Is it possible to set the src attribute value in CSS? At present, what I am doing is:

<img src="pathTo/myImage.jpg"/>

and I want it to be something like this

<img class="myClass"/>
.myClass {
    some-src-property: url("pathTo/myImage.jpg");

I want to do this without using the background or background-image: properties in CSS.

Solution 1

Use content:url("image.jpg").

Full working solution (Live Demo):

<!doctype html>


<img class="MyClass123"/>

Tested and working:

  • Chrome 14.0.835.163
  • Safari 4.0.5
  • Opera 10.6
  • Firefox 100 & newer

Tested and Not working:

  • FireFox 40.0.2 (observing Developer Network Tools, you can see that the URL loads, but the image is not displayed)
  • Internet Explorer 11.0.9600.17905 (URL never loads)

Solution 2

There is a solution that I found out today (works in IE6+, FF, Opera, Chrome):

<img src='willbehidden.png' 
 style="width:0px; height:0px; padding: 8px; background: url(newimage.png);">

How it works:

  • The image is shrunk until no longer visible by the width & height.
  • Then, you need to 'reset' the image size with padding. This one gives a 16x16 image. Of course you can use padding-left / padding-top to make rectangular images.
  • Finally, the new image is put there using background.
  • If the new background image is too large or too small, I recommend using background-size for example: background-size:cover; which fits your image into the allotted space.

It also works for submit-input-images, they stay clickable.

See live demo:


Solution 3

A collection of possible methods to set images from CSS

CSS2's :after pseudo-element or the newer syntax ::after from CSS3 along with the content: property:

First W3C Recommendation: Cascading Style Sheets, level 2 CSS2 Specification 12 May 1998
Latest W3C Recommendation: Selectors Level 3 W3C Recommendation 29 September 2011

This method appends content just after an element's document tree content.

Note: some browsers experimentally render the content property directly over some element selectors disregarding even the latest W3C recommendation that defines:

Applies to: :before and :after pseudo-elements

CSS2 syntax (forward-compatible):

.myClass:after {
  content: url("somepicture.jpg");

CSS3 Selector:

.myClass::after {
  content: url("somepicture.jpg");

Default rendering: Original Size (does not depend on explicit size declaration)

This specification does not fully define the interaction of :before and :after with replaced elements (such as IMG in HTML). This will be defined in more detail in a future specification.

but even at the time of this writing, behaviour with a <IMG> tag is still not defined and although it can be used in a hacked and non standards compliant way, usage with <img> is not recommended!

Great candidate method, see conclusions...

**CSS1**'s [`background-image:`]( property:

First W3C Recommendation: Cascading Style Sheets, level 1 17 Dec 1996

This property sets the background image of an element. When setting a background image, one should also set a background color that will be used when the image is unavailable. When the image is available, it is overlaid on top of the background color.

This property has been around from the beginning of CSS and nevertheless it deserve a glorious mention.

Default rendering: Original Size (cannot be scaled, only positioned)


CSS3's background-size: property improved on it by allowing multiple scaling options:

Latest W3C Status: Candidate Recommendation CSS Backgrounds and Borders Module Level 3 9 September 2014

[length> | <percentage> | auto ]{1,2} | cover | contain

But even with this property, it depends on container size.

Still a good candidate method, see conclusions...

CSS2's list-style: property along with display: list-item:

First W3C Recommendation: Cascading Style Sheets, level 2 CSS2 Specification 12 May 1998

list-style-image: property sets the image that will be used as the list item marker (bullet)

The list properties describe basic visual formatting of lists: they allow style sheets to specify the marker type (image, glyph, or number)

display: list-item This value causes an element (e.g., <li> in HTML) to generate a principal block box and a marker box.

.myClass {
    display: list-item;
    list-style-position: inside;
    list-style-image: url("someimage.jpg");

Shorthand CSS: (<list-style-type> <list-style-position> <list-style-image>)

.myClass {
    display: list-item;
    list-style: square inside url("someimage.jpg");

Default rendering: Original Size (does not depend on explicit size declaration)



Inheritance will transfer the 'list-style' values from OL and UL elements to LI elements. This is the recommended way to specify list style information.

