Different ways to use CSS

May 20, 2020

CSS or Cascading Style Sheets is a way to add styles to web documents. There are numerous methods of applying CSS to your webpage or application.

Internal / Embeded CSS Styles

The most straightforward way to quickly include lots of CSS on your html document is to use style tags. The browser will parse everything between two style tags as valid CSS. Style tags can be included in either the head or body of an html document.

  * {
    box-sizing: border-box;
  .container {
    width: 960px;
  #element {
    font-size: 16px;

External Style Sheets

Another method of CSS involves separating your css from your html files. This is often the default way webpages and React applications are set up.

HTML external stylesheets

In the head of your html file include a link tag to reference an external css file.

  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="./styles.css">
  <title>External Style Sheets Example</title>

Here we are telling the browser to import styles.css which lives in the same folder as the html file

body {
  font-family: Helvetica;
p {
  background-color: orangered;
  color: white;

React external stylesheets

In React we can reference the exact same css file as in HTML using an import statement in our components

import React from 'react'
import './styles.css'

const App = () => {
  return (
    <div>Styled React Application</div>
export default App;

Inline CSS

This quick and dirty way of adding CSS to your webpages involves including style properties on the html tags themselves. This can be done using the style property in both html and React.

HTML inline

  <h1 style="color: green; font-size: 22px;">Page Header</h1>
  <img style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" />

In HTML, inline style properties are added in a string using normal css. Each property has to end with a semi-colon, and the code can be directly copied to a .css file, as it has the same syntax.

React inline

In React however, this style property is a JavaScript object, and must use camel-cased CSS properties. This syntax is the JavaScript representation of CSS style properties.

<div id="app">
  <h1 style={{ color: "blue", fontSize: "22px" }}>Page Header</h1>
  <img style={{ width: "300px", height: "200px" }} />

SCSS Setup (node-sass)

SCSS is a method of used enhanced stylesheets that allow for variables, nesting selectors, imports, mixins, and more. To use .scss files in a create-react-app application, install the following node-sass package

npm install node-sass

Learn more about setting up a SCSS project for both Vanilla JS and React here.

React CSS-in-JS (styled-components)

Styled-Components is a library for React that allows you to make CSS-in-JS components using the standard CSS syntax. Install styled-components with the following command

npm install styled-components

Once the install completes you will be able to include, and setup styled components in whatever React components you write. Create a styled component using any html tag type you like and add it in your markup like so

import React from "react";
import styled from "styled-components";

const Title = styled.h1`
  font-size: 36px;
  font-weight: 700;
const PageText = styled.p`
  color: blue;
  text-decoration: none;

const Header = () => {
  return (
      <Title>Title Here</Title>
      <PageText>Information about the About Page here</PageText>

export default Header;

There are additional libraries for CSS-in-JS such as Emotion or Radium which can be used to style React components.

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