Kuan Kuan - 4 months ago 20
CSS Question

Understanding z-index stacking order

I am a little confused about using

z-index
to decide stack order.

I do not quite understand how browsers treat elements with the
position
property in conjunction to those without it.

Is there a general rule to decide the stack order of elements whether it has explicitly positioned elements or not?

Examples of different situations are appreciated. Generally speaking:


  1. mixed sibling
    <div>
    s with position set and without position set.

  2. nested
    <div>
    s mixed with sibling
    <div>
    s with position set and without position set.


Answer

Basics of the CSS z-index property

A Simple Concept

The z-index property is based on a simple concept: Elements with higher values will sit in front of elements with lower values along the z-axis. So if you apply z-index: 1 to div.box1 and z-index: -1 to div.box2, then div.box1 will overlay div.box2.

In terms of the z-axis, it refers to depth on a three-dimensional plane. In other words, on your computer, it can be interpreted as the plane on which objects move closer and farther from you. (Learn more about the Cartesian coordinate system.)

enter image description here Source: Wikipedia


z-index works on positioned elements

Unless you're dealing with flex items or grid items, the z-index property works only on positioned elements. This means you can use z-index on elements with position: absolute, position: relative, position: fixed or position: sticky. If the element has position: static (the default value), or some other positioning scheme like a float, then z-index will have no effect.

As noted, although z-index, as defined in CSS 2.1, applies only to positioned elements, flex items and grid items can create stacking contexts with z-index, even when position is static.

4.3. Flex Item Z-Ordering

Flex items paint exactly the same as inline blocks, except that order-modified document order is used in place of raw document order, and z-index values other than auto create a stacking context even if position is static.

5.4. Z-axis Ordering: the z-index property

The painting order of grid items is exactly the same as inline blocks, except that order-modified document order is used in place of raw document order, and z-index values other than auto create a stacking context even if position is static.

Here's a demonstration of z-index working on non-positioned flex items: https://jsfiddle.net/m0wddwxs/


Stacking Contexts

Once an element is positioned and a z-index is applied, a stacking context is created. The stacking context is a set of rules for managing the positioned element with z-index, and its descendants. These rules govern the placement of child elements in the stacking order and the scope of the property's influence.

Essentially, the stacking context limits the z-index scope to the element itself, and its child elements cannot affect the stacking order of elements in another stacking context.

If you've ever tried to apply increasingly higher z-index values only to find that the element never moves out in front, you could be trying to overlay an element in a different stacking context.

Groups of elements with a common parent that move forward or backward together in the stacking order make up what is known as a stacking context. A full understanding of stacking contexts is key to really grasping how z-index and the stacking order work.

Every stacking context has a single HTML element as its root element. When a new stacking context is formed on an element, that stacking context confines all of its child elements to a particular place in the stacking order. That means that if an element is contained in a stacking context at the bottom of the stacking order, there is no way to get it to appear in front of another element in a different stacking context that is higher in the stacking order, even with a z-index of a billion!

~ What No One Told You About Z-Index


Stacking Order

CSS adheres to a stacking order when laying out elements on a page. These are the stacking rules when there is no z-index specified, from farthest to closest:

  1. Backgrounds and borders of the root element
  2. Non-positioned, non-floating block elements, in the order they appear in the source code
  3. Non-positioned floating elements, in the order they appear in the source code
  4. Inline elements
  5. Positioned elements, in the order they appear in the source code

If a z-index property is applied, the stacking order is modified:

  1. Backgrounds and borders of the root element
  2. Positioned elements with a z-index of less than 0
  3. Non-positioned, non-floating block elements, in the order they appear in the source code
  4. Non-positioned floating elements, in the order they appear in the source code
  5. Inline elements
  6. Positioned elements, in the order they appear in the source code
  7. Positioned elements with z-index of greater than 0

Source: W3C


Bottom line: Once you understand stacking contexts, z-index is easy.


For examples of z-index in action see: How z-index works!

For a brief but highly informative article explaining z-index (including how opacity affects the stacking order) see: What No One Told You About Z-Index

For a complete rundown on z-index, with many examples and illustrations, see: MDN Understanding CSS z-index

And for a deep dive into stacking contexts read: W3C Elaborate description of Stacking Contexts

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