How to add SVGs with CSS (background-image)

By Matt Visiwig Matt Visiwig Portrait Aug 25, 2021

There are TWO methods for displaying SVG images as a CSS background image:

  1. Link directly to an SVG file
.your-class {
   background-image: url( '/path/image.svg' );
}
  1. Placing SVG code as the source.
.your-class {
   background-image: url( "data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg xmlns='http://www.w3.org/2000/svg' viewBox='0 0 600 200'%3E%3Cpath d='M10 10h123v123H10z'/%3E%3C/svg%3E" );
}

Notice with this method we have to treat the SVG code before it will work. In the example, we convert the SVG to a Data URI. You could even convert it to Base64, but that will result in a messier, longer code blob. It is a best practice to avoid Base64 in this case.

Tip: Use this SVG to CSS converter tool to quickly convert your SVG code into a data URI.

After you place your file path or SVG code into the background-image property, you can further tweak how the background displays. You see, the great thing about using an SVG as a CSS background-image is that they can be styled with CSS background properties.

The CSS background-image properties

Let’s review all the properties related to background-image and what they do.

  • Background-attachment:
    Example values: scroll; fixed; local;
    The attachment specifies how the background moves relative to the user’s screen. When the user scrolls, the background can scroll along with a given section, or stay put (fixed).
  • Background-position:
    Example values: center; top left; 50% 50%; right 30px bottom 15px;
    The background-position determines where the image is displayed within its container. The center keyword is great with large backgrounds and at making patterns symmetrical. With smaller backgrounds, you may reach for a combo of keywords and lengths to place the background image more precisely.
  • Background-size:
    Example values: cover; contain; 500px 250px; auto;
    This controls how big or small the image displays. A value of cover forces the image to fill its entire containing element in proportion, and either the excess width or height will get clipped. A value of contain is similar in that it fills its container in proportion, but without clipping. You can also provide a specific width and height value.
  • Background-repeat:
    Example values: no-repeat; repeat; repeat-x;
    The background-repeat property allows you to tile the background image into a pattern.
  • Background-color:
    Example values: red; #F00; rgb(0,255,165);
    SVGs are a transparent image format and if the SVG elements do not cover the entire viewBox, the background color will be visible behind your SVG.
  • Background-origin:
    Example values: border-box; padding-box; content-box;
    The background origin determines the boundary of the background’s container. Border-box will stretch the background area for the entire container, while the padding-box and content-box values shrink the background area within the border and inside the padding respectively.
  • Background-clip:
    Example values: border-box; padding-box; content-box;
    Similar to background-origin, this property defines the background area, with one difference: the background doesn’t resize, but instead crops the background image to fit in the assigned boundary.
  • Background-blend-mode:
    Example values: multiply; screen; overlay, color-dodge, color;
    This property blends the colors of the target background with what is visible behind the target element, blending into a single colorful result. The blend modes are essentially the browser version of Photoshop’s blending modes.

Layering multiple background images

Background-image can hold multiple background image layers to achieve cool effects. To create these image layers, comma-separate each image value in a single background-image property. Then when you use any related background properties, comma-separate those varied values to coincide with the images, or instead use a single value which will apply to all images the same.

background-image:
   url( '/path/image-1.svg' ),
   url( '/path/image-2.svg' ),
   url( '/path/image-3.svg' );

You can mix images, SVG data URs, and CSS gradients. But you need to overlap images with transparency or take advantage of the background-blend-mode discussed above. Otherwise you will only see one background. The first image is on top of the background stack.

