Skip to content
This repository

A Responsive Images approach that you can use today!

Picturefill build-status

A Polyfill for the responsive images that you can use today.

  • Authors: Scott Jehl, Mat Marquis, Shawn Jansepar (2.0 refactor lead), and many more: see Authors.txt
  • License: MIT

Demo URL:

Draft Specification:

Note: Picturefill works best in browsers that support CSS3 media queries. The demo page references (externally) the matchMedia polyfill which makes matchMedia work in media query-supporting browsers that don’t support matchMedia. matchMedia and the matchMedia polyfill are not required for picturefill to work, but they are required to support the media attributes on picture source elements. In browsers that don’t have native support for media queries, the matchMedia polyfill will allow for querying native media types, such as screen, print, etc.


The following snippet will load the polyfill asynchronously and poll until the document is ready, in order to start image downloads as fast as possible (instead of waiting) until DOMContentLoaded). It will also conditionally load matchMedia if the browser doesn’t support it.

    <script async="true" src="picturefill.js"></script>

If you're loading picturefill.js asynchronously—and not already using a recent version of the HTML5 Shiv with support for picture—be sure to place the following in the head of your page to ensure old IE support:

// Picture element HTML shim|v it for old IE (pairs with Picturefill.js)
document.createElement( "picture" );
document.createElement( "source" );

If you aren’t loading the script asynchronously, you can still load picturefill.js as usual just before the </body> tag—though we don’t recommend this. It could take a long time before executing, causing a visible delay before images are rendered.

Markup Pattern and Explanation

Using Media Queries

    <!-- Video tag needed in order to use <source> in IE9 -->
    <!--[if IE 9]><video style="display: none;"><![endif]-->
    <source srcset="extralarge.jpg" media="(min-width: 1000px)"></source>
    <source srcset="large.jpg" media="(min-width: 800px)"></source>
    <source srcset="medium.jpg" media="(min-width: 400px)"></source>
    <source srcset="small.jpg"></source>
    <!--[if IE 9]></video><![endif]-->

    <!-- Fallback content: -->
    <img srcset="small.jpg" alt="A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia">

The picture element can contain any number of source elements. The above example likely contains more sources than you’ll need. Each source element accepts a media attribute, which tells the UA the most appropriate source file to load in the inner img. Both media types and queries can be used, like a native media attribute, but support for media queries depends on the browser (unsupporting browsers fail silently).

Each source element must have a srcset attribute specifying one or more image paths.

source selection is based on the first matching media attribute. You’ll want to present the larger options first when using min-width media queries, and last when using max-width media queries.

Though media queries are well supported in modern browsers, the matchMedia polyfill (included in the /external folder) is necessary for parsing media queries in media attributes in browser without native media query support.

Resolution Options

<img src="small.jpg" srcset="large.jpg 2x" alt="…">
    <!--[if IE 9]><video style="display: none;"><![endif]-->
    <source srcset="large.jpg 1x, extralarge.jpg 2x" media="(min-width: 800px)"></source>
    <source srcset="small.jpg 1x, medium.jpg 2x"></source>
    <!--[if IE 9]></video><![endif]-->

    <img srcset="small.jpg" alt="…">

The 1x, 2x syntax in srcset acts as a shorthand for more complex resolution media queries, but the native markup will allow the UA to override requests for higher-resolution options based on a bandwidth limitations or a user preference (see #9 in the Responsive Images Use Cases and Requirements).


<img sizes="100%, (min-width: 50em) 75%"
     srcset="large.jpg 1024w, medium.jpg 640w, small.jpg 320w"
    <!--[if IE 9]><video style="display: none;"><![endif]-->
    <source sizes="100%, (min-width: 50em) 75%"
            srcset="large.jpg 1024w, medium.jpg 640w, small.jpg 320w"></source>
    <!--[if IE 9]></video><![endif]-->

    <img srcset="small.png" alt="…">

The source[sizes] syntax is used to define the size of the image across a number of breakpoints. Then, srcset defines an array of images and their inherent widths.

Based on the breakpoints defined in sizes, appropriate image will be chosen based on the size of the image source divided against the user’s viewport size and the appropriate source will be loaded for their resolution.

In the example above: given a 800 CSS pixel wide viewport, "small.png 400w, medium.png 800w, large.png 1600w" will be calculated to "small.png 0.5x, medium.png 1x, large.png 2x". If that 800px viewport is on a 1x display, the user will recieve medium.png—if on a 2x display, large.png.

Supporting IE Desktop

Internet Explorer 9 has some issues rendering custom elements like picture and source. For IE9, you have to stick <!--[if gte IE 8]><video style="display: none;"><![endif]--> around the source elements, because in IE9 you can't have source as the child node of anything except for video. For IE8 and less, picture will fall back to an <img srcset> element.

Internet Explorer 8 and older have no support for CSS3 Media Queries, so in the examples above, that feature will be ignored.


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.

Something went wrong with that request. Please try again.