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Compass Style Tiles

Create HTML and CSS Style Tiles with Sass & Compass

This is the development repo for the compass extension and rubygem: style-tiles.
This is currently under active development Feedback is very welcome!

New Style Tiles is now a Compass extension!

Style Tiles has changed from a sass project to a compass extension. This makes it much easier to get started and to reuse. You can build a starter project using one line and start working on creating style tiles right away. See the installation section for details on getting started.


I loved Samantha Warren's idea of style tiles. It seemed like the best answer to moving away from time-draining pixel perfect comps. However I'm designing in the browser more and more and I didn't want to go back into pixel based AdobeLand — Photoshop or Fireworks to create Style Tiles. Especially now that I am doing Responsive Web Design, I wanted to be designing and thinking in CSS and HTML. I thought this would be a perfect project for Sass and Compass.

Design Philosophy

Style Tiles should be primarily easy to share (i.e. easy for you to send to clients and easy for them to view it). You should be able to send your designs as easily as a static mockup image. Be it an email attachment or a link to any webserver where you uploaded your designs.

Build for rapid iteration

  • Highly customizable use sass variables wherever much as possible
  • Reuse the HTML No real need to edit the HTML
  • Body copy is also controlled by sass variables
  • 1 to 1 mapping single file to control each iteration
  • Easily iterated simply duplicate the .scss files

Use only HTML and CSS where possible

  • Viewable Everywhere! No server-side technologies
  • Modern browser support only (this ain't production code)
  • Simple & clean HTML5
  • Use CSS3 selectors and pseudo-classes (avoid classes or ids)
  • No dependancies on other css frameworks (Bootstrap or Foundation etc.)
  • Embed images and fonts in CSS (you don't need to zip up a lot of files and folders)
  • Embed Styles in HTML One file per iteration to send with no nested folders

Style Tiles should be deployable as simple HTML and CSS. Style Tiles should be able to view from any folder on a desktop or any web server. To keep the CSS simple — Style Tiles need to be viewed in modern browsers: Firefox and Webkit based browsers. Viewable anywhere! I am using CSS rather than some server solution.

Project History

The idea for creating HTML and CSS style tiles had been brewing in my head for awhile. I started the initial development on the bus ride to Design 4 Drupal 2012. I presented the idea in a BoF on Compass and got some positive feedback and interest.

The first iteration was a straight-forward Sass-ified project (archived here). I was able to get the images and the fonts to using compass functions. However, I knew I need a custom function in the config.rb to copy the current css and add it to a <style> tag in the <head> of the HTML document. Thankfully, Zellio contributed his Ruby knowledge and created that exact custom function.

I paused development for awhile to work on my Pattern Primer. That too started as a sass project and eventually it made sense to make it into a compass extension. Thanks to Sam Richard's Compass Extension Template I was easily able to create my Compass Pattern Primer extension. Returning to Design 4 Drupal in 2013 on the bus, I thought it was time to convert Style Tiles to a compass extension and here we are.


Style Tiles is a compass extension bundled as a Ruby gem.

gem install style-tiles

You'll need to install Sass and Compass Ruby Gems too. Documentation for installing and using these gems is pretty extensive.

How to Use it

There are a number of ways you can get started with Style Tiles.

Recommended: Create a new Compass project using Style Tiles scaffolding

compass create <MyProject> -r style-tiles -u style-tiles
cd  <MyProject>
compass compile
  • Note: replace <MyProject> with name of your project (without the < >)* This will generate four stylesheets and the paste the styles into four corresponding html files (index, v1, v2, and v3).

Other ways to add Style Tiles to your compass project

compass create <MyProject> -r style-tiles 

This creates a new Compass project using the compass standard scaffolding and adds require 'style-tiles' to the config.rb. However without the custom config.rb and html file you lose the benefit of adding your styles to the HTML and you don't have a starter scaffolding with variables examples.

Add Style Tiles to an existing project by adding the following to config.rb

require 'style-tiles'

Then import the Style Tile partial by adding at the top of your working file

@import "style-tiles";

Note: You'll need to restart compass watch if it's running. And again without the custom config.rb and html file you lose the benefit of adding your styles to the HTML and you don't have a starter scaffolding with variables examples.

How It Works

There's an index page that links to the 3 version pages. Each page has it's own stylesheet. When you compile compass the CSS files are generated from the .scss files in the sass folder. The corresponding HTML files are generated from template.html and the CSS is added to the <head> of the HTML files.

