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SVG Properties and CSS

May 13th, 2019

There are many Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), but only certain attributes can be applied as CSS to SVG. Presentation attributes are used to style SVG elements and can be used as CSS properties. Some of these attributes are SVG-only while others are already shared in CSS, such as font-size or opacity.

For example, to change the color of a <circle> element to red, use the fill property in CSS. The fill attribute is a presentation attribute, therefore it can be used as a CSS property:

circle {
  fill: red;
}

See the Pen
vMqaay
by Geoff Graham (@geoffgraham)
on CodePen.

So, with that, let’s take a deep and thorough dive into all of the SVG elements that are available to us as well as the CSS properties for them. We’ll also look at various styling approaches, including general presentational styles and animations.

SVG Elements by Category

The presentation attributes that can be used as CSS properties can be found below. For reference, supported elements will be classified by category. This does not include deprecated elements.

Element Type Elements
Container elements <a>
<defs>
<g>
<marker>
<mask>
<pattern>
<svg>
<switch>
<symbol>
Filter primitive elements <feBlend>
<feColorMatrix>
<feComponentTransfer>
<feComposite>
<feConvolveMatrix>
<feDiffuseLighting>
<feDisplacementMap>
<feFlood>
<feGaussianBlur>
<feImage>
<feMerge>
<feMorphology>
<feOffset>
<feSpecularLighting>
<feTile>
<feTurbulence>
Gradient elements <linearGradient>
<radialGradient>
<stop>
Graphics elements <circle>
<ellipse>
<image>
<line>
<path>
<polygon>
<polyline>
<rect>
<text>
<use>
Shape elements <circle>
<ellipse>
<line>
<path>
<polygon>
<polyline>
<rect>
Text content elements <text>
<textPath>
<tspan>
Properties shared between CSS and SVG

Font properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
font Text content elements
font-family Text content elements
font-size Text content elements
font-size-adjust Text content elements
font-stretch Text content elements
font-style Text content elements
font-variant Text content elements
font-weight Text content elements

Text properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
direction <text>
<tspan>
letter-spacing Text content elements
text-decoration Text content elements
unicode-bidi Text content elements
word-spacing Text content elements
writing-mode <text>

Masking properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
overflow <foreignObject>
<image>
<marker>
<pattern>
<svg>
<symbol>

Interactivity properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
cursor Container elements
Graphics elements

Color properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
color Applies to elements using:
fill
stroke
stop-color
flood-color
lighting-color

Visibility properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
display Graphics elements
Text content elements
<a>
<foreignObject>
<g>
<svg>
<switch>
visibility Graphics elements
Text content elements
SVG CSS Properties

Text properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
alignment-baseline <textPath>
<tspan>
baseline-shift <textPath>
<tspan>
dominant-baseline Text content elements
glyph-orientation-horizontal Text content elements
glyph-orientation-vertical Text content elements
kerning Text content elements
text-anchor Text content elements

Clip properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
clip <foreignObject>
<image>
<marker>
<pattern>
<svg>
<symbol>
clip-path Container elements
Graphics elements
clip-rule <clipPath>

Masking properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
mask Container elements
Graphics elements
opacity Graphics elements
<a>
<defs>
<g>
<marker>
<pattern>
<svg>
<switch>
<symbol>

Filter effects

Presentation attribute Supported elements
enable-background Container elements
filter Container elements
Graphics elements
flood-color <feFlood>
flood-opacity <feFlood>
lighting-color <feDiffuseLighting>
<feSpecularLighting>

Gradient properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
stop-color <stop>
stop-opacity <stop>

Interactivity properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
pointer-events Graphics elements

Color properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
color-profile <image> referring to raster image

