a normal map. Thanks a lot to the SpriteBuilder team for providing normal maps and art for the crystals in this demo.

A normal map is an image file that uses different colors to describe the surface of an object. Normal maps are used to simulate 3D effects, such as shadows or refraction of light on a sprite that is actually flat (more info). To create the crystal from the demo above we need two images, one that is actually displayed in the game and another one that is used as a normal map, describing the surface of the crystal. Cocos2D needs to know what the surface of the crystal looks like in order to reflect and refract light correctly. Here are the two images from the demo:

Normal maps

On the left side you can see the image displayed in the game. On the right side you can see the normal map used to calculate reflection and refraction. Creating a normal map is the hardest part of using CCEffectGlass. After the final release of Cocos2D 3.2 we will discuss tools that help you generate them!


CCEffectStack allows you to combine multiple CCEffects and apply them at once. For our example project we have created a CCEffectStack that consists of a CCEffectBrightness and CCEffectContrast. Another great feature of CCEffect is the ability to change values of CCEffects that are already applied. That allows developers to create animations that change parameters of CCEffects. Here's the scene from our demo project that uses a CCEffectStack and animates the brightness of the CCEffectBrightness over time:


How does it work?

Brightness and Contrast are simple CCEffects. They can be created in one line of code each. Here is the entire code for the example above:

@implementation EffectStackScene {
    CCSprite *_spaceship;
    CCEffectBrightness *_brightnessEffect;
    NSTimeInterval _totalTime;
- (void)didLoadFromCCB {
    // Effects like changing the contrast and the brightness are one liners.
    CCEffectContrast *contrastEffect = [CCEffectContrast effectWithContrast:0.2];
    _brightnessEffect = [CCEffectBrightness effectWithBrightness:sin(0)];
    // A CCEffectStack allows you to combine multiple CCEffects and apply them to a Sprite
    CCEffectStack *effectStack = [[CCEffectStack alloc] initWithEffects:@[contrastEffect, _brightnessEffect]];
    _spaceship.effect = effectStack;
- (void)update:(CCTime)delta {
    _totalTime += delta;
    // effects can be changed over time, which allows you to animate parameters of effects. In this case we are animating the brightness of a CCEffectBrightness we created earlier
    _brightnessEffect.brightness = sin(_totalTime);

In this beta version of Cocos2D CCEffectStack does not have a convenience initializer and needs to be created with alloc/init however, that will be added for the final release of Cocos2D 3.2. Besides that, creating a CCEffectStack is very simple. The most interesting part about this demo is how we update the brightness of the brightness effect inside of the update method which creates a nicely animated effect.

More Effects

The CCEffects you have seen so far are really amazing and will make it easy to create great looking games with Cocos2D. However, we have only demonstrated a few CCEffects in this brief demo. We haven't taken a look at color adjustments, blur or bloom effects yet. After the final release of Cocos2D 3.2 we will discuss all available effects in detail. Overall this is just the beginning and the Cocos2D developers will be adding more effects in future releases.

Demo Project

The demo project discussed throughout this post is available on GitHub. Feel free to download it and play around with all CCEffects.

We are looking forward to awesome looking Cocos2D games! Stay tuned for the full tutorial on CCEffects!


If you have feedback on this tutorial or find any mistakes, please open issues on the GitHub Repository or comment below.

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