They do not allow authors to specify distinct style (colors, fonts, alignment, etc.) for the list marker or adjust its position

This method is also not suitable for the <img> tag as the conversion cannot be made between element types, and here's the limited, non compliant hack that doesn't work on Chrome.

Good candidate method, see conclusions...

CSS3's border-image: property recommendation:

Latest W3C Status: Candidate Recommendation CSS Backgrounds and Borders Module Level 3 9 September 2014

A background-type method that relies on specifying sizes in a rather peculiar manner (not defined for this use case) and fallback border properties so far (eg. border: solid):

Note that, even though they never cause a scrolling mechanism, outset images may still be clipped by an ancestor or by the viewport.

This example illustrates the image being composed only as a bottom-right corner decoration:

.myClass {
    border: solid;
    border-width: 0 480px 320px 0;
    border-image: url("") 0 100% 100% 0;

Applies to: All elements, except internal table elements when border-collapse: collapse

Still it can't change an <img>'s tag src (but here's a hack), instead we can decorate it:

Good candidate method to be considered after standards propagate.

CSS3's element() notation working draft is worth a mention also:

Note: The element() function only reproduces the appearance of the referenced element, not the actual content and its structure.

<div id="img1"></div>

<img id="pic1" src="" class="hide" alt="wolf">
<img id="pic2" src="" class="hide" alt="cat">

We'll use the rendered contents of one of the two hidden images to change the image background in #img1 based on the ID Selector via CSS:

#img1 {
    width: 480px; 
    height: 320px; 
    background: -moz-element(#pic1) no-repeat;
    background-size: 100% 100%;

.hide {display: none}

Notes: It's experimental and only works with the -moz prefix in Firefox and only over background or background-image properties, also needs sizes specified.


  1. Any semantic content or structural information goes in HTML.
  2. Styling and presentational information goes in CSS.
  3. For SEO purposes, don't hide meaningful images in CSS.
  4. Background graphics are usually disabled when printing.
  5. Custom tags could be used and styled from CSS, but primitive versions of Internet Explorer do not understand](IE not styling HTML5 tags (with shiv)) without Javascript or CSS guidance.
  6. SPA's (Single Page Applications), by design, usually incorporate images in the background

Having said that, let's explore HTML tags fit for image display:

The <li> element [HTML4.01+]

Perfect usecase of the list-style-image with display: list-item method.

The <li> element, can be empty, allows flow content and it's even permitted to omit the </li> end tag.

Limitations: hard to style (width: or float: might help)

The <figure> element [HTML5+]

The figure element represents some flow content, optionally with a caption, that is self-contained (like a complete sentence) and is typically referenced as a single unit from the main flow of the document.

The element is valid with no content, but is recommended to contain a <figcaption>.

The element can thus be used to annotate illustrations, diagrams, photos, code listings, etc.

Default rendering: the element is right aligned, with both left and right padding!

The <object> element [HTML4+]

To include images, authors may use the OBJECT element or the IMG element.

The data attribute is required and can have a valid MIME type as a value!

<object data="data:x-image/x,"></object>

Note: a trick to make use of the <object> tag from CSS would be to set a custom valid MimeType x-image/x followed by no data (value has no data after the required comma ,)

Default rendering: 300 x 150px, but size can be specified either in HTML or CSS.

The <SVG> tag

Needs a SVG capable browser and has a <image> element for raster images

The <canvas> element [HTML5+].

The width attribute defaults to 300, and the height attribute defaults to 150.

The <input> element with type="image"


... the element is expected to appear button-like to indicate that the element is a button.

which Chrome follows and renders a 4x4px empty square when no text

Partial solution, set value=" ":

<input type="image" id="img1" value=" ">

Also watch out for the upcoming <picture> element in HTML5.1, currently a working draft.

