Henrique Alves
Henrique Alves@healves82

Mar 6, 2017

Styled components in the wild 🦁


The first time

Part of this post is from a GitHub issue I created to discuss component styling with the team at Moteefe.

The first time I heard about styled-components my reaction was:

🤔 … 💩

At the same time I wanted to give it a fair shot before dismissing it. The best way to measure any tool is by using it.

I’m currently building a ticket sales system and decided to use styled-components. I must admit: I was wrong. The developer experience is great.

The first reason why I decided to use it in this project was because I didn’t want to eject create-react-app or to use a custom react-scripts fork just to enable CSS modules.

It’s early day for me but the benefits I had straight-away by using them are:

No learning curve, you are writing CSS

At first styled-component may feel over-engineered but how this is different from CSS?

const ErrorMessage = styled.ul`
  padding: 10px 16px;
  color: #f18d8d;
  background-color: #fff2f2;
  border-radius: 3px;

It isn’t. It’s just CSS string inside a template literal.

It enforces composition

When you need to apply style to a HTML element you have to break it down into small components.

const Newsletter = () => (
    <input type="text" />


const Form = styled.form`...`;
const Label = styled.label`...`;
const Input = styled.input`...`;
const Button = styled.button`...`;

It was super easy to move components around.

Composing styles

What I like about styled-components is how easy is to build blocks. You can also share styles between components with different primitives.

import { fonts } from './ui';

const baseStyles = `
  font-family: ${fonts.sans};
  font-size: ${fonts.size}px;

const BaseButton = styled.button`${baseStyles}`;
const BaseLink = styled.a`${baseStyles}`;

const StyledButton = styled(BaseButton)`
    padding: 0.25em;
    border: 0;
    outline: none;

const StyledLink = styled(BaseLink)`
    color: ${colors.tomato};
    border-bottom: solid 3px currentColor;

Max sent a note earlier which is worth mentioning:

When you define these reusable bits of styling always use the CSS helper because: a) you get syntax highlighting and b) you can use the ${props => x} interpolations and they’ll work for all the components you use that snippet in.

Less dependencies

One less CSS file, everything in the same place. One less thing to setup in Webpack — in case you’re not using create-react-app.

Real stylesheet

Styled-components isn’t the same thing as inline styles. It does generate the stylesheet with unique classes.


Tooling support

Syntax highlight, auto-complete and lint support for Atom, Visual Code and Sublime Text.


Styled-components has theming support out-of-the-box with <ThemeProvider>. I also use objects to define themes.

const themes = {
  green: {
    bg: colors.green,
    fg: colors.white,
  blue: {
    bg: colors.blue,
    fg: colors.white,

const Link = styled.a`
  color: ${props => themes[props.theme].fg};
  background-color: ${props => themes[props.theme].bg};

Link.defaultProps = {
  theme: 'blue',

// Usage: <Link theme="green" />

You can try different approaches and see which one works better.

Helpers not mixins

You can port some of your Sass mixins to JavaScript. For example this function that does px to em.

@function em($px, $base: 16px) {
  @if unit($px) == "em" {
    @return $px;
  @return ($px / $base) * 1em;

It can be writen in one line.

// helpers.js
export const em = (px) => `${px / 16}em`;
// text.js
import { em } from '../helpers';

const Text = styled.span`
  font-size: ${em(17)};

Spoiler alert 👀: styled-components will ship a library containing all sorts of useful functions soon.


If you’re coming from a Sass background color functions darken or lighten are useful. The color-js has a similar API inspired by Sass, Less and Stylus. I’ve been using chroma-js.

const darken = c => chroma(c).darken();

const Button = styled.div`
  color: ${props =>
      props.theme === 'darken' ?
        darken('mediumvioletred') :
  border-style: solid;
  border-width: 2px;
  border-color: currentColor;

You can pick any other library to get advanced functionalies i.e. bezier interpolation.

const bezier = (colors) =>

const Box = styled.div`
      ${props => bezier(props.colors) }


Not really gotchas but I couldn’t find a better title 😅. The things I found so far:

Optional pseudo-class

Imagine you have a button with hover and active state but if the button is disabled you don’t need them.

What I usually do is to keep the states in a .active class e.g.

.root {
  background-color: lime;

.active {
  &:active {
    background-color: saddlebrown;

And bind the active class with disabled prop.

const classNames = cx({
  [styles.active]: !disabled,

Simple and elegant solution. With styled-components you can write a function:

function hover(disabled) {
  return disabled ?
    `` :
     &:hover {
         background-color: saddlebrown;

const Button = styled.div`
  padding: 10px;
  background-color: lime;
  color: white;

  ${props => hover(props.disabled)}

Because styled() receives a string you could concat them. Why not!?

const base = `
  background-color: #ddd;

const active = `
  &:hover {
    background-color: #666;

const Button = styled.div`${props =>
  props.disabled ? base : [base, active].join(' ')

Is this approach more complex? Definitely! Ugly? Probably 😅! At the same time it give us all the benefits of JavaScript. For me it’s worth the trade-off.

Custom components

You can use the styled() function to alter the returned component. This is also useful to filter props manually when you’re dealing with third-party libraries.

// heading.js
const fontSizes = {
  1: '52px',
  2: '48px',
  3: '40px',

const StyledHeading = styled(
  ({level, ...otherProps}) => {
    const Component = `h${level}`;
    return <Component {...otherProps} />
  font-size: ${props => fontSizes[props.level]};

const Heading = ({level, children}) => (
  <StyledHeading level={level}>

What now

I love to write CSS. To simplify my workflow I slowly removed any pre-processor dependency when I started to build apps with JavaScript a few years ago.

Styled-components made my workflow even simplier and boosted the DX 🚀

It’s going to be hard to go back and write things in the traditional way.

Further reading

Thanks to @thekitze, @iamsapegin and @mxstbr for the 🎩 tips.

Thanks to @matteo_belfiore and @FabioRuolo to inspire me to write beautiful CSS everyday 😁