Creating CSS Global Variables : Stylesheet theme management


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Latest Update: 03/04/2018

CSS Variables (Custom Properties) have arrived!

Another year another browser. Edge has now joined Mozilla and Google by supporting this truly great feature.

Preprocessor "NOT" required!

There is a lot of repetition in CSS. A single color may be used in several places.

For some CSS declarations, it is possible to declare this higher in the cascade and let CSS inheritance solve this problem naturally.

For non-trivial projects, this is not always possible. By declaring a variable on the :root pseudo-element, a CSS author can halt some instances of repetition by using the variable.

How it works

Set your variable at the top of your stylesheet:


Create a root class:

:root {

Create variables (-- [String] : [value])

:root {
  --red: #b00;
  --blue: #00b;
  --fullwidth: 100%;

Set your variables anywhere in your CSS document:

h1 {
  color: var(--red);
#MyText {
  color: var(--blue);
  width: var(--fullwidth);


See for current compatability.

FIREFOX: Version 31+ (Enabled by default)

(Leading the way as usual.) More info from Mozilla

CHROME: Version 49+ (Enabled by default).

"This feature can be enabled in Chrome Version 48 for testing by enabling the experimental Web Platform feature. Enter chrome://flags/ in your Chrome address bar to access this setting."

Safari/IOS Safari: Version 9.1/9.3 (Enabled by default).

Opera: Version 39+ (Enabled by default).

Android: Version 52+ (Enabled by default).

IE: It's never going to happen.

Edge: Version 15+ (Enabled by default).

CSS Custom Properties landed in Windows Insider Preview build 14986


Full specification for upcoming CSS variables

Read more


A fiddle and snippet are attached below for testing:

(It will only work with supported browsers.)


:root {
  --red: #b00;
  --blue: #4679bd;
  --grey: #ddd;
  --W200: 200px;
  --Lft: left;
.Bx4 {
  float: var(--Lft);
  width: var(--W200);
  height: var(--W200);
  margin: 10px;
  padding: 10px;
  border: 1px solid var(--red);
.Bx1 {
  color: var(--red);
  background: var(--grey);
.Bx2 {
  color: var(--grey);
  background: black;
.Bx3 {
  color: var(--grey);
  background: var(--blue);
.Bx4 {
  color: var(--grey);
  background: var(--red);
<p>If you see four square boxes then variables are working as expected.</p>

<div class="Bx1">I should be red text on grey background.</div>
<div class="Bx2">I should be grey text on black background.</div>
<div class="Bx3">I should be grey text on blue background.</div>
<div class="Bx4">I should be grey text on red background.</div>

You can't create variables in CSS right now. If you want this sort of functionality you will need to use a CSS preprocessor like SASS or LESS. Here are your styles as they would appear in SASS:


h1 {

They also allow you to do other (awesome) things like nesting selectors:

#some-id {

    &:hover {

This would compile to:

#some-id { color:red; }
#some-id:hover { cursor:pointer; }

Check out the official SASS tutorial for setup instructions and more on syntax/features. Personally I use a Visual Studio extension called Web Workbench by Mindscape for easy developing, there are a lot of plugins for other IDEs as well.


As of July/August 2014, Firefox has implemented the draft spec for CSS variables, here is the syntax:

:root {
  --main-color: #06c;
  --accent-color: #006;
/* The rest of the CSS file */
#foo h1 {
  color: var(--main-color);

It's not possible using CSS, but using a CSS preprocessor like less or SASS.


I love SASS and use it for all my projects.

I do it this way:

The html:

    <style type="text/css"> <? require_once('xCss.php'); ?> </style>

The xCss.php:

<? // place here your vars
$fntBtn = 'bold 14px  Arial'
$colBorder  = '#556677' ;
$colBG0     = '#dddddd' ;
$colBG1     = '#44dddd' ;
$colBtn     = '#aadddd' ;

// here goes your css after the php-close tag: 
button { border: solid 1px <?= $colBorder; ?>; border-radius:4px; font: <?= $fntBtn; ?>; background-color:<?= $colBtn; ?>; } 

You will either need LESS or SASS for the same..

But here is another alternative which I believe will work out in CSS3..

Example :

 :root {
    -webkit-var-beautifulColor: rgba(255,40,100, 0.8);
    -moz-var-beautifulColor: rgba(255,40,100, 0.8);
    -ms-var-beautifulColor: rgba(255,40,100, 0.8);
    -o-var-beautifulColor: rgba(255,40,100, 0.8);
    var-beautifulColor: rgba(255,40,100, 0.8);
  .example1 h1 {
    color: -webkit-var(beautifulColor);
    color: -moz-var(beautifulColor);
    color: -ms-var(beautifulColor);
    color: -o-var(beautifulColor);
    color: var(beautifulColor);

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