Change Placeholder Styles for HTML Inputs with CSS

HTML inputs have an attribute called placeholder that allows you to include temporary placeholder text that disappears when the user starts typing in the field. For example:

<input type="text" placeholder="Enter Your Name">

Browsers apply specific styles to the placeholder text by default, which is usually a shade of grey for the font color. You can change the styles of the placeholder in all modern browsers using the ::placeholder pseudo-element:

::placeholder {
  font-style: italic;
  font-size: 1em;
  color: mintcream;
  background: thistle;
  padding: 5px;
}

Notice you’re able to style just about anything, including the background. These aren’t necessarily recommended styles, but they demonstrate what’s possible.

Current browser support for ::placeholder is strong in modern browsers, but if you want deeper support, you’ll have to include different lines in your CSS to account for older syntax. So if you had multiple styles, as shown above, your code would look like this:

::-webkit-input-placeholder {
  font-style: italic;
  font-size: 1em;
  color: mintcream;
  background: thistle;
  padding: 5px;
}

:-moz-placeholder {
  font-style: italic;
  font-size: 1em;
  color: mintcream;
  background: thistle;
  padding: 5px;
}

::-moz-placeholder {
  font-style: italic;
  font-size: 1em;
  color: mintcream;
  background: thistle;
  padding: 5px;
}

:-ms-input-placeholder {  
  font-style: italic;
  font-size: 1em;
  color: mintcream;
  background: thistle;
  padding: 5px;
}

::input-placeholder {  
  font-style: italic;
  font-size: 1em;
  color: mintcream;
  background: thistle;
  padding: 5px;
}

::placeholder {
  font-style: italic;
  font-size: 1em;
  color: mintcream;
  background: thistle;
  padding: 5px;
}

Not very efficient! Ideally, you would want all the selectors on a single line, in order to save all that code, but that won’t work due to the way browsers parse selectors. When a browser finds a selector it doesn’t support, the entire selector is ignored.

If you’re using a CSS preprocessor like Sass, you can save some keystrokes by using a function to generate all the blocks, like this:

$placeholder: ('::-webkit-input-placeholder', ':-moz-placeholder', 
'::-moz-placeholder', ':-ms-input-placeholder', '::input-placeholder', 
'::placeholder');
@each $selector in $placeholder {
  #{$selector} {
    font-style: italic;
    font-size: 1em;
    color: mintcream;
    background: thistle;
    padding: 5px;
  }
}

Here is a demo that uses the Sass function to enable these placeholder styles in a cross-browser fashion:

As a final note, if you find styles aren’t applying in certain older browsers, you can try using the !important keyword.

Note: To the best of our knowledge, the information above and the snippet are accurate and up to date. However, in case you notice something wrong, please report snippet or leave a comment below.
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