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Getting an element’s CSS attributes with vanilla JavaScript

Vanilla JavaScript offers the style property, which can be used to both set and get styles on attribute.

var elem = document.querySelector('#some-element');

// Set a background color = 'purple';

// Get the color
var color =;

However, this approach only works for inline styles. If the element like this, the approach above would work:

<div id="some-element" style="color: white;">Hello, World!</div>

But if it was a typical element without any inline styles, would return null.

Getting the browser-rendered style #

We want a way to get the styles that the browser is rendering on the element.

That could be an inline style. It could also be in an external stylesheet, or just the browser default for an element. Whatever the case, we want to the true CSS properties that the browser is using for the element.

For that, we use getComputedStyle().

getComputedStyle() is always called on the window, and the element is passed in as an argument. You get back an object of properties.

var styles = window.getComputedStyle(elem);

You can access any of those properties directly just like you would any other object property. For example, to get an element’s color, you’d do this:

var color = window.getComputedStyle(elem).color;

To get the rendered height of the element (regardless of whether or not it’s specified in a stylesheet), you’d do this:

var height = window.getComputedStyle(elem).height;

getComputedStyle() works in all modern browsers, plus IE9 and up. This is a super handy method to have in your toolbelt!

Note: I should have mentioned in this post but didn’t: getComputedStyle() can only be used for getting styles, not setting them.

🚀 I just relaunched my Vanilla JS Pocket Guides with new code examples and real projects to help tie everything you’ll learn together. Check it out.

Have any questions or comments about this post? Email me at or contact me on Twitter at @ChrisFerdinandi.

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