CSS Outline Style

Soft Strokes of Style: The Gentle Charm of CSS Outline-Style

Joke to Begin with:

Why don’t CSS outlines ever get lost?

Because they always know their borders!

Today, we’re diving into the ‘CSS outline-style’ property in CSS, a key player in accentuating and defining the space that elements occupy.

It’s like the Swiss Army knife of web design.

With just a few keystrokes, it transforms bland boxes into works of art. It’s the fairy godmother of focus, turning pumpkins into carriages, or rather, making sure interactive elements stand out in a crowd.

And what about those dotted and dashed lines? They’re like the Morse code of design, sending subtle signals to guide your users’ eyes.

Imagine an outline as your website’s personal stylist, always ensuring elements look their best without changing their size or position.

And the best part?

Outlines are like the chameleons of the CSS world, capable of changing color, style, and even disappearing altogether!

Welcome to the fun, flexible, and fantastic world of CSS Outline-Style, where lines are more than just decorations – they’re the silent narrators of your web story.

What is CSS-Outline Style?

Defining the Property: The outline-style property in CSS is used to set the style of an outline around an element. Unlike borders, outlines do not take up space and are drawn outside the element’s box.

Basic Syntax:

selector {
    outline-style: [style];

The style can be ‘solid’, ‘dotted’, ‘dashed’, and more.

Styling with CSS-Outline Style

  • Variety of Styles: CSS offers a smorgasbord of styles for outlines. Solid, dotted, dashed, double, groove, ridge, inset, and outset – each with its own personality.
  • No Outline Option: You can also specify none to remove the outline, making the element blend seamlessly with its background.

Quick Example

.fancy-outline {
    outline-style: dashed;
<div class="fancy-outline">I have a dashed outline!</div>
I have a dashed outline!
  • Accessibility Highlight: Outlines are crucial for accessibility, especially for focus indicators on interactive elements like buttons and links.
  • Design Aesthetics: Used creatively, outline-style can add a unique flair to your design, making elements pop out or subtly blend in.

Practical Applications

Let’s explore some of the practical use cases where outline-style not only enhances the aesthetics but also boosts functionality and accessibility.

Focus Indicators for Accessibility

Enhancing Keyboard Navigation: One of the most vital roles of outline-style is serving as a focus indicator, especially for keyboard navigation. When users tab through elements, a clearly defined outline helps indicate which element currently has focus.


button:focus {
    outline-style: dotted;

This style makes it clear which button is focused without relying on mouse movements.

Visual Feedback for Interactive Elements

Highlighting Interactivity: Outlines can provide visual feedback on interactive elements like buttons, links, or form fields. This feedback is crucial for user experience, signaling to users that an element is interactive or has been interacted with.


input:hover {
    outline-style: solid;

A solid outline on hover can make an input field more prominent.

Distinctive Styling for Differentiation

Creating Visual Distinction: Outline-style can be used to make certain elements stand out, especially when you want to draw attention to specific content or distinguish between different sections of a webpage.


.featured {
    outline-style: ridge;

A ridge outline can make a featured section more noticeable.

Debugging and Layout Design

Aid in Debugging: When designing and debugging layouts, outlines can be an invaluable tool. They help visualize the bounding box of elements without affecting layout (unlike borders).


* {
    outline-style: dashed;

Applying a dashed outline to all elements can help in identifying layout issues.

Enhancing Aesthetics

Aesthetic Decoration: Beyond functionality, outline-style can also be used purely for decorative purposes, adding a layer of sophistication or playfulness to your design.


.decorative {
    outline-style: double;

A double outline can add an elegant touch to a decorative element.

This is a decorative div with a double outline style.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros:
    • Enhances visibility and focus.
    • Does not alter the element’s position or size.
    • Great for accessibility.
  • Cons:
    • Can be overlooked if not styled properly.
    • Might clash with some design aesthetics.


The outline-style in CSS is a multifaceted tool, perfect for guiding, distinguishing, debugging, and beautifying.

It’s the silent guardian of accessibility and the subtle artist of aesthetics.

So next time you’re coding, let your outlines shine and shape your user’s experience!


What is the CSS outline-style property?

The outline-style property in CSS is used to define the style of an outline drawn around HTML elements. It is an important property for visual design, allowing for various styles like solid, dotted, or dashed. Unlike borders, outlines do not take up space in the layout, nor do they affect the size or position of the element. This makes them particularly useful for accessibility purposes, such as highlighting focused elements, without disrupting the overall page layout.

How do I make a dotted outline in CSS?

To create a dotted outline in CSS, you would use the property outline-style: dotted;. This style sets the outline of an element to a series of dots, providing a distinct visual boundary that is less imposing than a solid line. This can be particularly effective for decorative purposes or for subtle emphasis without overwhelming the content. It’s a versatile style that can be combined with various outline widths and colors for different effects.

Can CSS outline-style have different colors?

Yes, the outline-style property in CSS can be combined with outline-color to apply different colors to outlines. This allows for a high degree of customization, enabling designers to match or contrast the outline color with the element or the overall design palette. By setting outline-color along with outline-style, you can enhance the visibility of the outline or use it as a design element to complement the aesthetics of the webpage.

Is the outline the same as the border in CSS?

The outline in CSS is not the same as the border. While both provide a visual boundary around elements, outlines differ in key ways. Outlines are drawn outside the element’s box and do not affect layout or position, unlike borders which can alter the element’s size and positioning. This characteristic of outlines makes them particularly useful for focus indicators, as they do not disrupt the document’s flow.

How do I remove an outline from an element?

To remove an outline from an element in CSS, you would set the outline-style property to none. This effectively makes the outline invisible, creating a seamless look with the surrounding elements. Removing outlines can be useful in custom-designed elements where the default browser focus styles might not fit the intended aesthetic. However, it’s important to consider accessibility implications when removing outlines, especially for interactive elements.

Can I use CSS outline-style for accessibility purposes?

The outline-style property is highly beneficial for accessibility in web design. It is commonly used to highlight focusable elements, such as links and form inputs, particularly for users who navigate using a keyboard. A well-defined outline can make it easier to identify which element has focus, thereby improving the navigability of the site for users relying on keyboard shortcuts.

Are outlines affected by box-sizing in CSS?

Outlines in CSS are not affected by the box-sizing property. Unlike borders, outlines are drawn outside the element’s box model and do not contribute to the overall size of the element. This characteristic ensures that the application of an outline does not disrupt the layout or the sizing of elements, making it a reliable tool for highlighting elements without impacting the spatial arrangement.

How do I create a dashed outline?

Creating a dashed outline in CSS involves setting the outline-style property to dashed. This style results in a broken line encircling the element, providing a distinct visual boundary that is more noticeable than a dotted outline but less solid than a continuous line. A dashed outline can be particularly effective for drawing attention or signifying a separation or boundary within the content.

Can the outline-style property be animated?

Yes, you can animate the outline-style property in CSS. This can be achieved using CSS transitions or animations, particularly for properties like outline-width or outline-color. Animating outlines can add a dynamic, interactive element to web pages, enhancing user engagement. For instance, animating the change in outline color or width on hover can provide immediate visual feedback to users.

Is it possible to have an outline without a border?

Yes, it is entirely possible to have an outline on an element without defining a border. In CSS, outlines are independent of borders and can be applied to elements in isolation. This feature allows for flexibility in design, as you can use outlines for focus indicators or stylistic effects without altering the layout that borders might affect.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts