Skip to content
Go to file
This branch is 6 commits ahead, 773 commits behind scottjehl:master.

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time


A polyfill for proposed behavior of the picture element, which does not yet exist, but should. :)

  • Author: Scott Jehl (c) 2012

  • License: MIT/GPLv2

  • Notes: For active discussion of the picture element, see While this code does work, it is intended to be used only for example purposes until either:

    A) A W3C Candidate Recommendation for is released

    B) A major browser implements

Demo URL:

Note: The demo only polyfills picture support for browsers that support CSS3 media queries, but it includes (externally) the matchMedia polyfill which makes matchMedia work in media-query-supporting browsers that don't have matchMedia, or at least allows media types to be tested in most any browser. matchMedia and the matchMedia polyfill are not required for picture to work, but they are required to support the media attributes on picture source elements.

Size and delivery

Currently, picturefill.js compresses to around 498bytes (~0.5kb), after minify and gzip. To minify, you might try these online tools: [Uglify]:(, [Yahoo Compressor]:(, or Closure Compiler. Serve with gzip compression.

Picturefill performs a html5-shiv style workaround to get picture elements recognized in IE browsers. Because of that, you must reference it from the head of your document. If you'd prefer not referencing it from head, you'll need to at least call document.createElement("picture"); document.createElement("source"); somewhere in the head of your document, and then you can load picturefill.js whenever you want.

Markup pattern and explanation

While the proposed markup for the picture element is quite simple, enabling its use in browsers that don't yet support it requires a few unfortunate tweaks. The following markup pattern is intended to "bulletproof" existing browser support for picture without interfering with future native implementations.

	<picture alt="A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia">
		<!-- <source src="small.jpg"> -->
		<source src="small.jpg">
		<!-- <source src="medium.jpg" media="(min-width: 400px)"> -->
		<source src="medium.jpg" media="(min-width: 400px)">
		<!-- <source src="large.jpg" media="(min-width: 800px)"> -->
		<source src="large.jpg" media="(min-width: 800px)">
		<!-- Fallback content for non-JS browsers. Same src as the initial source element. -->
		<noscript><img src="small.jpg" alt="A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia"></noscript>


Notes on the markup above...

  • The picture element's alt attribute is used as alternate text for the generated img element.
  • The picture element can have any number of source elements. The above example may contain more than the average situation would call for.
  • Each source element must have a src attribute specifying the image path.
  • It's generally a good idea to include one source element with no media qualifier, so it'll apply everywhere.
  • Each source element can have an optional media attribute to make it apply in different media settings. Both media types and queries can be used, like any media attribute, but support for media queries depends on the browser (unsupporting browsers fail silently).
  • The matchMedia polyfill (included in /external) is necessary to support the media attribute across browsers, even in browsers that support media queries, although it is becoming more widely supported in new browsers.
  • To ensure picture source elements are recognized in browsers like iOS4.3, Android 2.x, and IE9, source elements should be preceded by a comment containing that source element's markup. See the support table for information on which browsers rely on these comments (these browsers remove source elements from the DOM at load, so the comments provide a fallback).
  • The noscript element wraps the fallback image for non-JavaScript environments, and including this wrapper prevents browsers from fetching the fallback image during page load (causing unnecessary overhead). Generally, it's a good idea to reference a small image here, as it's likely to be loaded in older/underpowered mobile devices.


Picturefill supports a broad range of browsers and devices (there are currently no known unsupported browsers), provided that you stick with the markup conventions provided.

The following table covers some of the major platforms tested so far and their mode of support for the picture element, and picturefill.

<tr><td>Chrome Mac (tested v17)</td>				<td>Full</td></tr>
<tr><td>Opera Mac Desktop (tested v11)</td>			<td>Full</td></tr>
<tr><td>Firefox Mac Desktop (tested v3.0+)</td>		<td>Full</td></tr>
<tr><td>IE 6</td>									<td>Full (*no media query support, though)</td></tr>
<tr><td>IE 7 </td>									<td>Full (*no media query support, though)</td></tr>
<tr><td>IE 8</td>									<td>Full (*no media query support, though)</td></tr>
<tr><td>IE 9</td>									<td>Comment fallbacks used</td></tr>
<tr><td>IE 10</td>									<td>Full</td></tr>
Browser Support Type
Android 1.6 Webkit Full
Android 2.1 Webkit Comment fallbacks used
Android 2.2 Webkit Comment fallbacks used
Android 2.3 Webkit Comment fallbacks used
Android 4.x Webkit Full
iOS 4.3 Safari Comment fallbacks used
iOS 5.0 Safari Full
Opera Mobile Full

...More testing wanted! :)


Don't use this :)



No releases published


No packages published