8 CSS & JavaScript Snippets for Creating Halftone Effects


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Halftone patterns, those intensely-dotted images, are a mainstay of both print and web design. While traditionally used as a means of faithfully reproducing images in print, it has also become a style all its own.

Today, halftone patterns are used as backgrounds or to provide surreal special effects to images. And as CSS and JavaScript have progressed, designers have also found a way to integrate the effect into code. The results can be stunning.

Let’s have a look at some examples of how Halftone is being implemented through code. As you’ll see, there are a number of different takes and techniques for bringing this classic pattern to the web.



Halftone Your Cat (Or Non-Cat) Photo by YCW

This is probably the most familiar implementation of Halftone. It consists of adding the effect to an existing photograph (a cat, in this case). But this snippet is also fully customizable. You can replace dots with, for example, emoji or text. In addition, you can change the sizing of each dot. And, yes, you can swap the cat with a face – but why?

See the Pen Halftone by ycw

Press for Halftone by Taylor Hunt

Here’s a very creative use for Halftone. There’s a subtle pattern displayed on this button, with a slightly bolder hover effect. But clicking will turn on a high-contrast pattern that will grab your attention.

See the Pen Halftone button by Taylor Hunt

Revealing Secrets by Tyler Durrett

The flashlight effect has become quite popular in recent times. Here, it’s combined with a halftone pattern that “illuminates” hidden text. It’s a fun interaction, and the pattern brings a bit of a retro/brutalist vibe.

See the Pen Reveal Hidden Text by Tyler Durrett

Taking a Subtler Tone by Devin Price

No law says halftone has to be loud – and this snippet is proof. Halftone effects are blended perfectly into a crosshatch pattern. The result is something both unique and subtle. Bonus points for being built with pure CSS.

See the Pen Half Tone Cross Hatch Pattern by Devin Price

Far-Out Hover Effects by Théo Gil

Here’s a snippet that looks like something from a sci-fi thriller. A blue-on-black halftone photo stares at us from the other side of the screen. Place your cursor over it, and a portion of the image fades into obscurity.

See the Pen Halftone Aberration by Théo Gil

Parallax Sans BS by Eric Jackson Wood

Another surreal take on the effect, this photo features a dizzying array of colored dots. Moreover, moving your cursor brings a 3D parallax effect that exposes a subtle outline floating above the main image. The added dimension makes the effect all the more interesting.

See the Pen Parallax Halftone by Eric Jackson Wood

Duo It All Jos van Weesel

Thanks to CSS blend modes, halftone effects can be added to just about anything. In this example, a beautiful blend is placed on top of various photos. Hovering over one reveals its true color. It’s a very practical use that is compelling but without being over-the-top.

See the Pen CSS Blend modes by Jos van Weesel

More Than Your Average Text Shadow by Mark Mead

Let’s finish things off with another practical use case. Here we have some basic outlined typography that utilizes offset shadowing. The first two examples use a solid color shadow, which works well. But the second set features a halftone pattern, which offers a more artsy feel.

See the Pen Strokes, Shadows + Halftone Effects by Mark

A Pattern of Innovation

The great thing about combining code with a classic image effect is that it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Sure, we can add a halftone pattern to a design element – but why stop there?

Designers are finding new and clever uses for these effects. In the code snippets above, halftone is utilized both traditionally and innovatively. The old boundaries only exist if we want them to.

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