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Katy DeCorah on (Updated on )

Use your cursor select this sentence. Notice how as you select the text a background color fills the space? You can change the background color and color of selected text by styling ::selection. Styling this pseudo element is great for matching user-selected text to your sites color scheme.

p::selection {
  background: #fff;
  color: #ff0000;
Screenshot of selected text styled with the ::selection pseudo-element in CSS in white with a red background.

Take note that the double colon is necessary in the syntax for this pseudo element, despite that other pseudo-elements accept a single colon.

As seen above, you can style ::selection on individual elements. You can also style the entire page by dropping the bare pseudo-element in your stylesheet.

::selection { background: yellow; }

There are only three properties that ::selection will work with:

  • color
  • background (specifically the background-color, background-image longhand properties)
  • text-shadow

If you try to style ::selection with a property that’s not on the list, then that property will be ignored. It may be tricky seeing background in that list because the property will only render a color when used on ::selection and it won’t render a background image or gradient.

Also don’t try this:

p::selection { color: red; }

When browsers find a part of a select they don’t understand, they drop the entire thing, so this will fail all the time.

One of the most helpful uses for ::selection is turning off a text-shadow during selection. A text-shadow can clash with the selection’s background color and make the text difficult to read. Set text-shadow: none; to make text clear and easy to read during selection.

Fancy ::selection

Paired with Sass, or any other preprocessor, you can make really cool effects with ::selection. Select the text in the demo below:

You might notice the effect is not so smooth in some browsers. Let’s file that demo under: things that are possible, but probably just for fun.

Another dumb-but-fun little trick is revealing an image through selected text.

Browser support

This browser support data is from Caniuse, which has more detail. A number indicates that browser supports the feature at that version and up.



Mobile / Tablet

Android ChromeAndroid FirefoxAndroidiOS Safari

More information