Responsive CSS border-radius using the Fab Four technique

The browser support for different CSS features has improved significantly over the past few years. Although vertically centering a paragraph is something that we can do quite easily, there are still some crucial features that we don't have. Media queries are based on the browser's viewport and screen resolution. However, sometimes we may need container queries. These are only available under certain feature flags. Today, we will use the Fab Four technique to apply a border radius to an element based on its container dimensions, not the screen width.

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What is the CSS technique?

You can use various CSS functions such as min, max, and calc to determine if a particular CSS rule should apply and compare it to the container element's dimension instead of the device viewport.

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We want to ensure that the card containers are less than 400px in width.

The minimum calculation of CSS

What's the story? First, we need to understand what 100% is doing. The setting width: 100% to a CSS element will, in most cases, expand it to the entire width of the container. If 100% is used within a min function, the container will always return its original width.

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The * 9999 part is used to ensure that we are always above or below the max value. We might get something in the middle.

CssCSS, Source:

We have the following result because we have a min-function:

  • When the container width is above the breakpoint, the final result would be DESIRED_BORDER_RADIUS (or 16px in our example)
  • If the container's width falls below the breakpoint, it will result in a negative number (or, in our case, -789 921).


This is crucial because the CSS parsing engine doesn't like how we try and define the border radius using the min or max functions. So we use this little trick.

Comparison with media-queries

Our CSS parsing engine is used to calculate 100%.

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This percentage would equal the container's width, not the screen width, which can be used in media queries.

Inverting the logic

Depending on the situation, the Fab Four technique can be used in many cases. A specific rule should be used when the container's width falls below a breakpoint.


This calculation can be complicated, even if you're familiar with it.

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We can extract SASS mixins or utility functions from various CSS-inJS libraries (like styled components).

Conclusion of CSS

As the web evolves, we will see more features such as container queries in web browsers. We can still use techniques such as the Fab Four to meet specific application requirements that don't always seem straightforward.

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Hope this article is helpful to you, thanks for reading.




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