Painting properties

Presentation attribute Supported elements
color-interpolation Container elements
Graphics elements
color-interpolation-filters Filter primitive elements
color-rendering Container elements
Graphics elements
fill Shape elements
Text content elements
fill-rule Shape elements
Text content elements
fill-opacity Shape elements
Text content elements
image-rendering <image>
marker <line>
<path>
<polygon>
<polyline>
marker-start <line>
<path>
<polygon>
<polyline>
marker-mid <line>
<path>
<polygon>
<polyline>
marker-end <line>
<path>
<polygon>
<polyline>
shape-rendering Shape elements
stroke Shape elements
Text content elements
stroke-dasharray Shape elements
Text content elements
stroke-dashoffset Shape elements
Text content elements
stroke-linecap Shape elements
Text content elements
stroke-linejoin Shape elements
Text content elements
stroke-miterlimit Shape elements
Text content elements
stroke-opacity Shape elements
Text content elements
stroke-width Shape elements
Text content elements
text-rendering <text>
SVG 2

While presentation attributes can be used as CSS properties to style SVG, what about controlling the coordinates and dimensions of SVG elements using CSS? SVG 2, which is in Candidate Recommendation at the time of this writing, makes it is possible to style and animate these properties.

The SVG 2 specification states:

Some styling properties can be specified not only in style sheets and ‘style‘ attributes, but also in presentation attributes. These are attributes whose name matches (or is similar to) a given CSS property and whose value is parsed as a value of that property.”

Not only does it mean that SVG properties can be styled using CSS as presentation attributes or in style sheets, but this also can be applied to CSS pseudo-classes such as :hover or :active.

SVG 2 also introduces more presentation attributes that can be used as styling properties. These attributes can be found in SVG 2 specification.

Element-specific properties

It is important to note that not every SVG element will support the same CSS properties. Much like how there are CSS properties that can be applied to certain SVG elements, there are specific properties that are supported by certain SVG elements.

For example, the <circle>or <ellipse> elements support the cxand cyproperties as coordinates of the center of the shape. The <ellipse> element also supports the rx and ry properties as the radius, but the <circle> element cannot use these properties.

Geometry properties

In SVG 2, properties such as rx and ry are defined as geometry properties. Geometry properties can be used as CSS properties, just like presentation attributes such as fill or stroke properties. These CSS properties and the corresponding SVG elements include:

SVG Element Geometry Property
<circle> cx
cy
r
<ellipse> cx
cy
rx
ry
<rect> rx
ry
height
width
x
y
<path> path
<image> height
width
x
y
<foreignObject> height
width
x
y
<svg> code>height
width
x
y
Positioning SVG elements

SVG 2 also makes it is possible to position SVG elements using CSS. Let’s begin with drawing a rectangle shape having the following SVG:

<svg width="170" height="170">
  <rect x="10" y="10" width="150" height="150" />
</svg>

And the following CSS:

rect {
  fill: #6e40aa;
}

See the Pen
QPeNGj
by Geoff Graham (@geoffgraham)
on CodePen.

This will produce a rectangle shape with its coordinates set to 10, 10. With SVG 2, x and y can be applied as CSS properties:

/* This will work with SVG 2 */
rect {
  x: 10;
  y: 10;
  ...
}

The SVG code would be reduced to this:

<svg width="170" height="170">
  <rect width="150" height="150" />
</svg>

You can even set the width and height for the <rect> element using CSS like so:

rect {
  ...
  width: 150px;
  height: 150px;
  ...
}

That leaves us with just the following for SVG markup:

<svg width="170" height="170">
  <rect />
</svg>

See the Pen
Positioning SVG elements
by Katherine Kato (@kathykato)
on CodePen.

At the time of writing, the following demos will work in Blink (e.g. Chrome and Opera) and WebKit (e.g. Safari) browsers as these browsers support SVG 2 features. Until then, let’s dive into how to override SVG properties using CSS.

SVG shape morphing

The <path> element can be overridden with CSS to create shape morphing.

The SVG paths that morph one into the other must have the same commands and same number of points or else the morphing will not work.

