In this module you will find out how to use the various types of gradients available in CSS. Gradients can be used to create a whole host of useful effects, without needing to create an image using a graphics application.

The CSS Podcast - 021: Gradients

Imagine you've got a site to build and at the top, there's an intro with a heading, summary and a button. The designer has handed over a design which has a purple background for this intro. The only problem is the background features two shades of purple as a gradient. How do you do this?

A dark to light purple gradient background with heading, paragraph and link

You might initially think that you're going to need to export an image from your design tool for this, but you can use a linear-gradient instead.

A gradient is an image and can be used anywhere images can be used, but it's created with CSS and is made up with colors, numbers and angles. CSS gradients allow you to create anything from a smooth gradient between two colors, right up to impressive artwork by mixing and repeating multiple gradients.

Linear gradient #

The linear-gradient() function generates an image of two or more colors, progressively. It takes multiple arguments, but in its simplest configuration, you can pass some colors like this and it will automatically split them evenly, while blending them.

.my-element {
background: linear-gradient(black, white);

You can also pass an angle or keywords that represent an angle. If you choose to use keywords, specify a direction after the to keyword. This means if you want a gradient that is black and white, that runs from left (black) to right (white), you would specify the angle as to right as the first argument.

.my-element {
background: linear-gradient(to right, black, white);

A color stop value defined where a color stops and mixes with its neighbors. For a gradient starting with a dark shade of red running at a 45deg angle, at 30% of the size of the gradient changing to a lighter red: it looks like this.

.my-element {
background: linear-gradient(45deg, darkred 30%, crimson);

You can add as many colors and color stops as you like in a linear-gradient(), and you can layer gradients on top of each other by separating each gradient with a comma.

Radial gradient #

To create a gradient that radiates in a circular fashion, the radial-gradient() function steps in to help. It's similar to linear-gradient(), but instead of specifying an angle, you optionally specify a position and ending shape. If you just specify colors, the radial-gradient() will auto-select the position as center and select either a circle or ellipse, depending on the size of the box.

.my-element {
background: radial-gradient(white, black);

The gradient's position is similar to background-position using keywords and/or number values. The size of the radial gradient determines the size of the gradient's ending shape (circle or ellipse) and by default will be farthest-corner, which means it exactly meets the farthest corner of the box from the center. You can also use the following keywords:

  • closest-corner will meet the closest corner to the center of the gradient.
  • closest-side will meet the side of the box closest to the center of the gradient.
  • farthest-side will do the opposite to closest-side.

You can add as many color stops as you like, just like with the linear-gradient. Likewise, you can add as many radial-gradients as you like too.

Conic gradient #

A conic gradient has a center point in your box and starts from the top (by default), and goes around in a 360 degree circle.

.my-element {
background: conic-gradient(white, black);

The conic-gradient() function accepts position and angle arguments.

By default, the angle is 0 degrees which starts at the top, in the center. If you were to set the angle to be 45deg, it would be the top right corner. The angle argument accepts any type of angle value, like the linear and radial gradients.

The position is center by default. As with radial and linear gradients, positioning can be keyword-based, or it can be defined with numeric values.

You can add as many color stops as you want, like with other gradient types. A good use case for this capability, with conic gradients is rendering pie charts with CSS.

Repeating and mixing #

Each type of gradient has a repeating type, too. These are repeating-linear-gradient(), repeating-radial-gradient() and repeating-conic-gradient(). They are similar to the non-repeating functions and take the same arguments. The difference is that if the defined gradient can be repeated to fill the box, based on both of their sizes, it will.

If your gradient doesn't appear to be repeating, you probably haven't set a length for one of the color stops. For example, you can create a striped background with a repeating-linear-gradient by setting color stop lengths.

.my-element {
background: repeating-linear-gradient(
red 30px,
white 30px,
white 60px

You can also mix gradient functions on background properties, as well as defining as many gradients as you like, just like you would with a background image. For example, you can mix multiple linear-gradients together, or two linear-gradients with a radial gradient.

Resources #

Test your knowledge of gradients

What is the minimum number of colors required to create a gradient?

1 2 3 4

Try again!

They could be the same color and appear solid, but yes, at least 2 colors are required.

Try again!

Try again!

Elements can have multiple gradients as a background?

True False

The background-image property allows many gradients, just separate them with a comma.

Oh, but they can!