Use Tkinter To Design GUI Layout
Create a simple and structured layout using the Frame widget, Tkinter and Python 3

Tkinter Tutorial Getting started with TKinter

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Today's tutorial might be a short, but very important, one when it comes to making a GUI: the layout. Previously, we talked about the basics of getting started with Tkinter -- creating the window, and creating a Label to display text or images. However, I found that the layout of the window needed some work as boxes and images didn't look very organized. Rather than teaching about buttons or other widgets just yet, let's get started with thinking about our interface and how to arrange objects in the window.

By the end of this tutorial you will learn how to create a simple and structured layout using the Frame widget, Tkinter and Python 3.

Of course, playing around with the functions and different widgets in Tkinter is one way to get started. But if you have a project that you really want to make, then having a plan for where things go in the window will be more helpful in the long run.

Plan The Layout

Below is a simple idea for what kind of window we will make in this tutorial. Planning before we get started can help us think about where our widgets and frames will go.

Example of how to sketch out a GUI before trying to code. Basic design for the photo editor. The left displays various tools and on the right is the image.

For this tutorial, let's build the foundation for what could be a photo editing application. A large area of the GUI will need to be devoted to the photograph. On the upper-left side of the GUI, a small label is used to see keep track of what the original image looked like for reference. Underneath that is a menu to select the basic tools or filters for editing the image.

Frame Widget

Organizing the GUI is made possible and easier with the Frame widget. Frames are like boxes or mini-windows within the parent window -- self-contained areas that each contain their own grids, so adding widgets to them is super easy. Nesting frames is even an option if needed.

from tkinter import *

root = Tk()  # create root window
root.title("Frame Example")

# Create Frame widget
left_frame = Frame(root, width=200, height=400)
left_frame.grid(row=0, column=0, padx=10, pady=5)

Here we import Tkinter and all its functions, and set up the root window in lines 3-5. To add a frame into the root window, create a Frame1 widget as seen in line 8. Let's look at the Frame parameters. We set left_frame as part of the root window. Then, specify the width and height. It is important to note that the frames will resize to whatever has been put inside of them. For example, if you display a small label inside the frame, then the frame will adjust to the label's size.

Next, we place left_frame in the main window using grid(). Grid is another layout method in Tkinter for organizing widgets. You can think of grid like an Excel spreadsheet. Each "cell" has a row number and a column number. We can assign different widgets in the window by specifying the values. So the frame up above is in (row 0, column 0). The other two parameters, padx and pady, specify the amount of padding around the widget in pixels.

Congrats! You have just created a simple frame. The background of the root window (sky blue) has been changed in line 5 in order to see the new frame (white). Of course, you can also change the color of the Frame widget.

Example of a frame widget in root window. All of the white is the frame. The sky blue is the root window.

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Frame In Frame

Now, let's take a quick look at adding a frame within the larger frame. Be sure to focus on the row numbers below and see if their order makes sense.

# Create Frame widget
left_frame = Frame(root, width=200, height=400)
left_frame.grid(row=0, column=0, padx=10, pady=5)

# Create frame within left_frame
tool_bar = Frame(left_frame, width=180, height=185, bg="purple")
tool_bar.grid(row=2, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)

# Create label above the tool_bar
Label(left_frame, text="Example Text").grid(row=1, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)

Window that shows a frame in another frame. Example of how to use frames.

A Few Other Features

The Frame widget also has a few other parameters that we will go over. Listed below are a few common ones, but there are also others.

  1. bg -- change the background color.
  2. bd -- adjust the width of the border.
  3. cursor -- change the type of cursor that appears over the frame, 'arrow', 'dot', 'circle'.

Create A Simple GUI Layout

Of course, we want to add other frames and widgets into our window. The following is a simple example of a better organized GUI with label widgets. While it is not aesthetically pleasing yet, it is functioning properly.

from tkinter import *

root = Tk()  # create root window
root.title("Basic GUI Layout")  # title of the GUI window
root.maxsize(900, 600)  # specify the max size the window can expand to
root.config(bg="skyblue")  # specify background color

# Create left and right frames
left_frame = Frame(root, width=200, height=400, bg='grey')
left_frame.grid(row=0, column=0, padx=10, pady=5)

right_frame = Frame(root, width=650, height=400, bg='grey')
right_frame.grid(row=0, column=1, padx=10, pady=5)

# Create frames and labels in left_frame
Label(left_frame, text="Original Image").grid(row=0, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)

# load image to be "edited"
image = PhotoImage(file="rain.gif")
original_image = image.subsample(3,3)  # resize image using subsample
Label(left_frame, image=original_image).grid(row=1, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)

# Display image in right_frame
Label(right_frame, image=image).grid(row=0,column=0, padx=5, pady=5)

# Create tool bar frame
tool_bar = Frame(left_frame, width=180, height=185)
tool_bar.grid(row=2, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)

# Example labels that serve as placeholders for other widgets
Label(tool_bar, text="Tools", relief=RAISED).grid(row=0, column=0, padx=5, pady=3, ipadx=10)  # ipadx is padding inside the Label widget
Label(tool_bar, text="Filters", relief=RAISED).grid(row=0, column=1, padx=5, pady=3, ipadx=10)

# Example labels that could be displayed under the "Tool" menu
Label(tool_bar, text="Select").grid(row=1, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)
Label(tool_bar, text="Crop").grid(row=2, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)
Label(tool_bar, text="Rotate & Flip").grid(row=3, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)
Label(tool_bar, text="Resize").grid(row=4, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)
Label(tool_bar, text="Exposure").grid(row=5, column=0, padx=5, pady=5)

The code above has been commented to make things clearer. Take a look at the pictures below and you will notice how the frame is scaled by the size of the widgets within it.

A few things to note: to use a different image to display, change the name of the file passed to the file parameter in line 18. The subsample()method in line 19 reduces the scale of the image by only using every x and y number of pixels. So, it will reduce the image by skipping pixels.

Example of GUI with forest image. Example of GUI with forest image.

Example of GUI with Pikachu image. Example of GUI with Pikachu image.


Using the Frame widget is a great way to establish a layout for our GUI. When creating the layout, you should be aware of which geometry manager you want to use -- packgrid, or place. In the next tutorial, we'll add a new widget to our arsenal, Button, before discussing the three layout methods and understand when is best the sitaution to use them.

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Use Tkinter To Design GUI Layout was written by Joshua Willman .