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This tutorial shall help to find the best styling strategy for your React App.
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React Styling

This tutorial shall demonstrate which styling patterns are possible - to make a decision easier about which styling pattern (strategy) to take.


  • The right styling strategy (or combination of!) always depends on your own individual needs.

  • Dynamic Styling (as a function of state or screen size) is great for Responsive and Interactive Design.

  • Cons / Pros of classic CSS/Sass Styling compared to JS Styling

    • Cons:

      1. New animation modules like

        will probably be faster integrated with JS Styling than integrating these animations with classic CSS/Sass Styling.

      2. The DOM will not be as clean as when using JS Styling because React does NOT KNOW about elements hidden or shown through CSS classes. Elements would be entirely removed through React instead of hiding them.

      3. Animation modules as an additional JS layer can easier orchestrate your CSS animations (like transition timings, event timings).

    • Pros:

      1. You don't have to switch to camelCase notation of style properties and you of course don't have styling within your JSX files, but separate in a CSS file.

      2. Pure CSS experts can still work within a React Team without knowing much about JavaScript and how React really works.

All 6 strategies are implemented independent from each other and you can simply try out the 6 examples.


The npm packages might have discovered vulnerabilities by now. So do not use the combination of our npm versions in your production environment, but within a test environment instead that is sandboxed from your production network. Unfortunately the author has no time right now to always keep the npm packages at their latest versions and ensure that their combination still play successfully together. The tuturial is supposed to show how it works and should help building working prototypes to make life easier for you.

Table of Contents

  1. Getting Started
  2. Styling Strategies
    1. Styling with global CSS
    2. Styling inline for Dynamic Styling
    3. Styling inline advanced with Radium
    4. Styling at Component Level Scope with JS
    5. Styling at Component Level Scope with CSS
    6. Styling with global Sass
  3. Links

1. Getting Started


  • No Mac needed.
  • In case of the last example, the global Sass strategy, you eventually need to install Ruby on Rails ( before installing Ruby Sass. node-sass was no option as it had several vulnerabilities (not severe, but still).

My Setup

This tutorial was created using

  • Mac OS X version High Sierra, 10.13.4 (sw_vers)
  • Node.js version v9.11.1 (node -v)
  • Ruby Sass 3.5.6 (sass -v)
  • Boostrap CSS, version v4.0.0-alpha.2 (bootstrap.min.css): We just use classes card-block, card-title, card-text, btn, btn-primary to make the cards look ok without big effort.

Node.js installed ?

If you haven't Node.js installed on your machine, please install current (latest), OR LTS version of Node.js (By download, By package manager).

Note: LTS version is more stable and must be sufficient for this tutorial.

This will install Node.js (JavaScript engine) on your machine, and allows JavaScript code to execute not only in your browser. Node.js also ships with npm package manager we will need below.

Clone this repo into your preferred projects directory

Open a Terminal window and cd into your preferred projects directory, then run:

> git clone

When repo cloned successfully, cd into the styling strategy you want to try out (e.g. cd 00-styling-with-global-css) and run npm install

> cd 00-styling-with-global-css
> npm install

... when done:

Testing development code

> npm run dev

Open or http://localhost:8080/ in your browser.

This should show a list of users downloaded from

Testing production ready code

If you want to make it production ready, run:

> npm run prod

To test the production code/bundle, you can do the following:

  1. Install a command-line http-server, preferably globally to use it in other directories as well:

    > npm install http-server -g

    Eventually you need to use sudo sudo npm install http-server -g

  2. CD into the dist folder and run the just installed command-line http-server

    > cd dist
    > http-server -o

    -o opens the app in your default browser automatically under http:

bundle.js file size

The bundle.js (100 - 200 KiB) is pretty big, but there are ways out:

  • Lazy loading of files that are NOT needed while very first rendering the application in the browser (keep TTIF, Time To First Bite, definately below 300 ms). Check out
  • Server Side Rendering to first load static HTML & CSS into the browser so the user has something to do for some seconds while, in parallel, the application (React framework & code) is loaded into the browser and, when done, gets hydrated (merged) into the initially loaded (server side rendered) HTML & CSS.