Let’s start with drawing a <path> element in the shape of a triangle. Using the d property will specify the shape of the <path> element:

<svg height="220" width="300">
  <path d="M150 10 L40 200 L260 200Z" />
</svg>

To get the triangle to morph into a different shape, let’s override the SVG <path> element with the d property with CSS:

path {
  d: path("M150, 10 L40, 200 L260, 200Z");
  fill: #4c6edb;
}

Let’s also add a :active pseudo-class to the <path> property so when the element is clicked, the shape will morph into a square and change its fill color. Let’s also add a transition property to make the shape morphing action appear smooth. Here is the CSS:

path:active {
  d: path("M150, 10 L40, 200 L260, 200 L260, 200Z");
  fill: #4c6edb;
  transition: all 0.35s ease;
}

And the SVG would be:

<svg height="220" width="300">
  <path />
</svg>

See the Pen
SVG shape morphing
by Katherine Kato (@kathykato)
on CodePen.

Want another demo? Here is a cool demo from Chris Coyier demonstrating SVG shape morphing on hover!

See the Pen
Simple Path Examples
by Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier)
on CodePen.

Animating SVG properties

SVG properties can be animated using CSS through CSS animations and transitions.

In this demo, we will draw various SVG <circle> elements and create a wave animation. Start by drawing five <circle> elements:

<svg width="350" height="250">
  <circle class="shape" />
  <circle class="shape" />
  <circle class="shape" />
  <circle class="shape" />
  <circle class="shape" />
</svg>

We’ll be using CSS variables and :nth-child() CSS pseudo-class to define each .shape class. The .shape class will have a cy of 50 and a r of 20. Each of the .shape classes will have their own cx and fill CSS properties set:

:root {
  --color-1: #6e40aa;
  --color-2: #4c6edb;
  --color-3: #24aad8;
  --color-4: #1ac7c2;
  --color-5: #1ddea3;
}

.shape {
  cy: 50;
  r: 20;
}

.shape:nth-child(1) {
  cx: 60;
  fill: var(--color-1);
}

.shape:nth-child(2) {
  cx: 120;
  fill: var(--color-2);
}

.shape:nth-child(3) {
  cx: 180;
  fill: var(--color-3);
}

.shape:nth-child(4) {
  cx: 240;
  fill: var(--color-4);
}

.shape:nth-child(5) {
  cx: 300;
  fill: var(--color-5);
}

Here is how it should look so far.

See the Pen
Animating SVG properties: Pre-animation
by Geoff Graham (@geoffgraham)
on CodePen.

Now it’s time to animate! Start by using @keyframes rule to define the moveCircle animation:

@keyframes moveCircle {
  50% {
    cy: 150;
    r: 13;
  }
}

This will get each <circle> element to change their cy coordinates from 50 to 150 and r from 20 to 13. Add the following to the CSS to the .shape class get the animation running infinitely:

.shape {
  ...
  animation: moveCircle 1250ms ease-in-out both infinite;
}

Finally, add an animation-delay to each of the .shape classes to the CSS with the exception of .shape:nth-child(1) like this:

.shape:nth-child(2) {
  ...
  animation-delay: 100ms;
}

.shape:nth-child(3) {
  ...
  animation-delay: 200ms;
}

.shape:nth-child(4) {
  ...
  animation-delay: 300ms;
}

.shape:nth-child(5) {
  ...
  animation-delay: 400ms;
}

See the Pen
Animating SVG properties
by Katherine Kato (@kathykato)
on CodePen.

Shapes in SVG <pattern> elements can also be animated using CSS. Here is a cool demo by Dudley Storey showcasing that!

See the Pen
Screen
by Dudley Storey (@dudleystorey)
on CodePen.

Wrapping up

As SVG 1.1 is the current standard, few browsers currently support SVG 2 features. It is not recommended to put these techniques into production yet. SVG 2 implementation is currently at Candidate Recommendation stage, thus support for styling SVG geometry properties with CSS should improve in the future.