MSDN Library


The SetPixelFormat function sets the pixel format of the specified device context to the format specified by the iPixelFormat index.

BOOL SetPixelFormat(
  HDC  hdc,  // device context whose pixel format the function 
             // attempts to set
  int  iPixelFormat,
 // pixel format index (one-based)
             // pointer to logical pixel format specification


Specifies the device context whose pixel format the function attempts to set.
Index that identifies the pixel format to set. The various pixel formats supported by a device context are identified by one-based indexes.
Pointer to a PIXELFORMATDESCRIPTOR structure that contains the logical pixel format specification. The system's metafile component uses this structure to record the logical pixel format specification. The structure has no other effect upon the behavior of the SetPixelFormat function.

Return Values

If the function succeeds, the return value is TRUE.

If the function fails, the return value is FALSE. To get extended error information, call GetLastError.


If hdc references a window, calling the SetPixelFormat function also changes the pixel format of the window. Setting the pixel format of a window more than once can lead to significant complications for the Window Manager and for multithread applications, so it is not allowed. An application can only set the pixel format of a window one time. Once a window's pixel format is set, it cannot be changed.

You should select a pixel format in the device context before calling the wglCreateContext function. The wglCreateContext function creates a rendering context for drawing on the device in the selected pixel format of the device context.

An OpenGL window has its own pixel format. Because of this, only device contexts retrieved for the client area of an OpenGL window are allowed to draw into the window. As a result, an OpenGL window should be created with the WS_CLIPCHILDREN and WS_CLIPSIBLINGS styles. Additionally, the window class attribute should not include the CS_PARENTDC style.

The following code example shows SetPixelFormat usage:

    sizeof(PIXELFORMATDESCRIPTOR),   // size of this pfd 
    1,                     // version number 
    PFD_DRAW_TO_WINDOW |   // support window 
    PFD_SUPPORT_OPENGL |   // support OpenGL 
    PFD_DOUBLEBUFFER,      // double buffered 
    PFD_TYPE_RGBA,         // RGBA type 
    24,                    // 24-bit color depth 
    0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0,      // color bits ignored 
    0,                     // no alpha buffer 
    0,                     // shift bit ignored 
    0,                     // no accumulation buffer 
    0, 0, 0, 0,            // accum bits ignored 
    32,                    // 32-bit z-buffer 
    0,                     // no stencil buffer 
    0,                     // no auxiliary buffer 
    PFD_MAIN_PLANE,        // main layer 
    0,                     // reserved 
    0, 0, 0                // layer masks ignored 
HDC  hdc; 
int  iPixelFormat; 
// get the best available match of pixel format for the device context  
iPixelFormat = ChoosePixelFormat(hdc, &pfd); 
// make that the pixel format of the device context 
SetPixelFormat(hdc, iPixelFormat, &pfd); 


  Windows NT/2000: Requires Windows NT 3.5 or later.
  Windows 95/98: Requires Windows 95 or later. Available as a redistributable for Windows 95.
  Header: Declared in wingdi.h.
  Import Library: Use gdi32.lib.

See Also

OpenGL on Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows 95/98, Win32 Functions, ChoosePixelFormat, DescribePixelFormat, GetPixelFormat


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