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Styling Form Inputs in CSS With :required, :optional, :valid and :invalid

Published on September 2, 2020
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By Alligator.io
Developer and author at DigitalOcean.
Styling Form Inputs in CSS With :required, :optional, :valid and :invalid

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Introduction

When it comes to validating the content of input fields on the frontend, things are much easier now than they they used to be. We can use the :required, :optional, :valid and :invalid pseudo-classes coupled with HTML5 form validation attributes like required or pattern to create very visually engaging results. These pseudo-classes work for input, textarea and select elements.

Input pseudo-classes

Here’s an example of the pseudo-classes at work. Let’s start with this HTML markup:

<form action="#">
  <input type="text" placeholder="First Name" required>
  <input type="email" placeholder="Email" required>
  <input type="text" placeholder="Nickname">
  <input type="text" placeholder="Favorite pizza topping">
</form>

And let’s apply the following styles:

input {
  border: 2px solid;
  border-radius: 4px;
  font-size: 1rem;
  margin: 0.25rem;
  min-width: 125px;
  padding: 0.5rem;
  transition: background-color 0.5s ease-out;
}
input:optional {
  border-color: gray;
}
input:required {
  border-color: black;
}
input:invalid {
  border-color: red;
}

Here’s the result:

See the Pen vYGeLYw by alligatorio (@alligatorio) on CodePen.


In the demo above, <input type="email" is an HTML5 input type that tells browsers to expect an email address. Because we are also using the required attribute, modern browsers will only set the input to :valid when a valid email is entered.

Adding the :focus pseudo-class

Let’s make things even more interesting by also styling according to the focus state and add a background image and color depending on the validity state and only when the input is in focus. We’ll use the same HTML markup.

Here’s our updated CSS:

input {
  border: 2px solid;
  border-radius: 4px;
  font-size: 1rem;
  margin: 0.25rem;
  min-width: 125px;
  padding: 0.5rem;
  transition: border-color 0.5s ease-out;
}
input:optional {
  border-color: gray;
}
input:required:valid {
  border-color: green;
}
input:invalid {
  border-color: red;
}
input:required:focus:valid {
  background: url("https://assets.digitalocean.com/labs/icons/hand-thumbs-up.svg") no-repeat 95% 50% lightgreen;
  background-size: 25px;
}
input:focus:invalid {
  background: url("https://assets.digitalocean.com/labs/icons/exclamation-triangle-fill.svg") no-repeat 95% 50% lightsalmon;
  background-size: 25px;
}

There are two key changes in the above CSS:

  1. input:required:valid applies a success state only to required inputs. Because technically, optional inputs are always valid.
  2. input:focus:valid' and 'input:focus:invalid apply to inputs only when they are focused.

And here’s the result:

See the Pen gOrGPxP by alligatorio (@alligatorio) on CodePen.


You could be tempted to add content instead using ::before or ::after on the input, but unfortunately that’s not possible on input elements. One trick would be to have a sibling span element that has content added depending on the validity of the input. Something like this:

input:focus:invalid + span::before { ... }.


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