Recreating drop caps in web design hasn’t always been simple. Early implementations were often clunky. They required various hacks. Yet their look could vary from browser to browser. The text surrounding this decorative character also played a role.
Modern CSS has a way of making things easier. And the drop cap is no exception. It’s now possible to create an attractive and functional element.
No wonder web designers are flocking to them. They add a professional and elegant touch to blog posts and long-form content. Drop caps are capable of more than you might think. Here are eight unique implementations that show what’s possible.
Beautiful Book Layout with Drop Cap by Erin E. Sullivan
Let’s start with a nod to the drop cap’s lineage. This snippet recreates a book layout – complete with beautiful typography. The drop cap uses a CSS float, along with the
:first-letter pseudo-element, to position the letter.
See the Pen Book Layout by Erin E. Sullivan
CSS Houdini – Simple Generative Drop Caps by George Francis
Here’s a fun example of web technologies dressing up a single character. Each time you refresh the page, the background of this drop cap changes. This generative effect is powered by CSS Houdini. Let’s see a printed page beat this one.
See the Pen CSS Houdini – Simple Generative Drop Caps! ✨ by George Francis
CSS Drop Cap Numbers by Thom Epps
Drop caps aren’t only for paragraph text. They can also add a dimension to other HTML content. Here, a colorful character dresses up an ordered list element. You might use a similar effect to make multi-step instructions easier to follow.
See the Pen DropCap Nubers by Thom Epps
Huge Drop Cap CSS by Noah Blon
Drop caps often fit within the first few lines of a paragraph. But this snippet aims to go bigger. A giant red character towers above the rest of the text. And it also serves as a background. It’s an attention-getting look. But some accessibility tweaks would help with legibility.
See the Pen Big Drop Cap by Noah Blon
Beautiful & Accessible CSS Drop Caps by Aquent Gymnasium
How do drop caps impact accessibility? A poor implementation could make it harder for users of screen readers. These examples demonstrate a couple of ways to keep the characters accessible. One uses a pseudo-element, while the other hides a copy of the decorative element.
See the Pen Creating Beautiful and Accessible Drop Caps (Completed) by Aquent Gymnasium
Accessible Drop Cap Examples by Adrian Roselli
Keeping with the theme of accessibility, here are three drop-cap examples. In this case, author Adrian Roselli recommends the third implementation. It’s the only one that is CSS-only. There’s also a companion article that digs into the options.
See the Pen Accessible Drop Caps by Adrian Roselli
Styling an Ornate Letter Drop Cap by Andy Hullinger
Positioning a drop cap can be a challenge. For example, getting the character to look good with paragraphs of various lengths is tedious. This example uses CSS transforms to account for the paragraph’s line height. The idea here is to create more predictable results.
See the Pen Styling an Initial Letter “Drop Cap” by Andy Hullinger
Drop Cap Ordered List Grid by Stephen Lindberg
Here’s a simple CSS snippet that makes ordered list items stand out. First, it uses the CSS counter() function to enumerate each item. Then, it uses CSS pseudo-elements to add bold styling to the digit. The use of CSS Grid ensures that the presentation is responsive.
See the Pen dropcap-grid ol by Stephen Lindberg
Dropping Some CSS Style Into Your Text
It’s easy to see why drop caps have become commonplace. First, they add creative flair to plain text. Plus, they can help make long passages of text more intuitive. They can also serve as an extension of your brand.
And CSS offers multiple options for adding drop caps to your layout. The examples above demonstrate what’s possible. You can create beautiful characters that maintain accessibility. What’s not to love?
If you’d like to see even more CSS drop cap examples, check out our CodePen collection.