CSS Vertical Height of Text

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Setting text elements on a page to be a specific height is usually straight forward. Here are the specs for a couple textual situations you’ll encounter.

CSS height

Note: Experiments were done in Chrome 27, but this should be pretty consistent over browsers

Text in a Div

Text is likely most common just plastered across your site. Lucky for us all, this is the most straightforward way to calculate and guarantee a vertical height.

Text height css

The formula is simple. Here, vertical height is calculated by:

vertical height = margin + border + padding + (line-height || height)

line-height or height will determine the height of the main body of the text container, such as a div. Either one will do.

I will guess that most of the time you’ll want your text centered vertically in the container. But for those times you want it hugging the top or bottom, add a line-height that’s either smaller or larger than the height, respectively, to move the text vertically within the container.

Text in an Input

Text appearing within an input field is much more tricky and has a quite a few more caveats. There are two main different modes that vertical height will be determined by: without a height or with a height specified:

Input height css

No Height Specified

If the height is not set, traditional attributes, combined, create the total vertical height. This formula becomes:

height = margin + border + padding + (line-height || font-size)

Some observations and caveats:

  • font-size only affects vertical height as it approaches or exceeds the line-height.
  • padding, border, and margin always affect the vertical height, no matter their value.
  • If font-size is small enough to not affect line-height, line-height can be used for an exact vertical height sum.
  • If font-size, instead of line-height is affecting the vertical height, the px value of the font-size will not be usable to guarantee height. Each font has different heights. A per-font calculation will have to be made.

Height Specified

If height is set, the input’s vertical height formula will always

vertical height = height + margin

Some observations and caveats:

  • If margin, border, and padding add up to be greater than height, then that becomes new height.
  • line-height and font-size don’t contribute the vertical height, no matter the height attribute.
  • margin, border, and padding attributes don’t contribute at all to the vertical height if their sum height is less than the actual height attribute.
  • Once line-height exceeds height, the text in the input moves vertically downward, eventually becoming hidden.
  • As font-size approaches height, the text will eventually become hidden.
  • border will not affect vertical height, but it will still affect horizontal width.
  • vertical-align, as in most things, does nothing.

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