Tag: Tailwind

“Disambiguating Tailwind”

I appreciated this bit of nuance from a post on Viget’s blog:

There could be a whole article written about the many flavours of Tailwind, but broadly speaking those flavours are:

1. Stock tailwind, ie. no changes to the configuration,
2. Tailwind that heavily relies on @apply in CSS files but still follows BEM or some other component organization,
3. Tailwind UI, and
4. heavily customizing Tailwind’s configuration and writing custom plugins.

Leo Bauza, “How does Viget CSS?”

The way you use some particular technologies can be super different from how someone else does, to the point they share little resemblance, even if they share the same core.

Bootstrap is similar. You can link up Bootstrap off a CDN, the entire untouched built version of everything it offers. You can download the Sass/JavaScript source files, include them in your own project, and bring-your-own build process. This gives you the ability to customize them, but then that complicates the upgrade path. Or you could use Bootstrap from a package manager, meaning you’re referencing the source files from your own build process, but never touching them directly. Either way, if you’re using the source, you can then do things like customize it (change colors, fonts, etc.), and even trim down what parts of it you want to use.

React is similar. Vue is similar. You can link them up right off a CDN and use them right in the browser with no build process. Or they can be at the heart of your build process, and pulled from npm. Or they can be the foundation of a framework like Next or Nuxt.

When you multiply the fact that any given single technology can be used so many different ways with how many different technologies are in use on any given project, it’s no wonder why developer’s experience on projects is so wildly different and you hear a lot of people talking past each other in debate.

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How to Use Tailwind on a Svelte Site

Let’s spin up a basic Svelte site and integrate Tailwind into it for styling. One advantage of working with Tailwind is that there isn’t any context switching going back and forth between HTML and CSS, since you’re applying styles as classes right on the HTML. It’s all the in same file in Svelte anyway, but still, this way you don’t even need a <style> section in your .svelte files.

If you are a Svelte developer or enthusiast, and you’d like to use Tailwind CSS in your Svelte app, this article looks at the easiest, most-straightforward way to install tailwind in your app and hit the ground running in creating a unique, modern UI for your app.

If you like to just see a working example, here’s a working GitHub repo.

Why Svelte?

Performance-wise, Svelte is widely considered to be one of the top JavaScript frameworks on the market right now. Created by Rich Harris in 2016, it has been growing rapidly and becoming popular in the developer community. This is mainly because, while very similar to React (and Vue), Svelte is much faster. When you create an app with React, the final code at build time is a mixture of React and vanilla JavaScript. But browsers only understand vanilla JavaScript. So when a user loads your app in a browser (at runtime), the browser has to download React’s library to help generate the app’s UI. This slows down the process of loading the app significantly.

How’s Svelte different? It comes with a compiler that compiles all your app code into vanilla JavaScript at build time. No Svelte code makes it into the final bundle. In this instance, when a user loads your app, their browser downloads only vanilla JavaScript files, which are lighter. No framework UI library is needed. This significantly speeds up the process of loading your app. For this reason, Svelte applications are usually very small and lightning fast.

The only downside Svelte currently faces is that since it’s still new and doesn’t have the kind of ecosystem and community backing that more established frameworks like React enjoy.

Why Tailwind?

Tailwind CSS is a CSS framework. It’s somewhat similar to popular frameworks, like Bootstrap and Materialize, in that you apply classes to elements and it styles them. But it is also atomic CSS in that one class name does one thing. While Tailwind does have Tailwind UI for pre-built componentry, generally you customize Tailwind to look how you want it to look, so there is less risk of “looking like a Bootstrap site” (or whatever other framework that is less commonly customized).

For example, rather than give you a generic header component that comes with some default font sizes, margins, paddings, and other styling, Tailwind provides you with utility classes for different font sizes, margins, and paddings. You can pick the specific ones you want and create a unique looking header with them.

Tailwind has other advantages as well:

  • It saves you the time and stress of writing custom CSS yourself. With Tailwind, you get thousands of out-of-the-box CSS classes that you just need to apply to your HTML elements.
  • One thing most users of Tailwind appreciate is the naming convention of the utility classes. The names are simple and they do a good job of telling you what their functions are. For example, text-sm gives your text a small font size**.** This is a breath of fresh air for people that struggle with naming custom CSS classes.
  • By utilizing a mobile-first approach, responsiveness is at the heart of Tailwind’s design. Making use of the sm, md, and lg prefixes to specify breakpoints, you can control the way styles are rendered across different screen sizes. For example, if you use the md prefix on a style, that style will only be applied to medium-sized screens and larger. Small screens will not be affected.
  • It prioritizes making your application lightweight by making PurgeCSS easy to set up in your app. PurgeCSS is a tool that runs through your application and optimizes it by removing all unused CSS classes, significantly reducing the size of your style file. We’ll use PurgeCSS in our practice project.

All this said Tailwind might not be your cup of tea. Some people believe that adding lots of CSS classes to your HTML elements makes your HTML code difficult to read. Some developers even think it’s bad practice and makes your code ugly. It’s worth noting that this problem can easily be solved by abstracting many classes into one using the @apply directive, and applying that one class to your HTML, instead of the many.

Tailwind might also not be for you if you are someone who prefers ready-made components to avoid stress and save time, or you are working on a project with a short deadline.

