The vertical-align property in CSS controls how elements set next to each other on a line are lined up.

img {
  vertical-align: middle;

In order for this to work, the elements need to be set alone a baseline. As in, inline (e.g. <span>, <img>) or inline-block (e.g. as set by the display property) elements.

The valid values are:

  • baseline - This is the default value.
  • top - Align the top of the element and its descendants with the top of the entire line.
  • bottom - Align the bottom of the element and its descendants with the bottom of the entire line.
  • middle - Aligns the middle of the element with the middle of lowercase letters in the parent.
  • text-top - Aligns the top of the element with the top of the parent element's font
  • text-bottom - Aligns the bottom of the element with the bottom of the parent element's font.
  • sub - Aligns the baseline of the element with the subscript-baseline of its parent. Like where a <sub> would sit.
  • super - Aligns the baseline of the element with the superscript-baseline of its parent. Like where a <sup> would sit.
  • length - Aligns the baseline of the element at the given length above the baseline of its parent. (e.g. px, %, em, rem, etc.)

You can see examples of each here:

Check out this Pen!

A common use case is lining up an avatar with a username. To get them centered along a line, you'd use vertical-align: middle;. Although note that it centers the text according to its tallest accender and deepest decender.

Each element lines up according to the line you've set, which doesn't change from element to element. So, you can mix-and-match which elements have which value - the elements don't effect each other.

Note that vertical-align is useful on table-cell elements as well, aligning the content within them. Sticking to top, middle, and bottom is the best bet though, as the other values have inconsistant cross-browser results.

More Information

  • What is vertical-align?
  • This property does not allow you to "vertically center" an element within another element. Flexbox is more of the proper tool there. However, there is a trick involving a pseudo "ghost" element that can allow this to work.
  • MDN

Browser Support

Chrome Safari Firefox Opera IE Android iOS
Any Any Any 4+ 4+ Any Any

Fairly consistent across browsers old and new, assuming the font is the same.

Note that some replace elements (e.g. <textarea>) are inline, but their baseline isn't specified, so behavior may vary from browser to browser.


  1. Nick Mitchell
    Permalink to comment#

    Hey Guys, Checkout Chris’ artical on Vertical-align here:


  2. Srvnk
    Permalink to comment#

    thanks, your lecture works great..

  3. Devilal
    Permalink to comment#

    Nice explanation. Thanks.

  4. Daneeshgah
    Permalink to comment#

    Thanks, very helpfull

  5. Nezar Fadle
    Permalink to comment#

    Thanks for the amazing article :)

    How come the property name is vertical-align and a few of the property values starts with text ( text-top, text-bottom )

    What a naming convention :(

  6. Bud
    Permalink to comment#

    What is the reason for > * following the class selector in the css rule on the demos?

  7. Mark
    Permalink to comment#

    What does “In order for this to work, the elements need to be set alone a baseline.” mean??

    Even with the example, for people learning CSS, this sentence does not make sense. The problem is not what baseline means, its the grammar of the sentence that throws everything off.

    Can you please explain?

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