Raphael and a Prophecy

March 7, 2009

More than once I have wasted my time in attempt to introduce graphics into the webpage, some of these attempts are recorded in this very blog: First were my lines in CSS, followed by rotating rectangles. I say “wasted” because I have now found Raphaël, and I’m in love.


What is it? Their site is too modest, claiming “Raphaël is a small JavaScript library that should simplify your work with vector graphics on the web”.
While true, it is also a most ambitious project to change the way the web looks, whether they mean to or not.
All (popular) browsers support vector graphics: IE supports VML, and all other browsers support SVG. By implementing both languages and switching between them, you can create complex vector graphics that work in almost every browser.
This idea was new to me, at least, and I think it’s great. Now Raphaël comes along and does it for you. Nice.

My Prophecy
Vector graphics (VG) will become more popular. As VG libraries mature (and Raphaël is already in good shape), VG on the web would become so easy that anyone could use them, and many would. Soon enough you will have beautiful interactive GUIs. At fiirst snippets and demos, then complete libraries for everyone to use. What more can it do? Maybe interactive animations, maybe just add some spice to websites.
It probably won’t bury Flash, but I expect it would be a competition.

Look what I found

August 28, 2008

Using the same technique I described in a previous post:


Pretty cute.

You can probably do some really amazing drawings with it. I’m thinking of taking such a project, it would be interesting.

Drawing Diagonal Lines with CSS

July 31, 2008

CSS allows you to specify so many bizarre graphical properties, that I couldn’t believe it doesn’t support drawing simple lines. Well, it doesn’t. And googling for how to draw a diagonal line was not effective. The closest result I got was how to draw a trapezoid.

So how to draw lines? The first idea that crossed my mind was stretching images of diagonal lines (which this site suggests as well, after suggesting to implement Breshenham 🙂 ). However, all resulting lines  have popping pixels, missing pixels, and a general unevenness.

So, I present a new way. It’s purely in CSS, involves little code, draws very quickly and can be used for almost any diagonal line possible.

Of course it has its problems as well, and I will discuss them later.

Drawing Diagonal Lines

Diagonals Example

Demonstration of my diagonals technique

Lines can be drawn by improving on the trapezoid technique, and placing a “white triangle” (a trapezoid without a width) with a slight offset on top a “solid triangle” to erase its body.

Here’s how the HTML and CSS look (make sure you understand how the trapezoid is done before you continue reading, so you’ll understand the rest):

<style type="text/css">
  .line {
    position:absolute; /* doesn't have to be absolute */
    z-index: -1;         /* places the line behind other elements */

  .line div {
    left: 0px; top: 0px;
    border-left-color: transparent;
    border-style: solid;
<!-- a line from A to B -->
<div class="line" style="left:50px; top:40px; /* point A */">
<div style="
    border-width: 0px 0px 150px 100px;        /* point B (minus A) */
    border-bottom-color: red;                 /* line color */
<div style="
    left: 2px;                                /* line width */
    border-width: 0px 0px 150px 100px;        /* point B (minus A) */
    border-bottom-color: white;               /* background color */


The outer div contains the line. Position it as you wish (I chose absolute positioning and this is probably what you want too. left and top can be used to set the coords for the beginning of the line).
Putting it in the background (using a negative z-index) is very important, or the erasing-triangle will erase your content as well.

Inside it, are two inner divs. The first one is the solid-triangle. Its border-width determines the end-point of the line (meaning: its angle and length). Its border-bottom-color is the color of the line.

The second div is the eraser-triangle. Its border-width must match the first div’s, unless you want your line to have a varying width (practically rendering it a triangle). The left property specifies the width of the line (by actually deciding the offset of the erasing-triangle). Now, this is not so simple: It specifies the horizontal width. So as the line leans more and more to the right, the line will seem thinner. It is important to increase left proportionally to maintain desired line-width. Another important issue is the erasing-color (that is, the border-bottom-color). Its color should match that of the background.


This only demonstrates a rising line, but can be as easily used for a falling line by using right borders and a negative left for the erasing triangle.

To save the trouble of calculations, a simple JavaScript function can be used to draw these lines.


Nothing is perfect, and this technique is not even close to being so.

  • Background must be solid – I can’t think of a way to allow the lines on top of an image background.
  • Lines cannot intersect – This is basically the same as the previous, but worth mentioning
  • Cannot draw horizontal and vertical lines. They’re easy to draw, but it’s less pretty (for the programmer).
  • Must distinguish between rising and falling lines – again, less pretty.
  • Lines have to be declared in a specific order: Lower lines should appear later in the HTML (unless you specify their z-index manually)

Conclusion (just for fun)

I presented here a novel method for drawing lines using CSS. It has certain strengths and weaknesses. In general, I think it is very useful.


Diagonals Example 2

Another demonstration