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Create Multi-colored Borders using CSS

The CSS border property does have some customization options, such as choices like solid, dashed, dotted, etc. However, when it comes to border color, we can only have a solid color per side. But, there is another way to achieve a multi-colored line using a few more properties you might not have thought of, let’s take a look. 








Multi-colored Borders



To achieve a multi-color border like shown above, we will use the position property and the ::after selector with a color gradient. First, we will make a header area using a HTML <div> class and then we will style it with CSS to have a multi-color border dividing it and the content below.

Create your HTML:

<div class="ost-multi-header">  <h1>    Header Title  </h1></div>

 Now, let’s style it a bit with CSS.

h1{  font-size: 50px;  line-height: 100px;  padding-left: 20px;  font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;}.ost-multi-header {  position: relative;  height: 100px;  background: #999999;}

You should now have something that looks like this:

Create Multi-colored Borders using CSS

With that, we can now add ::after to the .ost-multi-header selector. But, before we do, I’d like to explain a little of what ::after is doing and why we need the position property for the multi-color border. The ::after creates a pseudo-element with whatever is in the content property at the end of the selected element. In our case, that element is .ost-multi-header. Let us make a time-honored “Hello World!” example to illustrate.

Add this to your CSS:

.ost-multi-header::after{  content: 'Hello World!';  position: absolute;  left: 20px;  bottom: 0;}


As you can see, we now have a “Hello World!” element below the header title. Because our parent element, .ost-multi-header, has the position property as relative, we can give a child element an absolute position. This will let us move our new pseudo-element we created with ::after wherever we like within the parent element easily. We put it at the bottom and move it over 20px from the left within the parent element. Note, if the parent element didn’t have position property set to relative, then our absolute positioned element would be at the bottom and 20px to the left of the browser’s viewport.

What about our colored border? We are going to style the background of our pseudo-element to be our multi-colored border using a gradient. CSS gradients can be linear or radial. For our border, we will use linear-gradient. Quite simply, this would give us the border we seek.

.ost-multi-header::after{  content: '';  height: 6px;  position: absolute;  left: 0;  right:0;  bottom: 0;  background: linear-gradient(to right, #ed8034 0%,#ed8034 33%,#feb123 33%,#feb123 66%,#2184cd 66%,#2184cd 100%);}

But, let’s slow down a moment for a step-by-step. First, the content property is still there even though it is blank. This is because, without the content property, the pseudo-element is never created; so, we need it. We need to set the height of our pseudo-element, our border height. Why set both left and right properties to 0? Without a set width, this will stretch the pseudo-element to be 100% width inside the parent element. It may look like a lot, but the linear-gradient settings are just telling the color to flow from left “to right”, and we put in what colors we want at certain percentages of the background.

Even though all we are doing is picking what colors to be at specific percentages, it is a lot of leg work. Luckily, there are free online resources that help tremendously with color gradients. Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator by ColorZilla is a great tool that includes multiple gradient properties for supporting older browsers.

We have an already setup gradient on the tool, so we can use this link to see the exact settings used in this tutorial: https://colorzilla.com/gradient-editor/#ed8034+0,ed8034+33,feb123+33,feb123+66,2184cd+66,2184cd+100. It should look like this:

Create Multi-colored Borders using CSS

There are a lot of settings on this site, but let us focus on what settings we needed to create the look we are going to use for our border. Let’s break it down:

Create Multi-colored Borders using CSS

  1. Presets - These can be a great starting point!
  2. Slider bar - You can add, remove, and edit colors here
  3. Stops - This section allows you to change the settings for each color’s opacity and location. Simply click the color box on the slider above to change which one you are controlling in this section.
  4. Preview - Here you can immediately see the results of your changes.
  5. Orientation & Size - This allows you to change from horizontal, vertical, diagonal, or radial. And to set the size of the gradient.
  6. CSS Code - The generated code with a permalink so you can always go back and edit your gradient easily.

We weren’t looking for a faded gradient in our case, but rather a solid flat transition between two colors, so all we have to do is stack the two colors on top of eachother where we want this to happen. In our example, we stacked colors at 33% and 66% respectively.

Create Multi-colored Borders using CSS

Feel free to play around with the settings, knowing that what you see in the preview is what the code will generate. When you get the look setup the way you want, you can use the “copy” button in the lower right hand of the code box.


If you copied the code as I had it in the link, your final CSS will look something like this:

h1{  font-size: 50px;  line-height: 100px;  padding-left: 20px;  font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;}.ost-multi-header {  position: relative;  height: 100px;  background: #999999;  padding-bottom: 6px;}.ost-multi-header::after{  content: '';  height: 6px;  position: absolute;  left: 0;  right: 0;  bottom: 0;  /* Permalink - use to edit and share this gradient: https://colorzilla.com/gradient-editor/#ed8034+0,ed8034+33,feb123+33,feb123+66,2184cd+66,2184cd+100 */  background: rgb(237,128,52); /* Old browsers */  background: -moz-linear-gradient(left, rgba(237,128,52,1) 0%, rgba(237,128,52,1) 33%, rgba(254,177,35,1) 33%, rgba(254,177,35,1) 66%, rgba(33,132,205,1) 66%, rgba(33,132,205,1) 100%); /* FF3.6-15 */  background: -webkit-linear-gradient(left, rgba(237,128,52,1) 0%,rgba(237,128,52,1) 33%,rgba(254,177,35,1) 33%,rgba(254,177,35,1) 66%,rgba(33,132,205,1) 66%,rgba(33,132,205,1) 100%); /* Chrome10-25,Safari5.1-6 */  background: linear-gradient(to right, rgba(237,128,52,1) 0%,rgba(237,128,52,1) 33%,rgba(254,177,35,1) 33%,rgba(254,177,35,1) 66%,rgba(33,132,205,1) 66%,rgba(33,132,205,1) 100%); /* W3C, IE10+, FF16+, Chrome26+, Opera12+, Safari7+ */  filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient( startColorstr='#ed8034', endColorstr='#2184cd',GradientType=1 ); /* IE6-9 */}

And, that CSS will produce this multi-colored underline that is fully responsive:

Create Multi-colored Borders using CSS

There we go! We didn’t have to add the 6px padding to the bottom of .ost-multi-header, but the absolute positioned child doesn’t affect the height of the parent element anymore. We can let it float on top of our content in the parent element, or add padding to ensure it doesn’t cover any content we might not want obstructed.

Here is a link to this exercise recreated on CodePen for everyone to edit and learn without worry.

One final note, some older browsers only support the single colon :after selector, and not the modern standard double ::after. You can use the single colon if you wish to be safe. It will also work in modern browsers for now.

About the author

Mike an expert level CSS/SASS coder and a Joomla and Fabrik template builder. He is also familiar with WordPress and Drupal, particularly from the theme building stand point. He also works on many hosted solution platforms to manipulate templates for branding, such as 3D Cart, Wix, and Shopify.