Step 1: Scaffold a new Svelte site

Svelte provides us with a starter template we can use. You can get it by either cloning the Svelte GitHub repo, or by using degit. Using degit provides us with certain advantages, like helping us make a copy of the starter template repository without downloading its entire Git history (unlike git clone). This makes the process faster. Note that degit requires Node 8 and above.

Run the following command to clone the starter app template with degit:

npx degit sveltejs/template project-name

Navigate into the directory of the starter project so we can start making changes to it:

cd project-name

The template is mostly empty right now, so we’ll need to install some required npm packages:

npm install

Now that you have your Svelte app ready, you can proceed to combining it with Tailwind CSS to create a fast, light, unique web app.

Step 2: Adding Tailwind CSS

Let’s proceed to adding Tailwind CSS to our Svelte app, along with some dev dependencies that will help with its setup.

npm install tailwindcss@npm:@tailwindcss/postcss7-compat postcss@^7 autoprefixer@^9   # or  yarn add tailwindcss@npm:@tailwindcss/postcss7-compat postcss@^7 autoprefixer@^9

The three tools we are downloading with the command above:

  1. Tailwind
  2. PostCSS
  3. Autoprefixer

PostCSS is a tool that uses JavaScript to transform and improve CSS. It comes with a bunch of plugins that perform different functions like polyfilling future CSS features, highlighting errors in your CSS code, controlling the scope of CSS class names, etc.

Autoprefixer is a PostCSS plugin that goes through your code adding vendor prefixes to your CSS rules (Tailwind does not do this automatically), using caniuse as reference. While browsers are choosing to not use prefixing on CSS properties the way they had in years past, some older browsers still rely on them. Autoprefixer helps with that backwards compatibility, while also supporting future compatibility for browsers that might apply a prefix to a property prior to it becoming a standard.

For now, Svelte works with an older version of PostCSS. Its latest version, PostCSS 8, was released September 2020. So, to avoid getting any version-related errors, our command above specifies PostCSS 7 instead of 8. A PostCSS 7 compatibility build of Tailwind is made available under the compat channel on npm.

Step 3: Configuring Tailwind

Now that we have Tailwind installed, let’s create the configuration file needed and do the necessary setup. In the root directory of your project, run this to create a tailwind.config.js file:

npx tailwindcss init  tailwind.config.js

Being a highly customizable framework, Tailwind allows us to easily override its default configurations with custom configurations inside this tailwind.config.js file. This is where we can easily customize things like spacing, colors, fonts, etc.

The tailwind.config.js file is provided to prevent ‘fighting the framework’ which is common with other CSS libraries. Rather than struggling to reverse the effect of certain classes, you come here and specify what you want. It’s in this file that we also define the PostCSS plugins used in the project.

The file comes with some default code. Open it in your text editor and add this compatibility code to it:

future: {   purgeLayersByDefault: true,   removeDeprecatedGapUtilities: true, },

Tailwind 2.0 (the latest version), all layers (e.g., base, components, and utilities) are purged by default. In previous versions, however, just the utilities layer is purged. We can manually configure Tailwind to purge all layers by setting the purgeLayersByDefault flag to true.

Tailwind 2.0 also removes some gap utilities, replacing them with new ones. We can manually remove them from our code by setting removeDeprecatedGapUtilities to true.

These will help you handle deprecations and breaking changes from future updates.


The several thousand utility classes that come with Tailwind are added to your project by default. So, even if you don’t use a single Tailwind class in your HTML, your project still carries the entire library, making it rather bulky. We’ll want our files to be as small as possible in production, so we can use purge to remove all of the unused utility classes from our project before pushing the code to production.

Since this is mainly a production problem, we specify that purge should only be enabled in production.

purge: {   content: [     "./src/**/*.svelte",   ],   enabled: production // disable purge in dev },

Now, your tailwind.config.js should look like this:

const production = !process.env.ROLLUP_WATCH; module.exports = {   future: {     purgeLayersByDefault: true,     removeDeprecatedGapUtilities: true,   },   plugins: [    ],   purge: {     content: [      "./src/**/*.svelte",      ],     enabled: production // disable purge in dev   }, };


Our Svelte app uses Rollup.js, a JavaScript module bundler made by Rich Harris, the creator of Svelte, that is used for compiling multiple source files into one single bundle (similar to webpack). In our app, Rollup performs its function inside a configuration file called rollup.config.js.

With Rollup, We can freely break our project up into small, individual files to make development easier. Rollup also helps to lint, prettify, and syntax-check our source code during bundling.

Step 4: Making Tailwind compatible with Svelte

Navigate to rollup.config.js and import the sveltePreprocess package. This package helps us handle all the CSS processing required with PostCSS and Tailwind.

import sveltePreprocess from "svelte-preprocess";

Under plugins, add sveltePreprocess and require Tailwind and Autoprefixer, as Autoprefixer will be processing the CSS generated by these tools.

preprocess: sveltePreprocess({   sourceMap: !production,   postcss: {     plugins: [      require("tailwindcss"),       require("autoprefixer"),     ],   }, }),

Since PostCSS is an external tool with a syntax that’s different from Svelte’s framework, we need a preprocessor to process it and make it compatible with our Svelte code. That’s where the sveltePreprocess package comes in. It provides support for PostCSS and its plugins. We specify to the sveltePreprocess package that we are going to require two external plugins from PostCSS, Tailwind and Autoprefixer. sveltePreprocess runs the foreign code from these two plugins through Babel and converts them to code supported by the Svelte compiler (ES6+). Rollup eventually bundles all of the code together.

