CSS Outline

Welcome to the dynamic realm of CSS outlines—a crucial tool for web developers seeking to enhance visual emphasis on webpage elements. Explore border and box outlines, CSS text outlines, and essential properties like color and width. Understand the distinctions between outlines and borders, grasp various outline styles, and efficiently set width and color using shorthand properties.

CSS Outline Properties

The CSS outline properties enable you to specify an outline region around the box of an element. It is a line drawn just outside the border edge of elements, commonly used to indicate focus or active states of buttons, links, form fields, and similar elements.

Outlines Vs Borders

An outline resembles a border in appearance, but there are a few distinctions:

  • Space: Outlines don't occupy space within the element's box and can overlap other elements on the page as they are always positioned on top.
  • Width | Color | Style: Unlike borders, outlines cannot have varying widths, colors, or styles for individual edges. The outline is consistent on all sides.
  • Overlap: Outlines do not affect surrounding elements aside from overlapping them.
  • Size or Position: Unlike borders, outlines do not alter the size or position of the element.
  • Shapes: Outlines can be non-rectangular, but circular outlines cannot be created.

Note: If an element has an outline, it will not affect the space it occupies on web pages compared to when it doesn't have an outline. This is because the outline overlaps the margins (the transparent area outside the border) and surrounding elements.

Understanding the Different Outline Styles

The outline-style property determines the style of the element's outline, such as solid, dotted, and so on. The outline-style property can take one of the following values: none, solid, dashed, dotted, double, inset, outset, groove, and ridge.

The value none removes the outline completely. The values inset, outset, groove, and ridge create a 3D-like effect, depending on the outline-color value. This effect is achieved by creating a "shadow" using two colors slightly lighter and darker than the outline color.

Example :- To see how it works in practice, let's examine the following example:

p {
	outline-style: dashed;
	outline-width: 7px;

Note:- To make an outline appear around an element, you need to specify an outline style because the default outline style is none. The default outline width is medium, and the default outline color is the same as the text color.

Setting the Outline Width

The outline-width property determines the width or thickness of the outline added to an element. To better understand how it functions, let's explore the following example:

p {
    outline-style: inset;
    outline-width: thick;

Tip: You can specify the width of the outline using length values such as pixels (px), em, rem, and others. Alternatively, you can use one of the three keywords: thin, medium, or thick. Just like the border-width property, percentage or negative values are not allowed for outline width.

Specifying the Outline Color

The outline-colorproperty determines the color of the outline. It accepts the same values as the color property. To add a solid blue outline around paragraphs, you can use the following style rules.

p {
    outline-style: double;
    outline-color: orange;

Note: When using the outline-width or outline-color property alone, they will not have any effect. You need to first set the style of the outline using the outline-style property.

The Outline Shorthand Property

The outline CSS property is a shorthand for setting one or more of the individual outline properties (outline-style, outline-width, and outline-color) in a single rule. Here's an example to demonstrate how it works.

p {
    outline: 10px solid green;

If an individual outline property is omitted or not specified when using the outline shorthand property, the default value for that property will be used (if any).

For example, if the outline-color property is not provided, the element's color property will be used as the value for the outline color. In the following example, the outline will be a solid green line with a width of 5 pixels.

p {
    color: skyblue;
    outline: 7px double;

However, if the value for outline-style is omitted, no outline will be displayed because the default value for this property is none. In the following example, there will be no outline.

p {
    outline: 10px purple;

Removing Outline Around Active Links

Removing the outline around active links is a common use of the outline property. However, it is recommended to apply an alternative style to indicate that the link has focus. Let's try out the following example to see how it works in practice.

a {
    outline: 0;


What is the CSS outline property?

The outline property in CSS is used to create a visible border around an element, typically used to indicate focus or highlight interactive elements. It's a non-printable outline that appears outside the element's border, and it does not affect the layout of the page.

How is the outline property different from the border property?

The outline property is similar to the border property in that it creates a visible perimeter around an element. However, there are key differences. The outline does not take up space and does not affect the layout of the page, whereas the border can impact the element's size and position. Additionally, the outline is not split into separate sides like the border (top, right, bottom, left); it's a single outline that encompasses the entire element.

What are the components of the outline property?

The outline property is composed of three components:

  • Outline color: This sets the color of the outline, which is often used to indicate focus on interactive elements.
  • Outline style: This defines the style of the outline, such as solid, dotted, dashed, etc.
  • Outline width: This determines the thickness or width of the outline.

How can you set the color of an element's outline using CSS?

You can set the color of an element's outline using the outline-color property. For example:

element {
  outline-color: blue;

This would set the outline color of the "element" to blue.

Can you explain the different outline styles available in CSS?

CSS provides several outline styles, including:

  • solid: Creates a solid outline.
  • dotted: Creates a dotted outline.
  • dashed: Creates a dashed outline.
  • double: Creates a double-line outline.
  • groove: Creates a 3D grooved outline.
  • ridge: Creates a 3D ridged outline.
  • inset: Creates a 3D inset outline.
  • outset: Creates a 3D outset outline.
  • none: Removes the outline.
  • hidden: Creates an outline that is the same as none except for accessibility purposes.

How can the outline width be adjusted in CSS?

You can adjust the width of an element's outline using the outline-width property. It accepts various units like pixels, ems, rems, and percentages. Example:

element {
  outline-width: 2px;

This would set the outline width of the "element" to 2 pixels.

Is it possible to apply different outline properties to different sides of an element?

No, the outline property does not support individual side adjustments like the border property. The outline is a single entity that surrounds the entire element.

How can the outline be removed from an element, while still maintaining accessibility?

To remove the outline from an element while still adhering to accessibility guidelines, you can set the outline color to transparent or match the background color:

element {
  outline-color: transparent; /* or outline-color: currentColor; */

This way, the outline is still present for keyboard navigation and other accessibility purposes, but it remains visually hidden.

In what scenarios is the outline property commonly used?

The outline property is commonly used to indicate focus on interactive elements, such as links, buttons, and form inputs, when they are navigated using the keyboard. It's crucial for web accessibility, allowing users who rely on keyboard navigation to identify where their focus is on a webpage.

Can the outline be customized further using CSS?

The outline property does not offer extensive customization options beyond color, style, and width. For more intricate designs, developers often use pseudo-elements (::before and ::after) in combination with other CSS properties to achieve the desired appearance while maintaining accessibility.


CSS outline provides a simple and effective way for web developers to add visual emphasis and focus to elements on a webpage. By using outline properties, developers can enhance accessibility and user interaction, making key elements stand out and improving the overall user experience.

Whether through border outlines, box outlines, or nuanced CSS text outline, developers can enhance design aesthetics. Understanding various CSS outline properties, including outline color and outline width, allows for precise customization, creating distinct and eye-catching visual elements.

The comparison between outlines vs borders reveals their unique roles, with outlines offering a distinct design approach. Navigating different outline styles, setting the outline width, specifying outline colors, and employing the shorthand property present developers with a spectrum of design possibilities. One notable application is the removal of outlines around active links, ensuring a polished appearance while maintaining accessibility.