Whether you’re designing a website or a web application, you’ll need custom styles for headings like h1 or h2. In this article you’ll learn how to create some cool headings effects using CSS pseudo-elements.

View demo


So, why pseudo-elements? The answer is very simple: there is no need to add extra markup. This fit perfectly for the heading we’re going to create here.


<h1 class="headline1">I took lessons</h1>

As you can see above, there is no rocket science here. Just a simple HTML heading with a CSS class that will properly style it. All the other headings use a similar HTML structure, so it can’t easier than that.

<link href='http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Droid+Sans:700' rel='stylesheet'>

Also, for this demo, we’ll use a Google custom font.


Further, we’ll use the body as our main wrapper:

body {
  width: 60%;
  margin: 50px auto;
  padding: 15px;
  position: relative; /*needed for heading4 rule*/
  z-index: 0; /* again, just for heading4 rule*/    
  border: 7px solid #cecece;
  border: 7px solid rgba(0,0,0,.05);
  background: #fff;
  background-clip: padding-box;
  box-shadow: 0 0 2px rgba(0, 0, 0, .5);

h1 {
  font-family: 'Droid Sans', sans-serif;
  font-size: 22px;

Noticed the background-clip: padding-box declaration? This will help you achieve a cool effect: transparent borders for the main wrapper. Basically, the [background-clip](https://developer.mozilla.org/en/CSS/background-clip) CSS property specifies whether an element’s background, either the color or image, extends underneath its border.

Headings with transparent border

_Browser support for background-clip: Safari 5+, Chrome 7+, Firefox 3.6+, Opera 10+, IE 9+ _

Headline 1

Below is a simple and good looking effect made using CSS border property:

CSS heading style 1

.headline1 {
  border-bottom: 1px dashed #aaa;
  border-left: 7px solid #aaa;    
  border-left: 7px solid rgba(0,0,0,.2);
  margin: 0 -15px 15px -22px;
  padding: 5px 15px;

Headline 2

This style is made using a CSS triangle shape, you’ve seen this before here:

CSS heading style 2

.headline2 {
  border-bottom: 1px solid #aaa;
  margin: 15px 0;
  padding: 5px 0;
  position: relative;

.headline2:after {
  content: '';
  border-right: 20px solid #fff;
  border-top: 15px solid #aaa;
  bottom: -15px;
  position: absolute;
  left: 25px;

.headline2:after {
  border-top-color: #fff;
  border-right-color: transparent;
  bottom: -13px;
  left: 26px;

Headline 3

The below HTML heading style is created using the ribbon effect:

CSS heading style 3

.headline3 {
  position: relative;
  margin-left: -22px; /* 15px padding + 7px border ribbon shadow*/
  margin-right: -22px;
  padding: 15px;
  background: #e5e5e5;
  background: linear-gradient(#f5f5f5, #e5e5e5);
  box-shadow: 0 -1px 0 rgba(255,255,255,.8) inset;
  text-shadow: 0 1px 0 #fff;

.headline3:after {
  position: absolute;
  left: 0;
  bottom: -6px;
  border-top: 6px solid #555;
  border-left: 6px solid transparent;

.headline3:before {
  border-top: 6px solid #555;
  border-right: 6px solid transparent;
  border-left: none;
  left: auto;
  right: 0;
  bottom: -6px;

Headline 4

Using box-shadow, you can create some slick effects:

CSS heading style 4

.headline4 {
  position: relative;
  border-color: #eee;
  border-style: solid;
  border-width: 5px 5px 5px 0;
  background: #fff;
  margin: 0 0 15px -15px;
  padding: 5px 15px;
  box-shadow: 1px 1px 1px rgba(0,0,0,.3);

.headline4:after {
  content: "";
  position: absolute;
  z-index: -1;
  bottom: 15px;
  right: 15px;
  width: 70%;
  height: 10px;
  background: rgba(0, 0, 0, .7);
  box-shadow: 0 15px 10px rgba(0, 0, 0, .7);
  transform: rotate(2deg);    

That’s it!

I hope you liked my headings examples, and if you have some other cool ones to add, feel free to share your thoughts with us. Thanks you for reading!


I’ve updated the demo with one more heading style, related to my latest CodePen example and inspired by Chris Coyier’s Line-on-sides headers post.