Solution 4

i used the empty div solution, with this CSS:

#throbber {
    background-image: url(/Content/pictures/ajax-loader.gif);
    background-repeat: no-repeat;
    width: 48px;
    height: 48px;
    min-width: 48px;
    min-height: 48px;


<div id="throbber"></div>

Solution 5

I found a better way than the proposed solutions, but it does use the background-image indeed. Compliant method (cannot confirm for IE6) Credits:

<img src="pathTo/myImage.jpg"/>

The CSS:

img[src*="pathTo/myImage.jpg"] {

    background-image: url("mynewimg.jpg"); /* lets say 20x20 */
    width: 20px;

    padding: 20px 0 0 0;
    height: 0px !important;

    /* for IE 5.5's bad box model */
    height /**/:20px;

The old image is not seen and the new is seen as expected.

The following neat solution only works for webkit

img[src*="pathTo/myImage.jpg"] {

    /* note :) */

    width: 20px;
    height: 20px;
    background-image: url("mynewimg.jpg"); /* lets say 20x20 */


Solution 6

They are right. IMG is a content element and CSS is about design. But, how about when you use some content elements or properties for design purposes? I have IMG across my web pages that must change if i change the style (the CSS).

Well this is a solution for defining IMG presentation (no really the image) in CSS style.

  1. create a 1x1 transparent gif or png.
  2. Assign propery "src" of IMG to that image.
  3. Define final presentation with "background-image" in the CSS style.

It works like a charm :)

Solution 7

Here is a very good solution ->

Pro(s) and Con(s):
(+) works with vector image that have relative width/height (a thing that RobAu's answer does not handle)
(+) is cross browser (works also for IE8+)
(+) it only uses CSS. So no need to modify the img src (or if you do not have access/do not want to change the already existing img src attribute).
(-) sorry, it does use the background css attribute :)

Solution 8

No you can't set the image src attribute via CSS. The closest you can get is, as you say, background or background-image. I wouldn't recommend doing that anyway as it would be somewhat illogical.

However, there is a CSS3 solution available to you, if the browsers you're targeting are able to use it. Use content:url as described in Pacerier's answer. You can find other, cross-browser solutions in the other answers below.

Solution 9

You can define 2 images in your HTML code and use display: none; to decide which one will be visible.

Solution 10

Put several images in a "controlling" container, and change the container's class instead. In CSS, add rules to manage images' visibility depending on the container's class. This will produce the same effect as changing img src property of a a single image.


<span id="light" class="red">
    <img class="red" src="red.png" />
    <img class="yellow" src="yellow.png" />
    <img class="green" src="green.png" />


#light         { ... }
#light         *        { display: none; }     // all images are hidden     .red     { display: inline; }   // show red image when #light is red
#light.yellow  .yellow  { display: inline; }   // .. or yellow   .green   { display: inline; }   // .. or green

Note that it will preload all images, like with CSS backround-images, but unlike changing img src via JS.

Solution 11

Some data I would leave in HTML, but it is better to define the src in CSS:

<img alt="Test Alt text" title="Title text" class="logo">

.logo {

Solution 12

Or you could do this which I found on the interweb thingy.

<img src="linkToImage.jpg" class="egg">
.egg {
  width: 100%;
  height: 0;
  padding: 0 0 200px 0;
  background-image: url(linkToImage.jpg);
  background-size: cover;

So effectively hiding the image and padding down the background. Oh what a hack but if you want an IMG tag with alt text and a background that can scale without using JavaScript?

In a project I'm working on now I created a hero block twig template

<div class="hero">
  <img class="image" src="{{ bgImageSrc }}"
       alt="{{ altText }}" style="background-image: url({{ bgImageSrc }});">

Solution 13

Alternative way

.myClass {
background: url('/img/loading_big.gif');
<div class="myClass"></div>

Solution 14

As far as I am aware of, YOU CANNOT. CSS is about style and image's src is content.

Solution 15

To reiterate a prior solution and to stress the pure CSS implementation here is my answer.

