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Overview of CSS sprites

From: CSS: Styling Navigation

Video: Overview of CSS sprites

Icons are a very common part of site navigation, and although Native CSS capability have made it easier to create simple graphics through CSS, there it's going to be times when it just makes more sense to use an image for a certain icon or graphic. Of course, using images does increase site overhead, and it dramatically increases the number of requests made to the server based on how many images and icons you have. Those server requests can have an extremely negative effect on site performance, especially on mobile devices. So one way to get around that particular restriction is to use what's known as a CSS Sprite.

Overview of CSS sprites

Icons are a very common part of site navigation, and although Native CSS capability have made it easier to create simple graphics through CSS, there it's going to be times when it just makes more sense to use an image for a certain icon or graphic. Of course, using images does increase site overhead, and it dramatically increases the number of requests made to the server based on how many images and icons you have. Those server requests can have an extremely negative effect on site performance, especially on mobile devices. So one way to get around that particular restriction is to use what's known as a CSS Sprite.

Take our dropdown menu that we created earlier. I've modified it a little bit and added some icons for each of the menu items. Now it will be pretty simple to create five separate icons and add them to our links through using a background image. However, it's a lot more efficient to just create one single image that contains all of the icons and then simply reposition the background image based on which link it's inside of. This reduces the amount of HTTP requests made, adds only one image for the browser to cache, and gives me only one image to create and maintain.

That's the idea behind CSS Sprites. Now I am going to switch over to Illustrator and show you the Sprite that I've created for this dropdown menu. Now if you want to take a closer look at it, it's in the assets folder in the 06_04 folder. So if you have Illustrator, feel free to open it up and follow along with me. So you will notice the sprites file is really, really tall. I am just going to zoom in on a couple of these icons, and you can see that I've got two versions of each one. I've got sort of a main version of it, and I've got sort of a desaturated version.

Also, I want to point out to you that these elements that have white are actually filled with white inside of it. The reason for that is this is going to be a transparent PNG file, so I want to be able to see through this but I don't want the white portion of this to be able to see through. These guide boxes that you are seeing here exactly 50 pixels by 50 pixels. So these are spaced out from each other, based on the size of them and in just sort of goes all the way down through each one of these icons. So the menu that we were looking at earlier was only showing you one image, but because it's only allowing you to display this portion at a time. Basically we just move this file up and down to display the icon that you are looking to display.

You might be wondering why I have them so far apart. They don't need to be that far apart. However, in certain situations you want to account for any padding or spacing that might be added to a image, so that's one of the reasons. The other reason is because they are spaced evenly apart, in theory it makes the math little bit easier. One of the things I really wanted to show you with this particular set of exercises is how CSS Sprites really kind of work in the real world--or at least how they work for me in the real world. I see a lot of tutorials and exercises out there where these sprites are lined right up against each other, they are perfectly aligned.

All you have to do is type in one specific value, and it pops in. It's really not the way it works, especially if you are trying to center an icon next to some text. Every single icon is different, so the visual center of that icon is going to be a little bit different. So the positioning will give us a starting point, but we're probably going to have to sort of refine that a little bit by nudging these icons up and down based on how we want it to appear next to the text. So, more on that when we actually get into it. So that's the Sprite that we are going to be using for a menu. In the next exercise, we are going to take a look at what we need to add to our CSS in order to actually use it.

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This video is part of

Image for CSS: Styling Navigation
CSS: Styling Navigation

53 video lessons · 16649 viewers

James Williamson
Author

 
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  1. 3m 8s
    1. Welcome
      42s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      1m 12s
    3. Using the exercise files
      1m 14s
  2. 35m 25s
    1. Organizing menus with lists
      4m 26s
    2. Ensuring accessibility
      9m 3s
    3. Using the nav element
      7m 30s
    4. Creating block-level links
      3m 8s
    5. Lab: Structuring navigation
      4m 11s
    6. Solution: Structuring navigation
      7m 7s
  3. 48m 42s
    1. Exploring link style considerations
      9m 2s
    2. Using global link styles
      9m 56s
    3. Styling link states
      10m 57s
    4. Indicating external links
      10m 4s
    5. Styling image links
      8m 43s
  4. 52m 5s
    1. Stripping default list styling
      4m 34s
    2. Defining link dimensions
      6m 0s
    3. Setting link styling
      3m 36s
    4. Aligning links vertically
      4m 11s
    5. Controlling link spacing
      2m 30s
    6. Styling menus with borders
      2m 32s
    7. Creating rollovers
      4m 45s
    8. Restricting link styling
      3m 31s
    9. Lab: Creating a vertical menu
      11m 44s
    10. Solution: Creating a vertical menu
      8m 42s
  5. 54m 58s
    1. Stripping list styling
      3m 35s
    2. Displaying links horizontally
      6m 14s
    3. Clearing floats
      6m 12s
    4. Controlling link sizing and spacing
      3m 11s
    5. Styling links
      7m 16s
    6. Creating rollovers
      5m 52s
    7. Indicating current pages
      4m 43s
    8. Controlling cursor states
      2m 46s
    9. Lab: Creating horizontal menus
      6m 45s
    10. Solution: Creating horizontal menus
      8m 24s
  6. 55m 35s
    1. Overview of dropdown menus
      1m 17s
    2. Structuring submenus
      5m 56s
    3. Styling submenus
      6m 4s
    4. Creating submenu rollovers
      3m 28s
    5. Positioning submenus
      5m 43s
    6. Controlling submenu display
      5m 5s
    7. Creating persistent hover states
      5m 53s
    8. Animating menus with CSS transitions
      6m 29s
    9. Lab: Dropdown menus
      6m 51s
    10. Solution: Dropdown menus
      8m 49s
  7. 58m 7s
    1. Creating CSS-only buttons
      8m 39s
    2. Creating special effects for buttons
      4m 2s
    3. Enhancing buttons with gradients
      7m 40s
    4. Overview of CSS sprites
      3m 30s
    5. Using CSS sprites for icons
      14m 30s
    6. Styling block-level links
      8m 38s
    7. Lab: Enhancing navigation with CSS
      5m 26s
    8. Solution: Enhancing navigation with CSS
      5m 42s
  8. 6m 29s
    1. Additional resources
      6m 29s

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