This one is for those who have never done anything like it before. It’s time to get serious about your CSS once you’ve figured out how the box model works and how to float those boxes. To that end, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of tips, tactics, strategies, and the occasional dirty hack to assist you in creating the design you desire.

CSS can be tricky, and you should be aware of this. Here’s (nearly) everything you’ll need to know, in no particular order:

1. Absolute positioning
Absolute positioning is the key to having complete control over where an element appears on our website at all times. If you imagine your browser as a huge bounding box, absolute positioning allows you to determine where an element stays within that box. To control where an element stays, use top, right, bottom, and left, together with a pixel value.

The CSS above sets the position of an element to stay 20px from the top and right edges of your browser. You can also use absolute positioning inside of a div.

2. * + selector

You can use the * to select all elements of a specific selection. If you used *p and then added CSS styles to it, it would apply to all elements containing a <p> tag in your content. This makes it simple to target specific areas of your website on a worldwide scale.

3. Overriding all styles

This should be used sparingly, because if you do this for everything, you’re going to find yourself in trouble in the long run. However, if you want to override another CSS style for a specific element, use !important after the style in your css. For example, if I wanted the H2 headers in a specific section of my site to be red instead of blue, I would use the following CSS:

4. Centering

Centering is tricky, because it depends on what you’re trying to center. Let’s take a look at the CSS of items to be centered, based on content.


Text is centered using the text-align:center;. If you want it to either side, use left or right instead of center.


div (or any other element) can be centered by adding the block property to it, and then using auto margins. The CSS would look like this:

The reason I put “anything under 100%” for width is because if it was 100% wide, then if would be full-width and wouldn’t need centering. It is best to have a fixed width, like 60% or 550px, etc.

5. Vertical alignment (for one line of text)

I practically guarantee that you’ll utilize this in a CSS navigation menu. The idea is to keep the menu’s height and the text’s line height the same. When I go back and edit existing websites for clients, I see this practice a lot. Here’s an example:

6. Hover effects

Buttons, text links, bock parts of your site, icons, and more are all examples of this. Use the same CSS but add:hover to it and adjust the styling if you want anything to change colors when someone hovers their mouse over it. Here’s an example:

What this does is it changes the color of your h2 tag from black to red when someone hovers over it. The great thing about using :hover is that you don’t have to declare the font-size or weight again, if it isn’t changing. It only changes what you specify.


For hover effects, like with menus or on images in your website, you don’t want colors snapping too quickly to the end result. You ideally want to ease the change in gradually, which is where the transition property comes into play.

This makes the change happen over .3 seconds, instead of just instantly snapping to red. This makes the hover effect more pleasing to the eye and less jarring.

7. Link states

These styles are missed by a lot of designers, and it really causes usability issues with your visitors. The :link pseudo-class controls all links that haven’t been clicked on yet. The :visited pseudo class handles the styling of all of the links you’ve already visited. This tells website visitors where they have already been on your site, and where they have yet to explore.

8. Easily resize images to fit

Sometimes you get in a pinch where images need to fit a certain width, while scaling proportionally. An easy way to do this is to use max width to handle this. Here is an example:

This means that the largest the image could ever be is 100%, and the height is automatically calculated, based on the image width. In some cases, you might have to also have to specify the width at 100%.

9. Control the elements of a section

Using the image example above, if you only want to target the images of a certain section, like your blog, use a class for the blog section, and combine it with the actual selector. This will enable you to select only the images of the blog section, and not other images, such as your logo, or social meia icons, or images in any other sections of your site, like the sidebar. Here’s how the CSS would look:

10. Direct children

I wish I’d known this when I first started out using CSS. This would have saved me so much time! Use > to select the direct children of an element. For example:

#footer > a

This will select and style all of the active link elements that are immediately under the Footer ID. It won’t select anything past the active element, or anything else contained in the footer, like plain text. This works great with top level navigation elements, too.


Believe me, this is handy when you are styling lists. You just need to count how many items down the element is that you want to style and then apply that style.

The CSS above targets the second item in the list and makes it bold, underlined, and blue. Add an “n” after the number in parenthesis and you can target every 2nd list item. Imagine being able to style every other line in a table-style layout for easy reading. The CSS would be:


11. Apply CSS to multiple classes, or selectors

Let’s say you wanted to add an identical border around all images, the blog section and the sidebar. You don’t have to write out the same exact CSS 3 times. Just list those items out, separated by commas. Here is an example:

Whether you’ve been a web designer for years, or you’re just starting out, learning how to build websites the right way can seem like a rocky, never-ending journey. Once you’ve narrowed down which languages you want to learn, you have to learn and refine your skills.

No matter what you learn, CSS is one of those essential, but daunting skills you have to master. It doesn’t have to be so difficult, though, especially if you know a few handy and lesser-known CSS techniques to get the job done.

12. box-sizing: border-box;

This is a favorite among many web designers, because it solves the problem of padding and layout issues. Basically, when you set a box to a specific width, and add padding to it, the padding adds to the size of the box. However, with box-sizing:border-box;, this is negated, and boxes stay the size they are meant to be.

13. :before

This CSS is a selector that allows you to choose a CSS element and insert content before every element with a specific class applied to it. Let’s say you had a website where you wanted specific text before every H2 tag. You would us this setup:

This is extremely handy, especially if you are using an icon font. You can place icons before certain elements, and apply it globally.

14. :after

Like the :before selector, you can use :after to insert content globally on specific elements. A practical use would be adding “read more” after every excerpt on a blog. Here’s how you would do that.

15.Drop caps

Everyone loves drop caps. It reminds us of the traditional printed book, and is a great way to start a page of content. That 1st, large letter really grabs your attention. There’s an easy way to create a drop cap in css, and it’s by using the pseudo element: :first letter. Here’s an example :

What this does is set the letter to 3x the size of the other letters. It sets 3px of space around the letter to prevent overlapping, and sets the color of the letter to red.

16.Vertical screen height

Sometimes you want a section to fill the entire screen, no matter what the screen size is. You can control this with vh, or view height. The number before it is a percentage, so if you want it to fill 100% of the browser, you would set it to 100. You might set it to a value like 85% to accommodate a fixed navigation menu.

Create a class for the container and apply the amount of vh you want it to have. One thing you may need to tweak is the media query value for specific screens or orientations like phones in portrait mode. Imagine stretching a landscape image to fit portrait mode. That just wouldn’t look good.

17.Style telephone links

If you have a link that calls a phone number when a user taps it on their phone, you may have trouble styling it with the traditional active link selector. Instead, use the following CSS:

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