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Your First Style Sheet - Style Sheets

Style sheets are a very powerful tool for the Web site developer. They give you the chance to be completely consistent with the look and feel of your pages, while giving you much more control over the layout and design than straight HTML ever did.

  1. What is CSS?
  2. CSS Syntax
  3. Placement of CSS Elements
  4. Cascading - What Does it Mean?
  5. Your First Style Sheet
By: Marc Knuttel
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May 17, 2004

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As HTML becomes more and more a description of the content of Web pages and less the look and feel, you need a tool to describe how your pages should look. That's where Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) come in.

CSS is not hard, in some ways it's almost easier than HTML. The trickiest part is remembering the many different choices you have to choose from. Let's start with a simple style sheet that includes some of the more common styles.


The most common adjustment to Web pages is to the fonts on the page. You can change the color, style, size, and face of your fonts, and you can do it all with CSS.
Creating a Style Sheet

The first key to writing a style sheet is to decide what you want your text to look like. You should decide the color, the font, the style and so on. You also need to decide what the different styles should be for the different tags, headings, and so on.

My Proposed Styles

  • Standard paragraph text should be black, arial narrow, and medium sized
  • Top level (h1) headings should be red, bold, and small-caps
  • Second level headings (h2) should be blue and italic
  • Notations should be standard text with a yellow background

These are the CSS elements that can change the font:

  • font-family - Change the actual face of the font. You can use specific font names or generic terms such as serif, sans-serif, monospace, courier, fantasy.

    font-family : arial, geneva, helvetica;

  • font-size - Change the size of the font. Define the size as an absolute size, relative size, percentage, or length.

    font-size : small

  • font-style - Changes the style from normal to italics or oblique.

    font-style : italic

  • font-variant - Change the look of the text from normal to small-caps.

    font-variant : small-caps

  • font-weight - Change the font to bold.

    font-weight : bold

  • color - Change the color of your text. Use either named colors or hexadecimal codes.

    color : #ff0000

  • background-color - Change the color behind the text. Use either named colors or hexadecimal codes.

    background-color : yellow;

Once you've decided on the styles you want, you need to write your style sheet. Place the following in the <head> of your HTML document:

<style type="text/css">
p { color : #000000; font-family : arial narrow; font-size : medium; }
h1 { color : #ff0000; font-weight : bold; font-variant : small-caps; }
h2 { color : #0000ff; font-style : italic; }
.note { background-color : #ffff00; }

The first three of the above styles will be set by using the tags: <p></p>, <h1></h1>, and <h2><h2>. The final style notation is used with the class attribute. Since it is a notation, it would usually be used with the <span></span> tag. For example:

This paragraph would be in the p style. <span class="note">Note: inheritance means that this text will have the same styles as the paragraph itself</span>

The styles set by the first tag will be inherited by any tag that is within it. This is why we don't have to redefine the font color or size for the note.

>>> More Style-Sheets Articles          >>> More By Marc Knuttel

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- What is CSS?
- The Power of CSS
- Understanding Style Sheets (part 2)
- Understanding Style Sheets (Part 1)

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