CSS Filters

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CSS Filters

CSS filter support recently landed within WebKit nightlies. CSS filters provide a method for modifying the rendering of a basic DOM element, image, or video. CSS filters allow for blurring, warping, and modifying the color intensity of elements. Let's have a look at how CSS filters work and how you can quickly create elements that are beautifully filtered!

There are many CSS filters to choose from: grayscale, blur, sepia, saturate, opacity, brightness, contrast, hue-rotate, and invert. While each property value generally falls between 0 and 1, there are a few exceptions. The blur property uses a unit of pixels and can be any whole number, and the hue-rotate filter value is a whole number with a "deg" unit.

The following CSS snippet will blur an element:

.myElement {
	-webkit-filter: blur(2px);

Multiple filters are separated by spaces, so we could also add grayscale and opacity values to the blur:

.myElement {
	-webkit-filter: blur(2px) grayscale(.5) opacity(0.8);

Let's get crazy with hue-rotate as well:

.myElement {
	-webkit-filter: blur(2px) grayscale(.5) opacity(0.8) hue-rotate(120deg);

If static filtering isn't enough for you, CSS filters also animate with @-webkit-keyframes:

@-webkit-keyframes testAnim {
	0% {
		-webkit-filter: grayscale(0.5) blur(1px) saturate(2);
	100% {
		-webkit-filter: grayscale(0.2) blur(6px) saturate(9);

/* the photo to be animated via filters */
#animatePhoto {}
#animatePhoto:hover {
	-webkit-animation-name: testAnim;
	 -webkit-animation-duration: 2s;
	 -webkit-animation-iteration-count: 1;
	 -webkit-animation-direction: alternate;
	 -webkit-animation-timing-function: ease-out;
	 -webkit-animation-fill-mode: forwards;
	 -webkit-animation-delay: 0s;

Expect a performance hit with heavy CSS filter usage; be sure to heavily test your site wherever filtering is used. CSS filters have not yet hit mobile, but assume that CSS filters will be taxing in that environment as well.

Note: I've yet to successfully filter a <video> tag; it's possible that feature isn't in the first implementation.

The additional of CSS filters to the web provides a new level of customization for images, video, and DOM nodes in general. We should see some solid, practical uses for CSS filters emerge in the coming years. Have fun playing around with CSS filters and let me know if you can think of some immediate, practical uses!


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  1. Thanks David for this really nice review of what the future of css is going to be.
    Even if all those filter won’t be available on ie before year 2100, it’s anyways some really exciting new features of css.

    Thanks again

  2. Wow, awesome as always :)
    CSS power !

  3. JeroenG

    Sweeet! This is just what I needed for my next project.
    Now I’m wondering,… what would be a good fallback for the blurfilter on FF and IE browsers?

  4. Matt

    Isn’t adding a “sepia” filter going a bit too far though?

    • Too far? Why?

    • Matt

      Well, unlike the other filters, sepia seems to be more of an extra effect rather a core filter and thus what I would consider to be “bloat”. Just imagine if they added tons of other filters similar to this like “cool-dark-feel” or all the effects instagram offers; it wouldn’t be nice since it’s too fixed. A color-tint filter would’ve been more flexible and allow more possibilities, albeit slightly more difficult for beginners to take advantage of.

  5. Oh, great. Just when we thought we were rid of IE like non-standard properties, this comes along.

    • At least this is based on an existing W3C spec though…

  6. Thanks David..Wow…

  7. Nice to have some good stuffs about css filters. Thanks.

  8. Using grayscale and sepia → normal color will be handy for thumbnail image, navigation, and other element hover effects. For those that think stepping back 60 years to Ektachrome, the instagram effect is now possible with CSS filters.

  9. gorn

    Why onl webkit?

  10. I love it.

  11. It would be nice if you also mention/ gives a try the svg filters already available in Firefox. They are awesome also!

  12. Will be useful in mix and match applications. Like color selection for garments. You don’t have to make photographs of each color can just change colors with filters. This saves a lot of work in photogrpahy and makes the application so lightweight.
    Just as you asked for some practical applications.

  13. It’s a bit ironic that all these cool HTML5 filters can’t be seen on mobiles. I thought only Flash did cool things that couldn’t render on mobiles, so they tried to kill it…. Where’s the improvement?

    HTML5 is a dismal step backwards if you know how to code Flash, and the mythology that it somehow has the potential to be a better platform is endlessly being proven to be bunk. Check out Google ‘Web Designer’ for yet more proof of an exclusive brand spanking new HTML5 tool kit that can only render properly on very few browsers….

  14. Thanks for these! Awesome css power!

  15. gabe

    thanks for posting this David. I don’t think we’ll see filtering on video elements for the same reason you can’t change the video matte color with css, but here is a cool approach that could provide a work-around:
    @Philip La Vere, I don’t think flash got killed off because it was inferior in any way, I think it was the restrictive licensing that killed it.

  16. mind blown!

  17. miqureshi

    Growing css power i like it!

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