Deploying the Styles Tiles

The HTML files are self-contained. All the images, and fonts are embedded in the style and the style is embedded in the HTML. However if you don't want to inline your images. Set $inline-images to false in your partials/variations/_v*.scss and include the images folder. The same goes for fonts, set $inline-fonts to false.

Adding more Versions

More pages can be easily added by duplicating these files

  • sass/v3.scss to sass/v4.scss
  • sass/paritals/variations/\_v3.scss to sass/paritals/variations/\_v4.scss

Then you'll need to make some easy edits

  • change @import "partials/variations/\_v3"; to @import "partials/variations/\_v4"; in sass/v4.scss
  • edit the variables you want to change in sass/paritals/variations/\_v4.scss

Displaying updated versions on the homepage

Update what versions are displayed by updating the $show-versions variables.
$show-versions: 1, 2, 3;
$show-versions: 1, 2, 3, 4;
$show-versions: 1, 3, 4;

What variables are available?

The full list of variables that are available is in the compass gem's stylesheets folder: style-tiles/core/_variables.scss

Code Examples

How the copy variables are transformed into CSS

Here's an example of how the content-before-after mixin creates the pseudo selector and adds whats in the variables in to the content attribute.


Source: v1.html

  <h1>Project Name: </h1>
  <h2>Versions: </h2>

Sass Variables

Source: sass/partials/variations/_v1.scss

$project-name: "Sassy Style Tiles";
$footer-text: '\2752\20 Designed by Grey Boxes \2751'; // ❒ Designed by Grey Boxes ❑
Sass Structure partial

Source: sass/partials/core/_structure.scss

section:nth-of-type(1) header hgroup {
  h1 {
    @include content-before-after($project-name, false, true);
footer {
  @include content-before-after($footer-text, false, true);
Sass Mixin partial

Source: sass/partials/core/_mixins.scss

@mixin content-before-after($content, $before: default, $after:false ) {
  @if $before { &:before { content: $content; } }
  @if $after { &:after { content: $content; } }
Generated CSS

Source: css/v1.css

section:nth-of-type(1) header hgroup h1:after {
  content: "Sassy Style Tiles";
footer:after {
  content: "\2752\20 Designed by Grey Boxes \2751";

How the list of textures is transformed into the CSS

The texture-boxes mixin takes an array (comma separated list) of image file names that are in the images/textures folder. It uses an @each sass control directive to generate the CSS. It then uses an @if sass control directive to see if you set the images to be inlined (base 64 encoded) into the CSS.


Source: template.html


Sass Variables

Source: sass/partials/variations/_v1.scss

$textures: "cotton-shirt.png", "denim.jpg";
$inline-images: true; // can be set to false
Sass Structure partial

Source: sass/partials/core/_structure.scss

aside {
  &:nth-of-type(2) figure {
    @include texture-boxes($textures, $inline-images);
Sass Mixin partial

Source: sass/partials/core/_mixins.scss

@mixin texture-boxes($textures, $inline-images: false) {
  $i : 1;
  @each $texture in $textures {
    &:nth-of-type(#{$i}) {
      border: $figure-border;
      @if $inline-images { @include background-image(inline-image("textures/#{$texture}")); }
      @else { background-image: image-url("textures/#{$texture}"); }
    $i: $i + 1;
Generated CSS

Source: css/v1.css

/// When inline image is set to false
aside:nth-of-type(2) figure:nth-of-type(1) {
  border: 0.063em #888888 solid;
  background-image: url('../images/textures/cotton-shirt.png?1346169991');
aside:nth-of-type(2) figure:nth-of-type(2) {
  border: 0.063em #888888 solid;
  background-image: url('../images/textures/denim.jpg?1345644552');

/// When inline image is set to true
aside:nth-of-type(2) figure:nth-of-type(1) {
  border: 0.063em #888888 solid;
  background-image: url('data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAAeAAAAHg
aside:nth-of-type(2) figure:nth-of-type(2) {
  border: 0.063em #888888 solid;
  background-image: url('data:image/jpeg;base64,/9j/4QAYRXhpZgAASUkqAAgAAAAAAAA

Planned Features

  • Custom font support

Currently, the examples utilizes a few open source fonts (that are available at Google Fonts). I have added the option to inline the fonts but they will significantly increase the size of the css (rarely a good solution for production).

If people are interested I may expand to incorporating some other font services.

+ Way to control the what links are available on the index page.

The idea is that you may want to control the visibility of the links on the index page. For example, on a second round of iteration you may not want the link to version 2 (if the the clients rejected it) to be still visible. This will be forthcoming very soon.

Requests? Feedback?

Contact me or simply file an issue!


Create HTML and CSS Style Tiles with Sass & Compass



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