The next step is to inject Tailwind’s styles into our app using the @tailwind directive. You can think of @tailwind loosely as a function that helps import and access the files containing Tailwind’s styles. We need to import three sets of styles.

The first set of styles is @tailwind base. This injects Tailwind’s base styles—mostly pulled straight from Normalize.css—into our CSS. Think of the styles you commonly see at the top of stylesheets. Tailwind calls these Preflight styles. They are provided to help solve cross-browser inconsistencies. In other words, they remove all the styles that come with different browsers, ensuring that only the styles you employ are rendered. Preflight helps remove default margins, make headings and lists unstyled by default, and a host of other things. Here’s a complete reference of all the Preflight styles.

The second set of styles is @tailwind components. While Tailwind is a utility-first library created to prevent generic designs, it’s almost impossible to not reuse some designs (or components) when working on a large project. Think about it. The fact that you want a unique-looking website doesn’t mean that all the buttons on a page should be designed differently from each other. You’ll likely use a button style throughout the app.

Follow this thought process. We avoid frameworks, like Bootstrap, to prevent using the same kind of button that everyone else uses. Instead, we use Tailwind to create our own unique button. Great! But we might want to use this nice-looking button we just created on different pages. In this case, it should become a component. Same goes for forms, cards, badges etc.

All the components you create will eventually be injected into the position that @tailwind components occupies. Unlike other frameworks, Tailwind doesn’t come with lots of predefined components, but there are a few. If you aren’t creating components and plan to only use the utility styles, then there’s no need to add this directive.

And, lastly, there’s @tailwind utilities. Tailwind’s utility classes are injected here, along with the ones you create.

Step 5: Injecting Tailwind Styles into Your Site

It’s best to inject all of the above into a high-level component so they’re accessible on every page. You can inject them in the App.svelte file:

<style global lang="postcss">   @tailwind base;   @tailwind components;   @tailwind utilities; </style>

Now that we have Tailwind set up in, let’s create a website header to see how tailwind works with Svelte. We’ll create it in App.svelte, inside the main tag.

This is what we have so far in the browser. Tailwind gives us everything we need to customize this into something unique, like the header we’re about to create.

Step 6: Creating A Website Header

Starting with some basic markup:

<nav>   <div>     <div>       <a href="#">APP LOGO</a>        <!-- Menus -->       <div>         <ul>           <li>             <a href="#">About</a>           </li>           <li>             <a href="#">Services</a>           </li>           <li>             <a href="#">Blog</a>           </li>           <li>             <a href="#">Contact</a>           </li>         </ul>       </div>      </div>   </div> </nav>

This is the header HTML without any Tailwind CSS styling. Pretty standard stuff. We’ll wind up moving the “APP LOGO” to the left side, and the four navigation links on the right side of it.

What we have with zero styling whatsoever.

Now let’s add some Tailwind CSS to it:

<nav class="bg-blue-900 shadow-lg">   <div class="container mx-auto">     <div class="sm:flex">       <a href="#" class="text-white text-3xl font-bold p-3">APP LOGO</a>              <!-- Menus -->       <div class="ml-55 mt-4">         <ul class="text-white sm:self-center text-xl">           <li class="sm:inline-block">             <a href="#" class="p-3 hover:text-red-900">About</a>           </li>           <li class="sm:inline-block">             <a href="#" class="p-3 hover:text-red-900">Services</a>           </li>           <li class="sm:inline-block">             <a href="#" class="p-3 hover:text-red-900">Blog</a>           </li>           <li class="sm:inline-block">             <a href="#" class="p-3 hover:text-red-900">Contact</a>           </li>         </ul>       </div>      </div>   </div> </nav>

OK, let’s break down all those classes we just added to the HTML. First, let’s look at the <nav> element:

<nav class="bg-blue-900 shadow-lg">

We apply the class bg-blue-900 gives our header a blue background with a shade of 900, which is dark. The class shadow-lg class applies a large outer box shadow. The shadow effect this class creates will be 0px at the top, 10px on the right, 15px at the bottom, and -3px on the left.

Next is the first div, our container for the logo and navigation links:

<div class="container mx-auto">

To center it and our navigation links, we use the mx-auto class. It’s equivalent to margin: auto, horizontally centering an element within its container.

Onto the next div:

<div class="sm:flex">

By default, a div is a block-level element. We use the sm:flex class to make our header a block-level flex container, so as to make its children responsive (to enable them shrink and expand easily). We use the sm prefix to ensure that the style is applied to all screen sizes (small and above).

Alright, the logo:

<a href="#" class="text-white text-3xl font-bold p-3">APP LOGO</a>

The text-white class, true to its name, make the text of the logo white. The text-3xl class sets the font size of our logo (which is configured to 1.875rem)and its line height (configured to 2.25rem). From there, p-3 sets a padding of 0.75rem on all sides of the logo.

That takes us to:

<div class="ml-55 mt-4">

We’re giving the navigation links a left margin of 55% to move them to the right. However, there’s no Tailwind class for this, so we’ve created a custom style called ml-55, a name that’s totally made up but stands for “margin-left 55%.”

It’s one thing to name a custom class. We also have to add it to our style tags:

.ml-55 {   margin-left: 55%; }

There’s one more class in there: mt-4. Can you guess what it does? If you guessed that it seta a top margin, then you are correct! In this case, it’s configured to 1rem for our navigation links.

