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Showing the anatomy of a single list item by putting separate boxes around the bullet and the text

Custom bullets with CSS ::marker

Custom bullets with CSS ::marker

It is now trivial to customize the color, size or type of number or bullet when using a <ul> or <ol>.

Updated

Thanks to Igalia, sponsored by Bloomberg, we can finally put our hacks away for styling lists. See!

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Thanks to CSS ::marker we can change the content and some of the styles of bullets and numbers.

Browser compatibilty

When Chromium 86 releases, ::marker will be supported in Firefox for desktop and Android, desktop Safari and iOS Safari, and Chromium-based desktop and Android browsers. See MDN's Browser compatibility table for updates.

Pseudo-elements

Consider the following essential HTML unordered list:

<ul>
<li>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipisicing elit</li>
<li>Dolores quaerat illo totam porro</li>
<li>Quidem aliquid perferendis voluptates</li>
<li>Ipsa adipisci fugit assumenda dicta voluptates nihil reprehenderit consequatur alias facilis rem</li>
<li>Fuga</li>
</ul>

Which results in the following unsurprising rendering:

The dot at the beginning of each <li> item is free! The browser is drawing and creating a generated marker box for you.

Today we're excited to talk about the ::marker pseudo-element, which gives the ability to style the bullet element that browsers create for you.

Key Term: A pseudo-element represents an element in the document other than those which exist in the document tree. For example, you can select the first line of a paragraph using the pseudo-element p::first-line, even though there is no HTML element wrapping that line of text.

Creating a marker

The ::marker pseudo-element marker box is automatically generated inside every list item element, preceding the actual contents and the ::before pseudo-element.

li::before {
content: "::before";
background: lightgray;
border-radius: 1ch;
padding-inline: 1ch;
margin-inline-end: 1ch;
}

Typically, list items are <li> HTML elements, but other elements can also become list items with display: list-item.

<dl>
<dt>Lorem</dt>
<dd>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipisicing elit</dd>
<dd>Dolores quaerat illo totam porro</dd>

<dt>Ipsum</dt>
<dd>Quidem aliquid perferendis voluptates</dd>
</dl>
dd {
display: list-item;
list-style-type: "🤯";
padding-inline-start: 1ch;
}

Styling a marker

Until ::marker, lists could be styled using list-style-type and list-style-image to change the list item symbol with 1 line of CSS:

li {
list-style-image: url(/right-arrow.svg);
/* OR */
list-style-type: '👉';
padding-inline-start: 1ch;
}

That's handy but we need more. What about changing the color, size, spacing, etc!? That's where ::marker comes to the rescue. It allows individual and global targeting of these pseudo-elements from CSS:

li::marker {
color: hotpink;
}

li:first-child::marker {
font-size: 5rem;
}

Caution: If the above list does not have pink bullets, then ::marker is not supported in your browser.

The list-style-type property gives very limited styling possibilities. The ::marker pseudo-element means that you can target the marker itself and apply styles directly to it. This allows for far more control.

That said, you can't use every CSS property on a ::marker. The list of which properties are allowed and not allowed are clearly indicated in the spec. If you try something interesting with this pseudo-element and it doesn't work, the list below is your guide into what can and can't be done with CSS:

Allowed CSS ::marker Properties

  • animation-*
  • transition-*
  • color
  • direction
  • font-*
  • content
  • unicode-bidi
  • white-space

Changing the contents of a ::marker is done with content as opposed to list-style-type. In this next example the first item is styled using list-style-type and the second with ::marker. The properties in the first case apply to the entire list item, not just the marker, which means that the text is animating as well as the marker. When using ::marker we can target just the marker box and not the text.

Also, note how the disallowed background property has no effect.

List Styles

li:nth-child(1) {
list-style-type: '?';
font-size: 2rem;
background: hsl(200 20% 88%);
animation: color-change 3s ease-in-out infinite;
}

Mixed results between the marker and the list item

Marker Styles

li:nth-child(2)::marker {
content: '!';
font-size: 2rem;
background: hsl(200 20% 88%);
animation: color-change 3s ease-in-out infinite;
}

Focused results between marker and list item


Gotchas!

In Chromium, white-space only works for inside positioned markers. For outside positioned markers, the style adjuster always forces white-space: pre in order to preserve the trailing space.

Changing the content of a marker

Here are some of the ways you could style your markers.

Changing all list items

li {
list-style-type: "😍";
}

/* OR */

li::marker {
content: "😍";
}

Changing just one list item

li:last-child::marker {
content: "😍";
}

Changing a list item to SVG

li::marker {
content: url(/heart.svg);
content: url(#heart);
content: url("data:image/svg+xml;charset=UTF-8,<svg xmlns='http://www.w3.org/2000/svg' version='1.1' height='24' width='24'><path d='M12 21.35l-1.45-1.32C5.4 15.36 2 12.28 2 8.5 2 5.42 4.42 3 7.5 3c1.74 0 3.41.81 4.5 2.09C13.09 3.81 14.76 3 16.5 3 19.58 3 22 5.42 22 8.5c0 3.78-3.4 6.86-8.55 11.54L12 21.35z' fill='none' stroke='hotpink' stroke-width='3'/></svg>");
}

Changing numbered lists
What about an <ol> though? The marker on an ordered list item is a number and not a bullet by default. In CSS these are called Counters, and they're quite powerful. They even have properties to set and reset where the number starts and ends, or switching them to roman numerals. Can we style that? Yep, and we can even use the marker content value to build our own numbering presentation.

li::marker {
content: counter(list-item) "› ";
color: hotpink;
}

Debugging

Chrome DevTools is ready to help you inspect, debug and modify the styles applying to ::marker pseudo elements.

DevTools open and showing styles from the user agent and the user styles

Future Pseudo-element styling

You can find out more about ::marker from:

It's great to get access to something which has been hard to style. You might wish that you could style other automatically generated elements. You might be frustrated with <details> or the search input autocomplete indicator, things that are not implemented in the same way across browsers. One way to share what you need is by creating a want at https://webwewant.fyi.

CSS
Last updated: Improve article