Turning a flexbox into a grid using flex-wrap and align-content

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Published 6 years ago
Updated 2 years ago

Adding flex-wrap to a flexbox container allows the items to form a grid. The content can then be aligned and distributed along the grid using justify-content and align-content.

[00:00] Adding wrapping to a long flexbox list can give you some nice grid-like features. In this example, I have seven images from Unsplash, each with a caption of the photographer.

[00:10] Let's start by setting display: flex on the main container. In this case, it's the body tag. Let's fix the width. Right now, it's set using the width property. I'm going to uncomment this flex property to keep it more flexbox friendly.

[00:22] Also, the flex-grow here is set to zero, so it doesn't get away from us. Now, we can see the list of images flow horizontally, which is fine. We don't really want it to go off the page. Let's add flex-wrap which defaults to nowrap.

[00:36] Let's set it to wrap. There is one other option. We could also set it to wrap-reverse which causes the line breaks to flow up instead of down in this case. Notice the content bunches up to the top left corner.

[00:48] If we want to spread it out a bit, we can add justify-content: space-around which we know will give us a nice space along the flex direction axis. It also affects the alignment of the orphaned item on that last row.

[01:02] That doesn't really help us with our vertical rhythm. We can add align-content. It has values that we're already familiar with -- flex-start, flex-end, center, space-between, space-around, and stretch.

[01:32] Stretch isn't going to show much because we have a fixed width and height. Align-content is only used with multi-line content. Make sure not to confuse it with align-items or align-self, as it won't do anything on single line content.

Chester Rivas
Chester Rivas
~ 6 years ago

Pretty good lesson. My mind was a bit blasted at the grow and shrink concepts, but I'm sure I'll get it as soon as I start playing around with it.

Out of curiosity, how would you align the orphaned image on the last row to be aligned to the left, rather than to the middle?

Thanks guys!

Garth Braithwaite
Garth Braithwaiteinstructor
~ 6 years ago

Sadly there isn't a CSS only solution right now. One solution is to add extra items with zero height so they take up the same space but aren't visible.

Hopefully, in the future, there will be support for multiple ::after pseudo elements which will be treated like real DOM children.

James Barlow
James Barlow
~ 6 years ago

Short and to the point. Brilliant!

With flexbox and post-css, I'm kind of thinking I don't need Sass/Less anymore.

Garth Braithwaite
Garth Braithwaiteinstructor
~ 6 years ago

It's my current favorite flavor of CSS.

Fareez
Fareez
~ 6 years ago

awesome tutorial. in the grid example, what would you do if you wanted to remove all spaces between pictures?

Garth Braithwaite
Garth Braithwaiteinstructor
~ 6 years ago

Change space-between or space-around to flex-start, flex-end, or center (depending on the justification you want).

Zhenyang Hua
Zhenyang Hua
~ 6 years ago

It seems using align-items: center; similar to what align-content: space-around; does in this example. What is the difference when using align-items and align-content?

Raunaq Sahni
Raunaq Sahni
~ 5 years ago

The most perceivable difference is that align-items: center will have an effect even when the content takes only a single line. align-content on the other hand takes effect only when the content is spread across multiple lines.