Next up, the navigation links are wrapped in an unordered list tag that contains a few classes:

<ul class="text-white sm:self-center text-xl">

We’re using the text-white class again, followed by sm:self-center to center the list—again, we use the sm prefix to ensure that the style is applied to all screen sizes (small and above). Then there’s text-xl which is the extra-large configured font size.

For each list item:

<li class="sm:inline-block">

The sm:inline-block class sets each list item as an inline block-level element, bringing them side-by-side.

And, lastly, the link inside each list item:

<a href="#" class="p-3 hover:text-red-900">

We use the utility class hover:text-red-900 to make each red on hover.

Let’s run our app in the command line:

npm run dev 

This is what we should get:

And that is how we used Tailwind CSS with Svelte in six little steps!


My hope is that you now know how to integrate Tailwind CSS into our Svelte app and configure it. We covered some pretty basic styling, but there’s always more to learn! Here’s an idea: Try improving the project we worked on by adding a sign-up form and a footer to the page. Tailwind provides comprehensive documentation on all its utility classes. Go through it and familiarize yourself with the classes.

Do you learn better with video? Here are a couple of excellent videos that also go into the process of integrating Tailwind CSS with Svelte.

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The Things I Add to Tailwind CSS Right Out of the Box

In every project where I use Tailwind CSS, I end up adding something to it. Some of these things I add in every single project. I’ll share these with you, but I’m also curious what y’all are adding to your tailwind.css files.

I’ll start with myself. In each project:

  • I define -webkit-tap-highlight-color.
  • I add a bottom padding set to env(safe-area-inset-bottom).
  • I dress up unordered lists with interpuncts.

Allow me to elaborate on all three.


Android highlights taps on links. I’m not a fan because it obscures the element, so I turn it off for a nicer experience.

@layer base {   html {     -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent;   } }

@layer is a Tailwind directive. It helps avoid specificity issues by telling Tailwind which “bucket” contains a set of custom styles. It’s like pretending the cascade doesn’t exist, so there’s less to worry about when it comes to ordering CSS.

Simply removing the tap highlight color might trigger an accessibility issue since that hides an interactive cue. So, if you go this route, it’s probably a good idea (and I’m still looking for research on this if you have it) to enable :active to define provide some response to those actions. Chris has a snippet for that.


This utility class handles the bottom bar on newer iPhones without the “Home” button. Without it, some elements can fall under the bar, making them unreadable and tough to tap.

@layer utilities {   .pb-safe {     padding-bottom: env(safe-area-inset-bottom);   } }


I love using interpuncts with unordered lists. I won’t penalize you for looking that up. We’re basically talking about the bullet points in unordered lists. Tailwind removes them by default via Normalize. I smuggle interpuncts into each and every one of my projects.

Here’s how I go about it:

@layer utilities {   .list-interpunct > li::before {     content: '・';     display: inline-block;     float: left;     margin: 0 0 0 -0.9em;     width: 0.9em;   }    @media (min-width: 992px) {    .list-interpunct > li::before {       margin: 0 0 0 -1.5em;       width: 1.5em;     }   } }

We also now have ::marker to do the same thing and it’s a little easier to work with. Why am I not using it? I prefer to have control of the spacing between interpuncts and the text and I just don’t get that with ::marker. But that’s just me!

Now it’s your turn

Alright, I shared what I add to all of my Tailwind projects, so now it’s your turn. What do you add to Tailwind in your projects? Is there something you can’t do without? Let me know in the comments! I’d love ideas to start incorporating into other projects.

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Why I love Tailwind

Max Stoiber wrote some interesting notes about why he loves Tailwind. (Max created styled-components, so he has some skin in the styling methodology game.) There’s a lot of great history in this post about how Tailwind emerged and became a valuable tool for designers and engineers alike, but he also talks about what beats at the very heart of the Tailwind system and what makes it just so handy:

The key to Tailwind’s popularity is the painstakingly constructed system of design tokens at the core of the framework. The system’s carefully selected constraints give developers just the right guardrails. They make it obvious whether a choice is good or bad by offering only discrete steps.

He links to twin.macro — something I’d never heard of before — then gives an example that looks something like this:

import "twin.macro"  <div tw="text-center md:text-left" />  // ↓↓↓↓↓ turns into ↓↓↓↓↓  import "styled-components/macro"  <div    css={{     textAlign: "center",     "@media (min-width: 768px)": {       "textAlign":"left"     }   }} />

What’s happening here is that you can use predefined classes just like you would with Tailwind — add spacing, make a div round, and a certain size, etc. What twin.macro does is let you use these classes, but with the additional benefits of CSS-in-JS. Max writes:

You get fully automatic critical CSS extraction and code splitting. Users will only load exactly the styles they need for the page they requested — nothing more and nothing less!

I sort of love this, using Tailwind as a shorthand, treating it more like a syntactic sugar on top of CSS rather than as a framework. Super interesting stuff.

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Tailwind versus BEM

Some really refreshing technological comparison writing from Eric Bailey. Like, ya know, everything in life, we don’t have to hate or love everything. Baby bear thinking, I like to say. There are benefits and drawbacks. Every single bullet point here is well-considered and valid. I really like the first in each section, so I’ll quote those as a taste here:

Tailwind Benefit: “The utility CSS approach creates an API-style approach to thinking about CSS, which helps many developers work with it.”

