« Kevin Ngo

Simple CSS3 - Transitions and Transforms

25 Mar 2012

Today, I created CSS3 hover effects for my contact page. CSS3 comes with the ability to do transitions and transforms. Before, these effects would be done through Javascript. Being to be able to do higher-level presentation logic where presentation logic should be really simplifies web design.

CSS3 is rolled out amongst all modern browsers, although currently the experimental prefix tags (e.g -moz, -webkit) are required.


CSS3 transitions allow smooth and easily-specified transitions of CSS properties from one value to another. This could be done to fade or animate an element. Transitions can take four arguments.

Below is a simple structure for transitioning an arbitrary property.

myClass is initially has a value set for some property. A transition is defined for that property. If the property changes such as through an event (e.g. hover), the transition will handle the change. After the transition, element fires “transitioned” event which is accessible by Javascript (check for the specific event keyword which currently varies by browser).

.myClass {
    someProperty: {{value before}};
    transition: someProperty {{duration}} {{timingFunction}} {{delay}};
.myClass:hover {
    someProperty: {{value after}};


In CSS3, there are a handful defined transform functions.

For scale and translate, if only one argument is supplied, both x and y will be acted upon. CSS3 transforms are just like declaring any other property.

transform: function(value);

Transforms work nicely with transitions. Say we want to make an element seem like it’s falling onto the page with scale and opacity when hovered over. We set the element to initially be very large and transparent, then we scale it down to make it seem like it’s falling and going away from the screen.

element {
    opacity: 0;
    transform: scale(10);
    transition: all .3s ease-in;
element:hover {
    opacity: 100;
    transform: scale(1);

And that’s all there is to it. This is the most basic of examples. To learn more about CSS3, MDN is one of the best places to go to for their references on transitions and transforms, or anything else related to the web in general.