Web Style Sheets CSS tips & tricks

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Drop shadows

Since this page was written, many CSS implementations have added the 'box-shadow' property from CSS level 3, which makes the method below unnecessary. See “Rounded corners and shadowed boxes” for an example. That page also shows a more powerful, but more complex, way to make shadows with CSS level 2 only.

CSS2 doesn't have a property to add a shadow to a box. You can try to add a border to the right and bottom, but it won't look right. However, if you have two nested elements, you can use the outer one as a shadow for the inner one. For example, if you have a text like this (HTML):

<div class=back>
  <div class=section>
    <h2>Die Rose duftet - doch ob sie empfindet</h2>
    <address>Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)</address>

    <p>Die Rose duftet - doch ob sie empfindet<br>

you can use the outer DIV as a shadow for the inner one. The result might look like this separate page. First, give the BODY a background (light green in this example), the outer DIV a somewhat darker background (green-gray) and the inner DIV another background (e.g., yellow-white):

body {background: #9db}
div.back {background: #576}
div.section {background: #ffd}

Next, by using margins and padding, you offset the inner DIV a little to the left and up from the outer DIV:

div.back {padding: 1.5em}
div.section {margin: -3em 0 0 -3em}

You also have to move the outer DIV a little to the right. And if you have multiple sections, you probably want some space between them, too:

div.back {margin: 3em 0 3em 5em}

That's basically it. You can add a border around the inner DIV if you want. You'll probably also want some padding inside it, e.g.:

div.section {border: thin solid #999; padding: 1.5em}

Of course, you can vary the size of the shadow to your taste.

Text shadows

CSS does have a property to add a shadow to text. It has four arguments: the color of the shadow, the horizontal offset (positive means to the right), the vertical offset (positive means down) and the blur (0 means a sharp shadow). For example:

h3 { text-shadow: red 0.2em 0.3em 0.2em }

Does this text have a shadow?

Bert Bos, style activity lead
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Created 4 April 2002;
Last updated Thu 03 Aug 2017 02:02:43 PM UTC


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