Tailwind Drawback: “You need to learn Tailwind class names in addition to learning CSS property names to figure out the visual styling you want. Tailwind is reliant on, and will be outlived by CSS, so it is more long-term beneficial to focus on CSS’ capabilities directly.”

BEM Benefit: “BEM will allow you to describe any user interface component you can dream up in a flexible, extensible way. As it is an approach to encapsulate the full range of CSS properties, it will allow you to style things Tailwind simply does not have classes for—think highly art directed experiences.”

BEM Drawback: “BEM runs full-tilt into one of the hardest problems in computer science—naming things. You need to not only describe your component, but also all its constituent parts and their states.”

And remember, these certainly aren’t the only two choices on the block. I covered my thoughts on some other approaches here.

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Color Theming with CSS Custom Properties and Tailwind

Custom properties not only enable us to make our code more efficient, but allow us to work some real magic with CSS too. One area where they have huge potential is theming. At Atomic Smash we use Tailwind CSS, a utility class framework, for writing our styles. In this article, we’ll look at how custom properties can be used for theming, and how we can integrate them with Tailwind to maximize the reusability of our code. We won’t cover getting up and running with Tailwind — check out the official documentation for that — but even if you’re new to it you might find some of these tips useful.

Theming overview

Let’s say we have a “Call To Action” (CTA) component with a heading, body copy, and button.

A box with a light red heading that reads join our mailing list above a dark red body that reads be the first to hear about our new offerings right before a red signup button.

Writing regular (non-Tailwind) CSS for this color scheme would look something like this:

.cta {   background-color: #742a2a; // dark red   color: #ffffff; //white }      .cta__heading {   background-color: #e53e3e; // medium red   color: #742a2a; } 
 .cta__button {   background-color: #e53e3e; }

Using Tailwind, we would apply these colors as utility classes in our HTML:

<div class="bg-red-900 text-white">   <h3 class="bg-red-600 text-red-900">Join our mailing list</h3>   <div>     <p>Be the first to hear about our new offerings</p>     <button class="bg-red-600" type="button">Sign up</button>   </div> </div>

I’ve deliberately left out classes relating to anything other than the basic color scheme, but you can see the example in its entirety in this demo:

Now, if we wanted to apply a different color scheme to our component, we would need to override the color values of our original component. Without Tailwind, a common way to do that would be to append a theme class to the component itself, and redefine the color values lower down in the cascade. So for a component with a modifier class of .cta--blue (using the BEM convention) we’ll apply the CSS values for a blue color scheme:

.cta--blue {   background-color: #2a4365; // dark blue } 
 .cta--blue .cta__heading {   background-color: #3182ce; // medium blue   color: #2a4365; } 
 .cta--blue .cta__button {   background-color: #3182ce; }
A box with a light blue heading that reads join our mailing list above a dark bluebody that reads be the first to hear about our new offerings right before a blue signup button.

If we’re using Sass or another preprocessor, it’s likely we’ll make life easier for ourselves by using variables for those color names, and we might nest the .cta__heading and .cta__body selectors. It doesn’t exactly make our code more concise, but it does make it more manageable by having a single place to update those values.

Now, suppose we have 10 different color schemes, as was my experience on a recent project. Our code starts to get longer, as we’re basically duplicating the above example 10 times in order to change those color values. Now imagine every component in our design system needs 10 color schemes, and many of those components are far more complex than our simple CTA. Maybe our themes need different fonts too. Suddenly we have a lot of CSS to write.

Theming with Tailwind

If we’re using Tailwind, on the other hand, we’d need to change multiple classes in the HTML itself. Even if we’re using a JavaScript framework, like React or Vue, this is not exactly a trivial task. In order to ensure unused styles are removed in a production build, Tailwind discourages the use of string concatenation for class names (at the time of writing). So building our themes means potentially piling a lot of logic into our components.

Theming with Custom Properties

By using custom properties for our color themes, we can drastically reduce the amount of code we need to write, and alleviate the maintenance burden. Let’s first take a look at how we can do this in regular CSS.

We define our custom properties as variables on the :root selector, making them global variables. (The body selector would serve us just as well.) Then we can use those variables in a selector, in place of our color property values:

:root {   --primary: #742a2a; // dark red;   --secondary: #e53e3e; // medium red } 
 .cta {   background-color: var(--primary);   color: white; } 
 .cta__heading {   background-color: var(--secondary);   color: var(--primary); } 
 .cta__button {   background-color: var(--secondary); }

This is where the real magic happens: now the code for creating each of our themes becomes a case of only updating those custom property values. The new values will be inherited wherever we apply our theme class:

.th-blue {   --primary: #2a4365; // dark blue   --secondary: #3182ce; // medium blue }

If we want a blue color scheme, we can apply that .th-blue class to the component, or even use it on the <body> tag to apply to apply a page-wide theme, which can be overridden on individual components as desired. Using a utility class potentially saves us writing even more code compared to a component-specific class (such as .cta--blue in the original code), as it could be applied anywhere in our codebase.

Handling older browsers

Like many agencies, plenty of our clients at Atomic Smash still require us to support Internet Explorer 11. While I’m okay with a progressive enhancement approach in most cases (by providing simpler fallback layouts for browsers that don’t support CSS Grid, for instance), I find theming is one area that often doesn’t allow for easy compromise. Clients want their brand colors and fonts seen, even on older browsers. Providing fallbacks using feature queries would entail a lot of extra work that would negate the benefits of using custom properties in the first place. To overcome this, we need a polyfill.