Eventually PREACT ( might be of help (They say: "Fast 3kB alternative to React with the same modern API.")

2. Let's dive into different ways of styling

Again, cd into the example you like to try out and run npm install and, when done: npm run dev:

> cd 00-styling-with-global-css
> npm install
> npm run dev

We basically only play with these files:

  • src/components/user_list.js file
  • src/components/app.js file (within 02-styling-inline-advanced-with-radium and 03-styling-at-component-level-scope-with-js)
  • style/styles.css file
  • style/sass folder (within 05-styling-with-global-sass only)

i. Styling with global CSS

This example is just there to show that you can use global CSS (in style folder) within any React App by just adding it to the index.html:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="/style/bootstrap.min.css">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="/style/styles.css">

BUT: In case of class attribute: You have to use className instead of class (id works without any changes) in the React component:


<div className="card card-block">
    <h4 className="card-title">{}</h4>
    <p className="card-text">{}</p>
    <a className="btn btn-primary">{}</a>

Further reading about attributes and properties:

ii. Styling inline for Dynamic Styling

Everything is JavaScript !!

So you can take advantage of it during runtime of your React application:

You can set inline styles dynamically (inline styles overwrite classes, as usually)


Setting initial inline style object (static in our case as we define it within our Component and need it globally within the Component, reachable as

static style = {
    color: 'red',
    fontStyle: 'italic'

During runtime, an event may occur to change inline style's color from red to green ...

if(this.props.users.length > 5){ = 'green';

On every re-render React applies the actual style property

renderUser(user) {
    return (
        <div className="card card-block" style={}>
            <h4 className="card-title">{}</h4>
            <p className="card-text">{}</p>
            <a className="btn btn-primary">{}</a>

The style attribute needs variable type object.

You can set classes dynamically, too !

Note: Again we use classes from global CSS file style/styles.css


Setting initial class user-list for the div:

const classes = ['user-list'];

During runtime, an event may occur to add/remove a class from the div:

if(this.props.users.length > 5){
    classes.push('green-bg'); // classes = ['user-list', 'green-bg']

On every re-render React calls classes.join(' ') for us, to figure out the current classes needed by the div.

classes.join(' ') results in e.g. "user-list green-bg"

return (
    <div className={classes.join(' ')}>

The className attribute needs variable of type string.

Again further reading:

iii. Styling inline advanced with Radium

The problem with inline styling WITHOUT Radium (

You can't use

  • Pseudo Selectors (like :hover)

  • Media Queries (like @media (min-width: 500px))

To make it work, we need to do two things:

  • Install Radium:

    > npm install --save radium
  • Connect Radium to React:

    • Child Component user_list.js:
      • Import Radium library: import Radium from 'radium';
      • Wrap Radium around the child component: export default (Radium(UserList));
    • Parent Component app.js:
      • Import Radium library and StyleRoot: import Radium, { StyleRoot } from 'radium';

      • Wrap StyleRoot around the child component:

      • Wrap Radium around the parent component: export default Radium(App);

That's quite a bit of work ...

Ok, in our example code we can then add Pseudo Selectors and Media Queries:


static style = {
    color: 'red',
    fontStyle: 'italic',
    // Pseudo selector possible through Radium
    ':hover': {
        color: 'orange'
    // Media Queries possible through Radium
    '@media (min-width: 500px)': {
        color: 'blue',
        fontStyle: 'normal'

Radium inline styles can also be overwritten of course (it's just a JavaScript object):

if(this.props.users.length > 5){ = 'green';
    // Radium style[':hover'] = {
        color: 'brown'

iv. Styling at Component Level Scope with JS

Next we talk about Styled Components:

  • They are written in JavaScript, using a very similar notation as CSS, but style properties are in camelCase.
  • They act as a wrapper / container for your content / other components.

How to install:

> npm install --save styled-components

Now we can pimp up our parent component app.js by adding a nested Styled Component at the top.