A Pure CSS solution is needed in cases where you are sourcing content from another site, and thus you have no control over the HTML that is delivered. In my case I am trying to remove branding of licensed source content so that the licencee does not have to advertise for the company they are buying the content from. Therefore, I'm removing their logo while keeping everything else. I should note that this is within my client's contract to do so.

{ /* image size is 204x30 */

Solution 16

I know this is a really old question however no answers provide the proper reasoning for why this can never be done. While you can "do" what you are looking for you cannot do it in a valid way. In order to have a valid img tag it must have the src and alt attributes.

So any of the answers giving a way to do this with an img tag that does not use the src attribute are promoting use of invalid code.

In short: what you are looking for cannot be done legally within the structure of the syntax.

Source: W3 Validator

Solution 17

If you don't want to set a background property then you can't set the src attribute of an image using only CSS.

Alternatively you can use JavaScript to do such a thing.

Solution 18

Using CSS, it can't be done. But, if you are using JQuery, something like this will do the trick:

$("img.myClass").attr("src", "http://somwhere");

Solution 19

You can convert it with JS:

    var processing = $(this).attr('src');

Solution 20

If you are trying to add an image in a button dynamically based on the context of your project, you can use the ? take to reference the source based on an outcome. Here I am using mvvm design to let my Model.Phases[0] value determine whether I want my button to be populated with images of a lightbulb on or off based on the value of the light phase.

Not sure if this helps. I'm using JqueryUI, Blueprint, and CSS. The class definition should allow you to style the button based on whatever you'd like.

  <img class="@(Model.Phases[0] ? "light-on": "light-off")" src="@(Model.Phases[0] ? "~/Images/LightBulbOn.png" : "~/Images/LightBulbOff.png")"/>                             
  <img class="@(Model.Phases[0] ? "light-on": "light-off")" src="@(Model.Phases[0] ? "~/Images/LightBulbOn.png" : "~/Images/LightBulbOff.png")"/>   
  <img class="@(Model.Phases[0] ? "light-on": "light-off")" src="@(Model.Phases[0] ? "~/Images/LightBulbOn.png" : "~/Images/LightBulbOff.png")"/>     

Solution 21

I would add this: background image could be also positioned with background-position: x y; (x horizontal y vertical). (..) My case, CSS:

#header {
  height: 100px; 
  background-image: url(http://.../head6.jpg); 
  background-position: center; 
  background-repeat: no-repeat; 
  background-color: grey; 

Solution 22

HTMl Code:

<!DOCTYPE html>
         <link type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" href="css destination" />
<!-- click-able pic with link -->
           <a href="site you want"> 
<!-- Take the off if you don't want click-able link -->
                <h1 id(or class)="nameOfClassorid">
                     <span>Text that is not important</span>

Css Code:

span {
     display: none;
h1 id or class {
     height: of pic;
     width: of pic;
/* Only flaw (so far) read bottom */
     background-image:url(/* "image destination" */);
h1 id or class:hover {
/* Now the awesome part */
     background-image:url(/* 'new background!!!' */);

I've been studying html after school for a few days, and wanted to know how to do this. Found out the background and then put 2 and 2 together. This works 100% I checked, if not make sure you fill in necessary things!!! We need to specify height, because without it there would be nothing!!! I'll leave this basic shell you can add-on.


 <!DOCTYPE html>
         <link type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" href="style.css" />
           <a href="http:localhost"> 
                     <span>Text that is not important</span>
span {
     display: none;
h1 {
     height: 100px;
     width: 100px;
     background-image:url("[email protected]");

h1:hover {
     height: 300px;
     width: 300px;

P.S. Yes I am a Linux user ;)

Solution 23

Any method based on background or background-image is likely to fail when user prints the document with "print background colors and images" disabled. Which is unfortunately typical browser's default.

The only print-friendly and cross-browser compatible method here is the one proposed by Bronx.

Solution 24

Just use HTML5 :)

    <source srcset="smaller.jpg" media="(max-width: 768px)">
    <source srcset="default.jpg">
    <img srcset="default.jpg" alt="My default image">