Guide to CSS animation

Taimoor Sattar

The CSS animation is the smooth transition of an object from one style to another. There are different ways to do animation in CSS as below.

  • Transition with Pseudo selector
  • Transition using JavaScript
  • Keyframe Animation

Transition with Pseudo selector

We use transition in CSS for smooth animation upon user certain action. We can target different properties of CSS to transition smoothly over a specific interval of time.

For example, if the user hovers over the button, it changes the color from a lighter to a darker state.

In HTML, we can define the button hierarchy as below:

<button type="button">Click Me!</button>

In CSS, we can style the button as below:

button {
    cursor: pointer;
    background-color: #008bb5;
    border: none;
    border-radius: 2px;
    color: white;
    padding: 10px 30px;
    text-align: center;
    text-decoration: none;
    display: inline-block;
    font-size: 16px;

When the user hovers the button, it changes the brightness. We can define the hover state in CSS as below:

button:hover {
    transition: all 1s ease-in;
    filter: brightness(0.85);

The above CSS code transition the button brightness to 0.85 in 1 second.

Not every property in CSS can transition smoothly. For example,

Some of the properties of CSS that can transition smoothly e.g. opacity, margin, font-size, padding, etc. These CSS properties have a range of values e.g. font-size have range of value from 1px, 2px, 3px, …

But, the CSS property like display has segmented value e.g. none, inline, block, inline-block, etc. So, the CSS display property can’t transition smoothly, it will change its state immediately.

Transition using JavaScript

We can transition CSS style in Javascript by adding or removing the styles from certain HTML elements.

For example, we can add or remove classes/attributes in Javascript to transition the color of the button. You can learn more about DOM manipulation in Javascript here.

In the HTML, we can define the button as below:

<button class="btn" onclick="toggleColor()" type="button">
  Click Me!

In CSS, we can define the style as below:

  transition: all 1s;

  background-color: #008bb5;
  color: white;

  background-color: black;
  color: white;

We the button is click, we use javascript to change the state of the button color. the disabled attribute in HTML

var button = document.getElementsByClassName("btn")[0];

function toggleColor() {

We first select the reference for the button in JavaScript and then use the .btn-blue and .btn-black classes to transition the color of the button.

Keyframes Animation

Keyframes animation in CSS defines the transition logic with multiple breakpoints. @keyframes is similar to the function that we can bind with the animation. In @keyframes, there are different properties that we can use as below:

Sr# Properties Description Expected Values
1. animation-name @keyframes name could be any name
2. animation-duration How Long animation would run? 1s, 2s, …
3. animation-delay Define the delay for the start of animation …, -2s, -1s, 0s, 1s, 2s, …
4. animation-iteration-count Define the number of counts the animation should run 1, 2, 3, …, infinite
5. animation-direction Define animation should play in forwards, backward, or in alternate cycles normal, reverse, alternate, alternate-reverse
6. animation-timing-function It defines the speed curve over the time interval of animation ease, linear, ease-in, ease-out, ease-in-out, cubic-bezier(x,x,x,x)
7. animation-fill-mode Define the style for the element when the animation is not playing none, forwards, backwards, both

For example, we can animate the text of the button using @keyframes.

In HTML, we can define the button as below:

<button onclick="toggleColor()" type="button">
  Click Me!

We need to define the transition logic for text color change in @keyframes as below.

@keyframes colors {
  0% {
    color: red;
  50% {
    color: blue;
  100% {
    color: green;

We then need to bind the @keyframes name in the animation as below:

button {
  font-weight: bold;
  animation: colors 1.5s 1s infinite;

To use the @keyframes we use the animation property to define the transition for a specific time interval. animation property is a general statement for define transition.

We can breakdown the above CSS animation code as below and the results is the same:

button {
  font-weight: bold;
  animation-name: colors;
  animation-duration: 1.5s;
  animation-iteration-count: infinite;
  animation-delay: 1s;

The above CSS code transition between the color of text e.g. red, green, and blue in 1.5 seconds and takes (delay) 1 second to start the animation.

About the Author

Written by Taimoor Sattar I'm Taimoor Sattar, full-stack developer. I've experience to develop websites in JavaScript, Node and CSS. But, better I am a problem solver. I used to break down large chunck of problem into small puzzle pieces. You should follow them on Twitter. You can contact me on this page.