How to use OpenCV with Xamarin iOS

- 3 mins

Recently I had to use OpenCV on a Xamarin iOS project. I’m writing this to remove few frustrating hours (or days) of anyone tries to do the same. Unfortunately you can’t code opencv directly on Xamarin. You have to create a static framework using Xcode and write opencv functions using C++. Then you need to bind (map) the static framework to Xamarin using a binding project.

Step by step overview

Download OpenCV

You can download OpenCV from Choose iOS Pack. I’m using opencv 3, but the same steps applies for opencv 2.

Create static library with Xcode

Create a new project in Xcode by choosing Cocoa Touch Static Library


Next choose Objective-C as the language. Since we have to code this in mostly in C++ (Actually in Objective C++ in this case) it’s better to choose the lower level language here. It’s possible with swift but there would be additional binding steps.


Drag and drop downloaded opencv framework to the project.


Rename OpenCV.m to since we need Objective-C++ not Objective C. Now create a prefix file from New File ... and following line to it.

#ifdef __cplusplus

#import <opencv2/opencv.hpp>
#import <opencv2/imgcodecs/ios.h>


Then go to build setting and add OpenCV/PrefixHeader.pch to Prefix Header


Implement the following method in file. This is for testing but you can implement which use opencv here.

-(NSString *) version
    return [NSString stringWithUTF8String:CV_VERSION];

Goto File -> Project Settings and click Advance. Select Relative to workspace from Custom.


One more thing. Now we need to create a universal library from this to be able to run on both real devices, and simulators. Compile the app for Generic Device and a simulator twice. Then use following script to generate universal binary. Create a file name in Xcode project and make it executable by chmod +x


lipo -create -output libOpenCVUniserval.a Build/Products/Debug-iphonesimulator/libOpenCV.a Build/Products/Debug-iphoneos/libOpenCV.a

lipo -info libOpenCVUniserval.a

Then run it by typing \ If successful you will see a file called libOpenCVUniserval.a in your current directory.

Create binding project in Xamarin

Now put whole project into your Xamarin Project (This is not necessary if you are careful with paths). Then in visual studio right click the solution and click Add -> Add New Project .... Then select binding library.


Right click Native References and click Add Native Reference. Add opencv2.framework. Right click on the library and go to Properties. Add following string to Frameworks field.

Accelerate AssetsLibrary AVFoundation CoreGraphics CoreImage CoreMedia CoreVideo QuartzCore UIKit Foundation

Also make sure Kind is Framework and Check is checked.


Repeat this with file libOpenCVUniserval.a. No need to add frameworks string there. In properties make sure Kind is Static.

Now go to the file ApiDefinitions.cs. Add following interface.

interface OpenCV

	NSString Version();


This is where you add your bindings.

Go to your iOS project in Xamarin IDE and right click References and click Edit Refernces. Search for your binding project add click Add.

Now you can use binded opencv functions any ware in the project. Use it as an object.

private OpenCV OpenCV = new OpenCV();

And if you are able to print the version as follows, congratulations you have configured OpenCV correctly.


You can find the sample project source code here

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