There are a couple of options for polyfilling custom properties in IE 11.


The first is using a PostCSS plugin called postcss-custom-properties. If you’re already using PostCSS in your workflow, this is fairly simple to add. It works by processing your CSS and outputting the result of the variable as the property value. So if you have the following CSS:

:root {   --color: red; } 
 h1 {   color: var(--color); }

The processed result will be:

h1 {   color: red;   color: var(--color); }

Browsers that don’t support custom properties will ignore the second rule and fall back to the regular property value. There is also an option to remove the rules with the custom properties in the output, so the file size will be smaller. This means that no browsers will get the custom property — which is an issue if you’re updating variables dynamically — but you’ll be able to use them for static values in your code with no ill effects.

Unfortunately this polyfill has some limitations:

  1. You need to specify the file (or files) in your config where you’re defining the custom properties.
  2. Custom properties can only be defined on the :root selector.

The first limitation is relatively trivial, but the second unfortunately renders this polyfill entirely useless for our theming use case. It means we can’t redefine variables on a selector to create our themes.


This polyfill option involves serving a client-side script, rather than preprocessing the CSS. We can add the following script to our head to ensure the polyfill will only be loaded in IE 11:

<script>window.MSInputMethodContext && document.documentMode && document.write('<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/gh/nuxodin/ie11CustomProperties@4.1.0/ie11CustomProperties.min.js"></script>');</script>

This permits us to enjoy the full benefits of custom properties as in the examples here, so it’s the solution I decided to go with. It has a limitation where custom properties set in style attributes aren’t polyfilled. But I’ve tested it for the theming example above and it works just fine.

But what does this have to do with Tailwind? 

As we’ve already seen, utility classes — single-purpose classes that can be applied anywhere in our HTML — can make our code more reusable. That’s the main selling point of Tailwind and other utility class frameworks — the size of the CSS file you ship should end up smaller as a result. Tailwind makes multiple color classes available: .bg-red-medium would give us a red background-color property value, .text-red-medium for color and so on for border, box-shadow, or any place you can think of that you might need a color value. 

Colors can be defined in a config file:

module.exports = {   theme: {     colors: {       red: {         medium: '#e53e3e',         dark: '#742a2a'       },       blue: {         medium: '#3182ce',         dark: '#2a4365'       }     }   } }

If we want to use custom property values for our Tailwind classes, we can specify them in the config:

module.exports = {   theme: {     colors: {       'th-primary': 'var(--primary)',       'th-secondary': 'var(--secondary)'     }   } }

I’m prefixing my colors and theme-related class names with th- so that it’s obvious they’re specifically related to theming, but feel free to use whatever convention suits you.

Now those classes will be available to us through Tailwind. Using .bg-th-primary gives us the equivalent of writing:

.some-element {   background-color: var(--primary); }

In our CSS we can define our custom properties for our themes as before:

:root {   --primary: #742a2a;   --secondary: #742a2a; } 
 .th-blue {   --primary: #2a4365;   --secondary: #3182ce; }

Let’s apply those classes to our HTML. The first example gives us a component with our default theme (the variables defined on the :root). The second has our blue theme. The only difference is the addition of the .th-blue class on the component. (Once again, I’ve omitted the classes unrelated to the theme, for brevity and clarity.)

<!--Component with default (red) theme--> <div class="bg-th-primary">   <h3 class="bg-th-secondary text-th-primary">Join our mailing list</h3>   <div>     <p>Be the first to hear about our new offerings</p>     <button class="bg-th-secondary" type="button">Sign up</button>   </div> </div> 
 <!--Component with blue theme--> <div class="th-blue bg-th-primary">   <h3 class="bg-th-secondary text-th-primary">Join our mailing list</h3>   <div>     <p>Be the first to hear about our new offerings</p>     <button class="bg-th-secondary" type="button">Sign up</button>   </div> </div>

Using the config as a style guide

Tailwind encourages you to define all variables in the config, and personally I agree that it’s a better approach. It means that the config file can be a single source of truth rather than (potentially) ending up with multiple places to define your colors and other theme values. Luckily, we can also use values from the Tailwind config file for our custom properties. We’ll need to first define all of our colors in the config (assuming we’re not using the default color palette included with Tailwind):

module.exports = {   theme: {     colors: {       red: {         medium: '#e53e3e',         dark: '#742a2a'       },       blue: {         medium: '#3182ce',         dark: '#2a4365'       },       'th-primary': 'var(--primary)',       'th-secondary': 'var(--secondary)'     }   } }

Then we can access the theme object in the CSS:

:root {   --th-primary: theme('colors.red.dark');   --th-secondary: theme('colors.red.medium'); } 
 .th-blue {   --th-primary: theme('colors.blue.dark');   --th-secondary: theme('colors.blue.medium'); }

Wrapping up

I’m really excited about the benefits of being able to use custom properties without having to worry about browser support, even more so to be able to integrate them smoothly with our existing workflow. It’s hard to overstate the amount of time they will save us for theming. I hope that even if you’re not a Tailwind user, this article might encourage you to give custom properties a go for this use case.

The post Color Theming with CSS Custom Properties and Tailwind appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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An Eleventy Starter with Tailwind CSS and Alpine.js

When I decided to try to base my current personal website on Eleventy, I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel: I tested all the Eleventy starters built with Tailwind CSS that I could find in Starter Projects from the documentation.

