CSS Units

CSS has several different units for expressing a length.

Many CSS properties take “length” values, such as width, margin, padding, font-size, border-width, etc.

Length is a number followed by a length unit, such as 10px, 2em, etc.

A whitespace cannot appear between the number and the unit. However, if the value is 0, the unit can be omitted.

For some CSS properties, negative lengths are allowed.

There are two types of length units: relative and absolute.

Relative Lengths

Relative length units specify a length relative to another length property. Relative length units scales better between different rendering mediums.

Unit Description
em Relative to the font-size of the element (2em means 2 times the size of the current font) Try it
ex Relative to the x-height of the current font (rarely used) Try it
ch Relative to width of the “0” (zero)
rem Relative to font-size of the root element
vw Relative to 1% of the width of the viewport* Try it
vh Relative to 1% of the height of the viewport* Try it
vmin Relative to 1% of viewport’s* smaller dimension Try it
vmax Relative to 1% of viewport’s* larger dimension Try it
%


Absolute Lengths

The absolute length units are fixed and a length expressed in any of these will appear as exactly that size.

Absolute length units are not recommended for use on screen, because screen sizes vary so much. However, they can be used if the output medium is known, such as for print layout.

Unit Description
cm centimeters Try it
mm millimeters Try it
in inches (1in = 96px = 2.54cm) Try it
px * pixels (1px = 1/96th of 1in) Try it
pt points (1pt = 1/72 of 1in) Try it
pc picas (1pc = 12 pt) Try it

* Pixels (px) are relative to the viewing device. For low-dpi devices, 1px is one device pixel (dot) of the display. For printers and high resolution screens 1px implies multiple device pixels.