Three steps:

  • Import Styled Components library: import styled from 'styled-components';

  • Create Styled Components:

    // Create a <Title> react component that renders an <h1> which is
    // centered, palevioletred and sized at 1.5em
    const Title = styled.h1`
      font-size: 1.5em;
      text-align: center;
      color: palevioletred;
    // Create a <Wrapper> react component that renders a <section> with
    // some padding and a papayawhip background
    const Wrapper = styled.section`
      padding: 4em;
      background: papayawhip;
  • Show/render the Styled Components above our UserList component:

            <Title>Hello World, this is my first styled component!</Title>
        <UserList />

Not too difficult !

It also works with Media Queries and Pseudo Selectors:

const Title = styled.h1`
  font-size: 1.5em;
  text-align: center;
  color: palevioletred;

  @media (max-width: 700px) {
    background: yellow;
  // Ampersands (&) get replaced by our generated, unique classname for that styled component
  &:hover {
    background: blue;

Please also check out style modules Emotion and Glamorous. They give more options to Styled Components:

And look at these animation modules. They can make your App really cool:

v. Styling at Component Level Scope with CSS

A component file can have its own CSS file where its CSS classes/ids are NOT bleeding out to other components.

These CSS files are called CSS Modules ( Let's dive into them ...

First install CSS Loader (see

> npm install --save-dev css-loader

The CSS Loader is needed to create hashed styles that are NOT bleeding out of the component (and can affect other components).


Source class ...

    background-color: green;

... becomes ...

    background-color: green;

.. and is only consumable in the component's scope, NOT in any other component.

Second install the plugin extract-text-webpack-plugin (see

> npm install --save-dev extract-text-webpack-plugin@next

This plugin is needed to create a CSS file out of the above loaded (hashed) CSS. We needed to use @next version as the latest version caused a Chunk conflict ( I hope this will be fixed soon to run with latest Webpack.

Third: Create and import the component scoped CSS file

We created user_list.css to be the CSS file for user_list.js component.

Then we import it in the component:

import styles from './user_list.css'

Testing Development:

> npm run dev

Testing Production:

> npm run prod

See Testing section in chapter 1 above for more details.

Alternatively for Testing Development, if you DON'T want to create a CSS file, but want style tags placed inside the header of index.html instead, do the following:

vi. Styling with global Sass

If you don't want (or need) to do styling within the React eco-system, and are used to Sass, you might be right here.


  • Of course you can still mix styling strategies. Whatever is necessary to fulfill the requirements of the app you need to develop.
  • With Sass you still need to connect your React component to the Sass's CSS output (className="user-list").


First we need to install Sass

> sudo gem install sass

Create Sass Folder Structure and Sass files

Of course your choice. Here we follow SMACSS pattern for CSS (see and decide to have only 4 folders:

  • Plugins: Helper libraries that can give you structure and mixins (functions to use)
  • Base: Base styling, like body styling
  • Layouts: Section styling, like Header, Footer, or our UserList container
  • Modules: Module styling, like our UserList
  • _mixins.sass: Here go all our mixins
  • _variables.sass: Here go all our global variables
  • app.sass: Brings it all together

Run Sass watcher

To automatically create a new CSS file (and CSS map file) out of the 4 folders above whenever we make a change to a single Sass file, do the following:

> cd style
> sass --watch sass:css
>>> Sass is watching for changes. Press Ctrl-C to stop.
  directory css
      write css/app.css
      write css/
>>> Change detected to: sass/_variables.sass
      write css/app.css
      write css/
>>> Change detected to: sass/_variables.sass
      write css/app.css
      write css/

That's it !

Testing Development:

> npm run dev

Testing Production:

> npm run prod

See Testing section in chapter 1 above for more details.

3. Links

Have a look !

React & Styling:

React-Redux App:


Styled Components:

Style Modules:

Animation Modules:

CSS Modules:



Credits to the authors of above links ! Thank you very much !

And credits to the reader: Thanks for your visit !

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