Many of the starters seemed to integrate Tailwind CSS in a contrived way. Also, some of them seemed to assume that no one updates Tailwind’s configuration on the fly while working on a website. That’s why I integrated Eleventy with Tailwind CSS and Alpine.js myself. I have reason to believe that you’ll like the simplicity of my solution.

Good design is as little design as possible.

—Dieter Rams, 10 Principles for Good Design

If you’re uninterested in the details, feel free to grab my starter and jump right in.

Getting started

I’m going to assume you have a general understanding of Tailwind CSS, HTML, JavaScript, Nunjucks, the command line, and npm.

Let’s start by with a new a folder, then cd to it in the command line, and initialize it with a package.json file:

npm init -y

Now we can install Eleventy and Tailwind CSS. We’ll throw in PostCSS as well:

npm install --save-dev @11ty/eleventy tailwindcss postcss-cli

We need to create a page to test whether we’ve successfully set things up. In a real use case, our pages will use templates, so we’ll do that here as well. That’s where Nunjucks fits into the mix, serving as a templating engine.

Let’s make a new file called index.njk in the project folder. We’ll designate it as the homepage:

{% extends "_includes/default.njk" %} 
 {% block title %}It does work{% endblock %} 
 {% block content %}   <div class="fixed inset-0 flex justify-center items-center">     <div>       <span class="text-change">Good design</span><br/>       <span class="change">is<br/>as little design<br/>as possible</span>     </div>   </div> {% endblock %}

Basic templating

Now let’s create a new folder in the project folder called _includes (and yes, the folder name matters). Inside this new folder, we’ll create a file called default.njk that we’ll use as the default template for our layout. We’ll keep things simple with a basic HTML boilerplate:

<!DOCTYPE html> <html lang="en">   <head>     <title>       {% block title %}Does it work?{% endblock %}     </title>     <meta charset="UTF-8"/>     {% if description %}       <meta name="description" content="{{description}}"/>     {% endif %}     <meta http-equiv="x-ua-compatible" content="ie=edge"/>     <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1, shrink-to-fit=no, viewport-fit=cover"/>     <link rel="stylesheet" href="/style.css?v={% version %}"/>     {% block head %}{% endblock %}   </head>   <body>     {% block content %}       {{ content | safe }}     {% endblock %}   </body> </html>

Configuring Tailwind CSS

Let’s take care of a test for Tailwind CSS in as few moves as possible. First, create a new subfolder called styles and a file in it called tailwind.config.js:

module.exports = {   theme: {     colors: {       change: "transparent"     }   },   variants: {},   plugins: [], }

Then, create a file called tailwind.css in that same styles folder:

/* purgecss start ignore */ @tailwind base; /* purgecss end ignore */ 
 .change {   color: transparent; } 
 /* purgecss start ignore */ @tailwind components; /* purgecss end ignore */ 
 @tailwind utilities;

We’re done with the styles folder for now. What we do need is a configuration file that tells PostCSS to use Tailwind CSS, which we can get by creating a new file in the root directory of the project folder called postcss.config.js. Here’s how we require Tailwind CSS and its configuration file with PostCSS:

module.exports = {   plugins: [     require(`tailwindcss`)(`./styles/tailwind.config.js`)   ], };

Starting and building the project

Now let’s create another new file in the same root directory called .gitignore. This will allow us to define what files to skip when committing the project to a repo, like on GitHub:

_site/ _tmp/ .DS_Store node_modules/ package-lock.json

Next, is another new file, this time one that tells Eleventy what it can ignore, called .eleventyignore. It only needs one line:


OK, now we will create a file called .eleventy.js (note the leading dot!) that basically configures Eleventy, telling it what files to watch and where to save its work:

module.exports = function (eleventyConfig) {   eleventyConfig.setUseGitIgnore(false); 
   eleventyConfig.addPassthroughCopy({ "./_tmp/style.css": "./style.css" }); 
   eleventyConfig.addShortcode("version", function () {     return String(Date.now());   }); };

We can now update the package.json file with all of the scripts we need to start and build the site during development. The dependencies should already be there from the initial setup.

{   "scripts": {     "start": "eleventy --serve & postcss styles/tailwind.css --o _tmp/style.css --watch",     "build": "ELEVENTY_PRODUCTION=true eleventy & ELEVENTY_PRODUCTION=true postcss styles/tailwind.css --o _site/style.css"   },   "devDependencies": {     "@11ty/eleventy": "^0.11.0",     "postcss-cli": "^7.1.0",     "tailwindcss": "^1.4.6"   } }

Hey, great job! We made it. Build the project to generate the initial CSS — this step is only required the very first time we set up. From the command line:

npm run build

And — drumroll, please — let’s officially start the site:

npm run start

Open the page http://localhost:8080 in your browser. It’s not gonna look like much, but check out the page title in the browser tab:

It does work!

We can still do a little more checking to make sure everything’s good. Open up /styles/tailwind.config.js and change the transparent color value to something else, say black. Tailwind’s configuration should reload, along with the page in your browser.

Don’t lose sight of your browser and edit /styles/tailwind.css by changing transparent to black again. Your CSS file should reload and refresh in your browser.

Now we can work nicely with Eleventy and Tailwind CSS!