Let’s mix a few backgrounds now, and see what we get. First I headed over to the homepage of SVGBackgrounds.com to find a few quick backgrounds to layer together. Here is the code and results:

<div id="multi-bg"> </div>
<style>
   #multi-bg{
      height: 300px;
      display: block;
      background-color: #808;
      background-image:
         url("data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg xmlns='http://www.w3.org/2000/svg' viewBox='0 0 1600 900'%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23cc3f47' points='957 450 539 900 1396 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23b3373e' points='957 450 872.9 900 1396 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23c8364e' points='-60 900 398 662 816 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23b02f44' points='337 900 398 662 816 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23c22f55' points='1203 546 1552 900 876 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23ab294b' points='1203 546 1552 900 1162 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23bb285c' points='641 695 886 900 367 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23a52351' points='587 900 641 695 886 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23b32362' points='1710 900 1401 632 1096 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%239f1f57' points='1710 900 1401 632 1365 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23aa2068' points='1210 900 971 687 725 900'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23971c5d' points='943 900 1210 900 971 687'/%3E%3C/svg%3E"),
         url("data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg xmlns='http://www.w3.org/2000/svg' width='400' height='200' viewBox='0 0 160 80'%3E%3Cg fill='%23FFF' fill-opacity='0.2'%3E%3Cpolygon points='0 10 0 0 10 0'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='0 40 0 30 10 30'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='0 30 0 20 10 20'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='0 70 0 60 10 60'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='0 80 0 70 10 70'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='50 80 50 70 60 70'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='10 20 10 10 20 10'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='10 40 10 30 20 30'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='20 10 20 0 30 0'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='10 10 10 0 20 0'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='30 20 30 10 40 10'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='20 20 20 40 40 20'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='40 10 40 0 50 0'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='40 20 40 10 50 10'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='40 40 40 30 50 30'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='30 40 30 30 40 30'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='40 60 40 50 50 50'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='50 30 50 20 60 20'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='40 60 40 80 60 60'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='50 40 50 60 70 40'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='60 0 60 20 80 0'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='70 30 70 20 80 20'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='70 40 70 30 80 30'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='60 60 60 80 80 60'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='80 10 80 0 90 0'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='70 40 70 60 90 40'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='80 60 80 50 90 50'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='60 30 60 20 70 20'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='80 70 80 80 90 80 100 70'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='80 10 80 40 110 10'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='110 40 110 30 120 30'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='90 40 90 70 120 40'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='10 50 10 80 40 50'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='110 60 110 50 120 50'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='100 60 100 80 120 60'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='110 0 110 20 130 0'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='120 30 120 20 130 20'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='130 10 130 0 140 0'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='130 30 130 20 140 20'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='120 40 120 30 130 30'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='130 50 130 40 140 40'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='120 50 120 70 140 50'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='110 70 110 80 130 80 140 70'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='140 10 140 0 150 0'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='140 20 140 10 150 10'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='140 40 140 30 150 30'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='140 50 140 40 150 40'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='140 70 140 60 150 60'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='150 20 150 40 160 30 160 20'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='150 60 150 50 160 50'/%3E%3Cpolygon points='140 70 140 80 150 80 160 70'/%3E%3C/g%3E%3C/svg%3E"),         
         url("data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg xmlns='http://www.w3.org/2000/svg' width='100%25' height='100%25' viewBox='0 0 1600 800'%3E%3Cg %3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23740074' points='1600 160 0 460 0 350 1600 50'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%235f005f' points='1600 260 0 560 0 450 1600 150'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%234b004b' points='1600 360 0 660 0 550 1600 250'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23360036' points='1600 460 0 760 0 650 1600 350'/%3E%3Cpolygon fill='%23220022' points='1600 800 0 800 0 750 1600 450'/%3E%3C/g%3E%3C/svg%3E");
      background-repeat: no-repeat;
      background-size: cover;
      background-position: bottom center, 50%, 50%;
   }
</style>

Pretty? No.

BUT, this technique prevents the need to layer div containers to achieve a layer effect. Let’s try again, this time to make a simpler one that looks useable. Let’s place a pattern over a cool image texture.

Much better!

I could definitely see something more like this being used in a real-world project. Subtle backgrounds are always nice.

Wrapping up about SVGs in CSS background-images

We looked at how to add SVGs into the CSS property background-image. With all the related background properties and the fact you can layer backgrounds, there is little that can’t be achieved. This way of adding website backgrounds is powerful.

Matt Lipman Headshot


Hi, I'm Matt, the designer behind SVG Backgrounds. Check out my latest visual tools I'm building at Visiwig.com or follow me on Twitter.