CSS Text Effects - Five Minimal Examples

CSS Text Effects - Five Minimal Examples

With the addition of some new CSS properties in the last few years, frontend developers can now create interesting text visuals much easier. "Knockout" or "cutout" text, where words clip a background image, gradient or video, are possible with very little code.

In this article, we'll explore five CSS text masking and clipping techniques using the background-clip and clip-path properties.

CSS Gradient Text

text with a gradient background

Let's start by creating a CSS gradient text effect. The overall idea is to set a background gradient behind some text and then "clip" the background to the edges of the text.

This actually only requires four lines of CSS to accomplish.

Let's assume we have an h1.

<h1>Gradients</h1>

In CSS, let's add a gradient background:

h1 {
	background: linear-gradient(30deg, #9ED8DB 40%, #007B82 70%);
}

If you're like me and can never remember the exact syntax for CSS gradients, check out the awesome gradient generator tool at coolors.co.

Now let's add the property that does the clipping: background-clip.

The background-clip CSS property sets whether an element's background extends underneath its border box, padding box, or content box. - MDN Docs

h1 {
	...
	background-clip: text;
	-webkit-background-clip: text;
}

Using the text value with this property allows the background gradient to bleed through and clip the edges of the background within the text.

The last property we need is a text color. It should be set to transparent so that the background is completely visible. Without this, you'll probably only see a thin outline of the gradient.

h1 {
	...
	color: transparent;
}

The -webkit prefix is actually required for Chrome and Safari at the time of this writing because the text value only has partial support. Adding both the prefixed and un-prefixed properties should support most browsers aside from Internet Explorer. If you need to support IE, you can add a non-transparent text color as a fallback and include it before transparent color.

Check the background-clip docs for complete browser support info.

CSS Animated Gradient Text

gif of text with animaged gradient as background

For the next effect, let's stick with gradients and use an animated gradient as the text background.

<h1>Animated</h1>

And for the CSS:

h1 {
	background: radial-gradient(circle, #80ffc1 0%, #ff6161 100%);
  background-clip: text;
  -webkit-background-clip: text;
  color: transparent;
}

We continue using the background-clip properties, and set the text color to transparent just like in the previous example.

Since we're working with animation, we need to define that next. The animation should run infinitely and alternate from left to right, and back again.

h1 {
	...
	animation: animatedGradient 2s infinite ease;
  animation-direction: alternate;
}

Last we define the animation keyframe, which increases the background-size value to get the actual animation movement.

@keyframes animatedGradient {
  from {
    background-size: 100%;
  }

  to {
    background-size: 250%;
  }
}

CSS Image Background Text

text with image as background

This next example will again be similar to the ones we just covered. The only difference is that we'll use an actual image instead of a gradient as the background.

<h1>Images</h1>
h1 {
	background: url('./image.jpg') no-repeat center center;
  background-clip: text;
  -webkit-background-clip: text;
  color: transparent;
}

In our case, we want to make sure the background image isn't repeating and is vertically and horizontally centered.

CSS Video Background Text

gif of text with a video as background

Alright, next we'll use video as the background of our text. This effect is different in that it uses an SVG instead of an h1.

First, we need a div that contains a video tag.

<div class="video-container">
  <video loop autoPlay muted playsInline>
    <source src="./video.mp4" type="video/mp4" />
		... Other <source /> tags here if necessary
  </video>
</div>

On the video tag, we add some properties: loop autoPlay muted playsInline. So far, this should get you a video looping on the page that plays automatically with no sound.

Now the styles:

.video-container {
  position: relative;
}

.video-container video {
	margin: auto;
  display: block;
  clip-path: url(#videoText);
  width: 640px;
}

.video-container svg {
  width: 0;
  height: 0;
  position: absolute;
}

The most important property here is clip-path.

The clip-path CSS property creates a clipping region that sets what part of an element should be shown. Parts that are inside the region are shown, while those outside are hidden. - MDN Docs

This will make a little more sense after we add the SVG, but we basically want to use the SVG path as the region to clip our video to, as is referenced by the url(#videoText) value.

Now we need an SVG. There are tons of different ways to create and export them but I usually use Figma or Sketch. All you really need to do is add some text in your program of choice and export it as an SVG.

The SVG I use below is a simplified example. Yours will have the usual xmlns, viewBox, and path properties.

Once you have an SVG exported, there are a few additions to make. First, we need to add a clipPath element around the path.

The <clipPath> SVG element defines a clipping path to be used by the clip-path property. A clipping path restricts the region to which paint can be applied. Conceptually, parts of the drawing that lie outside of the region bounded by the clipping path are not drawn. - MDN Docs

At a high level, it's not too different from the background-clip property we used in the previous examples.

<svg>
  <clipPath id="videoText" clipPathUnits="objectBoundingBox" transform="scale(0.0015625, 0.002777777777778)">
		<path d="M196.62 ..." />
  </clipPath>
</svg>

The clipPath element should have an ID that matches the one we added in our CSS: videoText. It also needs a clipPathUnits="objectBoundingBox" property and value.

The last thing to add are some transform values. We need these because the SVG itself is intentionally set to a height and width of 0 with the CSS we added. Because of that, we need to scale the path back up so that it's visible.

To derive the scale values, divide 1 by the height and width. Since the text in my example has a width of 640px and height of 360px :

1 / 640 = 0.0015625

1 / 360 = 0.002777777777778

scale(0.0015625, 0.002777777777778)

You might need to experiment with this a bit depending on the width and height you want.

Finally, add the finished SVG into the .video-container div.

<div class="video-container">
	<svg>
	  <clipPath id="videoText" clipPathUnits="objectBoundingBox" transform="scale(0.0015625, 0.002777777777778)">
			<path d="M196.62 ..." />
	  </clipPath>
	</svg>

	<video>...</video>
</div>

CSS Split Color Text

text with split background color

For our last example, we'll create a split color text effect. There are likely a few different ways to do this, but I was able to accomplish it with the following.

First, we need an h1, except this time we add a data attribute to it. You'll see why in a minute. We also want to make sure there's a div around the h1.

<div class="split-text-container">
	<h1 data-text="Split Colors">Split Colors</h1>
</div>

Now for the styles.

.split-text-container {
  position: relative;
}

h1 {
  color: #fff;
}

h1::before {
  content: attr(data-text);
	clip-path: polygon(0px 105%, 93% 0%, 100% 100%);
	margin: 0;
	color: #ff6161;
	position: absolute;
  top: 0;
  left: 0;
  right: 0;
}

There are two important parts here:

  1. The use of the attr() CSS function. The function gets an attribute from the selected element and lets us use that value in CSS. In our case, we want the data-text attribute we added so that we can use it in the content property. This gives us two text elements to work with: the original h1 and the psuedo element.

  2. The clip-path property. In the previous example, we used a separate SVG as the value of this property. We're doing something similar, except using a polygon shape. This is what gives the appearance of the text color being "split". We're using the shape of this polygon to clip the red pseudo element text so that it's only partially visible, and then positioning it on top of the white h1 text using absolute positioning.

better visual of split background layer colors separated

Finally, one last addition is to make sure the text is still selectable.

h1::before {
	...
	pointer-events: none; /* Make text selectable */
}

Without the pointer-events property, the pseudo element is actually preventing some of our text from being selected.

Summary

And there you have it: five different CSS clipping and masking effects to try in your next project! The examples we covered really only scratch the surface of the things you can do with these properties. Some other options might involve using textures, more elaborate SVGs, and different types of animation.

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