How to use the CSS3 transition property

Default avatar.
December 06, 2012
How to use the CSS3 transition property.

ThumbAlong with the introduction of CSS3 comes many new features that are available for use in creating great effects; one of the most useful is the transition property.

The transition property is an important new development in CSS. It can be used to create a dynamic change effect on a div or class using a simple structure:

transition: property duration timing-function delay;

CSS3’s transition is a great way to add a little animation to sites without the large overhead of a JavaScript library like jQuery.


Before we start, you can see a demo here of the transition property in action.


Firstly, in order for the transition property to work, the standard property that it will be applied to needs to be defined. Arguably the two most common properties that will be defined are width and height. To write the property standalone simply use:

transition-property: define property

Size Change

Following on, once the property has been defined then the start and end values need to be assigned. In the case of values such as width or height the property needs to be set with a start value and then an end value with some other condition.

For example, here we set the transition property to width, then the start value of width and then set the end value when the element is hovered over:

#mainheader {
#mainheader:hover {


Now that we have defined the property to transform, the start and end values, we need to define the duration of the transition. This is achieved by defining a length in either seconds or milliseconds as below:

transition-duration: duration;

Building this into the example the following code is created:

#mainheader {
#mainheader:hover {

This means that the mainheader div will expand by 25px over a duration of 5 seconds.

Timing Function

The code is sufficient to create a nice effect however we can further utilise the CSS3 transition property by using timing-function Using this property it is possible to alter the speed curve of the transition duration. The transition property is set to a linear curve by default. However, you can define ease, ease-in, ease-out, ease-in-out and even cubic-bezier to alter the speed curve. Cubic-bezier allows you to define your own values using (n,n,n,n) where n can be between 0 and 1 (for example linear would be (0,0,1,1)).

Adding in this code to our example results in:

#mainheader {
#mainheader:hover {


Furthermore, much like transition-duration, using the transition-delay property defines a pause before the transition effect begins:

transition-delay: time;


Finally, it is important to consider two things when using the CSS3 transition property. Firstly, most browsers in circulation at present require a browser prefix to use it (the exceptions being IE10, Opera and Firefox16+):

-moz-transition: for Firefox 15
-webkit-transition: for Chrome and Safari

(Bear in mind that IE9 and lower does not support the transition property at all.)

Secondly, although I’ve used long hand in the examples above for clarity, it’s considered best practice to write in short form, as follows:

#mainheader {
-moz-transition: width ease-in-out 0.5s 0.1s; /* for Firefox 15 */
-webkit-transition: width ease-in-out 0.5s 0.1s; /* for Chrome and Safari */
transition: width ease-in-out 0.5s 0.1s;
#mainheader:hover {

Do use the CSS3’s transition property? How does it compare to jQuery-based tweens? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image/​thumbnail, motion image via Shutterstock.

David Pickett

David Pickett is a musician and web designer from the UK. Follow him on twitter.

Read Next

AI Changes Everything and Nothing

The marketing frenzy surrounding the recent flood of AI-powered apps and services has caused some observers to question…

15 Best New Fonts, March 2023

Fonts are one of the most critical tools in any designer’s toolbox. With clever use, you can transform a design from hu…

20 Best New Websites, March 2023

We have another exciting collection of the best new sites on the web for you. In this month’s episode, there are severa…

Exciting New Tools for Designers, March 2023

We have invoicing apps and scheduling tools. Some resources will save you the trouble of hiring a designer or developer…

Free Download: Budget Planner UI Kit

Designing an onboarding process can be tricky; there are so many different options, and if you get it wrong, you could …

3 Essential Design Trends, February 2023

There’s a common theme in this month’s collection of website design trends – typography. All three of these trends show…

Free Download: Education Icons

Icons are essential for successful web design. They provide an eye-catching, unobtrusive way to communicate important i…

15 Best New Fonts, February 2023

The fonts you embed in your website transform the design and can mean the difference between an extraordinary brand exp…

Unlocking the Power of Design to Help Users Make Smart Decisions

Users are faced with decision-making on websites every day. The decision-making process can be far more complex than it…

20 Best New Websites, February 2023

The quality of websites in 2023 has moved up a gear, with designers cherry-picking trends as tools, embracing new ideas…

AI’s Impact on the Web Is Growing

Despite the massive strides tech has taken in the last few years, we rarely see a week as tumultuous as this. When your…

Exciting New Tools for Designers, February 2023

No matter what you’re working on, you can guarantee that there’s a cool app, resource, or service that will help you do…