Styling form controls

In this module you learn how to style form controls, and how to match your other site styles.

Help users select an option

The <select> element

The default styles of a <select> element don't look great, and the appearance is inconsistent between browsers.

First, let's change the arrows.

select {
    -moz-appearance: none;
    -webkit-appearance: none;
    appearance: none;
    background-color: #fff;
    background-image: url(arrow.png);
    background-repeat: no-repeat;
    background-position: right .7em top 50%, 0 0;
    background-size: .65em auto;

To remove the default arrows of a <select> element, use the CSS appearance property. To show the arrow of your choice, define the arrow as a background.

You should also change the font-size to at least 1rem (which for most browsers has a default value of 16px) for your <select> element. Doing so will prevent a page zoom on iOS Safari when the form control is focused.

You can, of course, also change the element colors to match your brand colors. After adding some more styles for spacing, :hover, and :focus, the appearance of the <select> element is now consistent between browsers.

See this in the following demo from Styling a Select Like It’s 2019

What about the <option> element? The <option> element is a so-called replaced element whose representation is outside the scope of CSS. As of this writing, you can't style the <option> element.

Checkboxes and Radio buttons

The appearance of <input type="checkbox"> and <input type="radio"> varies across browsers.

Open the demo on various browsers to see the difference. Let's see how to make sure that checkboxes and radio buttons match your brand and look the same cross-browser.

In the past, developers could not style <input type="checkbox"> and <input type="radio"> controls directly. Checkboxes and radio buttons can be styled via their pseudo elements, now. Or the following replacement technique can be used to create custom styles for these elements.

First, hide the default checkbox and radio button visually.

input[type="checkbox"] {
   position: absolute;
   opacity: 0;

It's important to use position: absolute in combination with opacity: 0 instead of display: none or visibility: hidden so that the controls are only visually hidden. This will ensure they are still exposed by the browser's accessibility tree. Note that further styling may be needed to ensure that the visually hidden form controls remain positioned "on top" of their replacement elements. Doing so will help ensure that hovering over one of these elements, when a screen reader is on, or when using touch devices with screen readers enabled, the visually hidden controls will be discoverable if exploring by touch, and the screen reader's visible focus indicator will generally appear in the location the controls are rendered on screen.

To show your custom checkboxes and radio buttons, you have different options. You use the ::before CSS pseudo-element and the CSS background property, or use inline SVG images.

input[type="radio"] + label::before {
  content: "";
  width: 1em;
  height: 1em;
  border: 1px solid black;
  display: inline-block;
  border-radius: 50%;
  margin-inline-end: 0.5em;

input[type="radio"]:checked + label::before {
  background: black;

There are a lot of possibilities with CSS to ensure checkboxes and radio buttons match your brand styles.

Learn more about styling <input type="checkbox">, and <input type="radio"> and custom checkbox styles.

How to use your site's colors for form controls

Do you want to bring your site styles to form controls with one line of code? You can use the accent-color CSS property to achieve this.

checkbox {
  accent-color: orange;

Check your understanding

Test your knowledge of styling form controls

How can you remove platform-native styling of form controls?

Using revert: all;.
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Using appearance: none;.
Using appearance: revert;.
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Using revert: appearance;.
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