Optimizing the output

At this point, Tailwind CSS works with Eleventy, but the CSS file is huge. The generated HTML isn’t perfect either because it contains stuff like redundant newline characters. Let’s clean it up:

npm install --save-dev @fullhuman/postcss-purgecss postcss-clean html-minifier

Open up postcss.config.js and replace what’s in there with this:

module.exports = {   plugins: [     require(`tailwindcss`)(`./styles/tailwind.config.js`),     require(`autoprefixer`),     ...(process.env.ELEVENTY_PRODUCTION       ? [           require(`postcss-clean`),           require(`@fullhuman/postcss-purgecss`)({             content: ["_site/**/*.html"],             defaultExtractor: (content) =>               content.match(/[w-/:]+(?<!:)/g) || [],             whitelist: [],             whitelistPatterns: [/body/, /headroom/, /ril/],           }),         ]       : []),   ], };

In the future, in the process of creating your website, if something looks wrong after you build the project and you have the impression that fragments of CSS are missing, add “ignored” class names to the whitelist in the file above.

Add the following line to the beginning of the .eleventy.js file:

const htmlmin = require("html-minifier");

We also need to configure htmlmin in .eleventy.js as well:

eleventyConfig.addTransform("htmlmin", function (content, outputPath) {     if (       process.env.ELEVENTY_PRODUCTION &&       outputPath &&       outputPath.endsWith(".html")     ) {       let minified = htmlmin.minify(content, {         useShortDoctype: true,         removeComments: true,         collapseWhitespace: true,       });       return minified;     } 
     return content; });

We’re using a transform here which is an Eleventy thing. Transforms can modify a template’s output. At this point, .eleventy.js should look like this:

const htmlmin = require("html-minifier"); 
 module.exports = function (eleventyConfig) {   eleventyConfig.setUseGitIgnore(false); 
   eleventyConfig.addPassthroughCopy({ "./_tmp/style.css": "./style.css" }); 
   eleventyConfig.addShortcode("version", function () {     return String(Date.now());   }); 
   eleventyConfig.addTransform("htmlmin", function (content, outputPath) {     if (       process.env.ELEVENTY_PRODUCTION &&       outputPath &&       outputPath.endsWith(".html")     ) {       let minified = htmlmin.minify(content, {         useShortDoctype: true,         removeComments: true,         collapseWhitespace: true,       });       return minified;     } 
     return content;   }); };

Alright, let’s run npm run start once again. You’ll see that nothing has changed and that’s because optimization only happens during build. So, instead, let’s try npm run build and then look at the _site folder. There shouldn’t be a single unnecessary character in the index.html file. The same goes for the style.css file.

A project built like this is now ready to deploy. Good job! 🏆

Integrating Alpine.js

I decided to switch to Eleventy from Gatsby.js because it just felt like too much JavaScript to me. I’m more into the reasonable dose of vanilla JavaScript mixed with Alpine.js. We won’t get into the specifics of Alpine.js here, but it’s worth checking out Hugo DiFrancesco’s primer because it’s a perfect starting point.

Here’s how we can install it to our project from the command line:

npm install --save-dev alpinejs

Now we need to update .eleventy.js with this to the function that passes things through Alpine.js:

eleventyConfig.addPassthroughCopy({   "./node_modules/alpinejs/dist/alpine.js": "./js/alpine.js", }); 

Lastly, we’ll open up _includes/default.njk and add Alpine.js right before the closing </head> tag:

<script src="/js/alpine.js?v={% version %}"></script>

We can check if Alpine is working by adding this to index.njk:

{% extends "_includes/default.njk" %} 
 {% block title %}It does work{% endblock %} 
 {% block content %}   <div class="fixed inset-0 flex justify-center items-center">     <div>       <span class="text-change">Good design</span><br/>       <span class="change">is<br/>as little design<br/>as possible</span><br/>       <span x-data="{message:'🤖 Hello World 🤓'}" x-text="message"></span>     </div>   </div> {% endblock %}

Launch the project:

npm run start

If Alpine.js works, you’ll see “Hello World” in your browser. Congratulations, times two! 🏆🏆

I hope you can see how quick it can be to set up an Eleventy project, including integrations with Nunjucks for templating, Tailwind for styles and Alpine.js for scripts. I know working with new tech can be overwhelming and even confusing, so feel free to email me at csstricks@gregwolanski.com if you have problems starting up or have an idea for how to simplify this even further.

The post An Eleventy Starter with Tailwind CSS and Alpine.js appeared first on CSS-Tricks.


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A Better Approach for Using Purgecss with Tailwind

Greg Kohn looks at how to use Purgecss — a tool that helps remove unused styles — and Tailwind — a utility-based CSS framework — and why we might want to pair these tools together:

Tailwind, by intention, is aiming to equip you with an arsenal of utility classes by generating more than you need. There are some best practices which will help keep this overall build size down, like limiting your colors and breakpoints or turning off the modules by default before adding them as necessary. Still, you’ll inevitably generate classes that go unused. And honestly, approaching your configuration with an unrelenting miserly attitude will slow you down and make development less fun. By leaning on Purgecss, there’s no worry that the CSS your users download will only include classes that are ultimately needed.

I’ve never used Tailwind or Purgecss, but I reckon the latter could be particularly useful if you have a giant old codebase and you don’t have the resources to refactor things just yet. I guess my only concern with introducing a tool like that is it could encourage folks to not refactor large and problematic areas in their styles – taking the safest route with this tool instead.

For more info about Tailwind, though, Ben Tinsley wrote a great post a while back about how to get started and Nick Basile showed us how to style a form with Tailwind.

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