CSS Box Model Explained for Beginners

If you’re new to coding, like I am, the box model is one of the most important things to understand in CSS. The CSS box model is a set of principles that govern how elements are laid out on a page. It’s important to understand how the box model works so that you can create beautiful websites with proper spacing and alignment. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of the CSS box model so that you know exactly what it is and how to use it correctly.

CSS Box Model explained for Beginners

The CSS box model consists of 4 main areas: (from outermost to innermost) the margin, border, padding, and the content section. Each of these 4 areas of the box model in CSS has a different purpose and can be manipulated with CSS code.

The CSS box model also has width and height attributes. The width of an element is the distance from one side to the other, while the height is the distance from the top to the bottom.

One important thing to note about the box model is that it’s always calculated from the outside in. This means that if you want to set the width and height of an element, you need to include the padding and margin in your calculations.

Below is what the CSS box model looks like visually:

Image Source

5 important things beginners need to know about the CSS box model

1. The CSS box model is the foundation of responsive design. It helps you create websites that look good on any screen size.

2. The CSS box model defines every element’s width, height, and position on a web page.

3. The CSS box model allows you to control the spacing between elements on a page.

4. The CSS box model allows you to create custom margins and borders for your elements.

5. The CSS box model is essential for creating correctly-aligned websites. Mastering the CSS box model will help you build better websites faster and easier.

How essential is the box model in CSS?

The answer to that question is, without a doubt, essential. The CSS box model governs how your page looks, and without it, your page would be a total mess. Imagine creating a website without margins, borders, or padding. It would be nearly impossible! So if you’re starting in coding and CSS, make sure you learn the box model first and foremost. It’s one of the most essential things to understand in CSS.

The CSS box model is essential because it’s the only way to properly control the spacing and alignment of elements on a web page. With the box model, we can set different margins, borders, and padding for each side of an element, which helps create a more structured and visually appealing web page.

CSS box Model explained with code example

Let’s explain the CSS box model briefly by way of an example before we dive into what each element of the box model is and how they work. Say you want to create a simple website with a header, body, and footer. You could use the following Semantic HTML code:

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>The CSS Box Model Explained for Beginners</title>
        <header>Header Box Model Example</header>
        <div>The CSS Box Model Explained for Beginners</div>
        <footer>Footer Box Model Example</footer>

In this code, the <div> tags are used to create separate sections on the page. The <header> and <footer> tags would be placed within the <div> tag for the body, and would have no defined width or height. This would cause the header and footer to stretch the entire width of the page, which is not what we want.

If you were to render this code as it is above in the browser you would get the following result:

Css Box Model Explained example 1

We can fix this by adding CSS code to define the width and height of each section. For example, we could add the following code to give the header a width of 250 pixels and the footer a width of 100 pixels, I have also added different background colours so that you can visually see this with the following code:

header {
    background-color: pink;

footer {
    background-color: yellow;

As you can see below the footer box has now been made too narrow and the text is wrapping over two lines.

Css Box Model Explained example 2

You can also play around with the margins, borders, and padding to create different looks. For example, if you wanted to add a border to the header, by adding the following code:

header {

The above CSS would add a 1 pixel solid black border to the header.

If you wanted to add some padding to the footer, you could use this code:

footer {

The combined effect of the above CSS code would look like this:

header {
    background-color: pink;
footer {
    background-color: yellow;

And result in the following in the browser:

Css Box Model Explained example 3

As you can see, the CSS box model is a very powerful tool that can be used to create beautiful and structured websites. By understanding the basics of the box model, you’ll be able to create websites that look great and are easy to navigate.

What is the margin in the CSS box model?

The margin is the outermost area of the box model and is used to control the spacing between elements. The margin can be set for each side of an element and can be a different size for each side.

Common mistakes made when using the margin element:

One of the most common mistakes when using the margin element is forgetting to add a margin to all sides of an element.

Another common mistake is adding too much margin, which can cause elements on a page to be spaced too far apart.

Best practices for using the margin element:

When using the margin element, always be sure to add a margin to all sides of an element. Also, try to keep the margin sizes consistent for each side, and avoid adding too much margin.

What is the border in the CSS box model?

The border in the CSS box model is the area between the margin and the padding of an element. It can be set to have a different width, style, and colour for each side.

The border element of the box model can be used to create a border around an element or to give it more definition.

Why would you use the border in the CSS box model?

The border can be used to improve an element’s appearance or add functionality to an element. For example, you can use a border to create a frame around an image or a border around a link. You could also use more advanced CSS to make the border appear when the mouse hovers over an element and disappear when the mouse is moved from the element.

The border can also be used to create a border in between elements. This can be helpful when you want to separate two elements on the page, without using a table.

What is padding in the CSS box model?

Padding is the space between the content of an element and its border. Padding can be applied to the top, bottom, left, and right sides of an element, and it can be different for each side. Padding should be used when you want to create space around an element’s content. For example, if you have text that is close to the edge of a box, you can add padding to the box so that there is space between the text and the edge of the box. Padding can also create space between different elements on a page.

Things that beginners should remember when working with padding in CSS:

  1. Padding is measured in pixels.
  2. Padding is added to the width and height of an element.
  3. Padding affects the size of the element’s margin.

3 Common mistakes made by beginners when using padding:

  1. Don’t use too much padding. If you add too much padding, the element can start to look spaced out from the rest of the page.
  2. Be careful when using negative values for padding. Negative values can cause the element to overload the page or be cut off.
  3. Don’t forget to set the same padding for all sides of an element. If you don’t, the element may not look right when it’s displayed on a page.

By keeping these things in mind, you can use padding to create space around the elements on the page.

The content section of the CSS box model

The content section of the CSS box model is where you put the content of your page. This includes text, images, and other elements. You can control the size and placement of this content by using the CSS properties width, height, margin, and padding.

The width and height properties determine the size of the content area. The margin and padding properties control the spacing around the content area. You can use these CSS properties to create margins and padding on the content area’s top, bottom, left, and right.


The CSS box model is important to understand when you’re learning how to code, as it can be used to control the layout and appearance of elements on a page. By using the properties margin, padding, width, and height, you can create various layouts for your pages. Be sure to experiment with these properties to see what they can do!

Click here to get our FREE CSS Properties Cheat Sheet for Beginners to help you on your coding journey!

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