Responsive Image Gallery with Thumbnail Carousel

A tutorial on how to create a responsive image gallery with a thumbnail carousel using Elastislide. Inspired by Twitter's "user gallery" and upon a request to show an integration of Elastislide, we want to implement a responsive gallery that adapts to the view-port width. The gallery will have a view switch that allows to view it with the thumbnail carousel or without. We'll also add the possibility to navigate with the keyboard.

View demo Download source

Today we want to show you how to create a responsive image gallery with a thumbnail carousel using Elastislide. Inspired by Twitter’s “user gallery” and upon a request to show an integration of Elastislide, we want to implement a responsive gallery that adapts to the view-port width. The gallery will have a view switch that allows to view it with the thumbnail carousel or without. We’ll also add the possibility to navigate with the keyboard.

We’ll use the jQuery Touchwipe Plugin that will make it possible to navigate the images by “wiping” on the iPhone and iPad.

The images in the demo are by über-talented Sherman Geronimo-Tan and you can find his Flickr photostream here: Sherman Geronimo-Tan’s Flickr Photostream
The photos are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License.

So, let’s do it!

The Markup

For the HTML structure we’ll have a main wrapper with the class “rg-gallery”. We’ll also give it the same ID. In another div with the class “rg-thumbs” we’ll add the structure of the Elastislide carousel:

<div id="rg-gallery" class="rg-gallery">
	<div class="rg-thumbs">
		<!-- Elastislide Carousel Thumbnail Viewer -->
		<div class="es-carousel-wrapper">
			<div class="es-nav">
				<span class="es-nav-prev">Previous</span>
				<span class="es-nav-next">Next</span>
			<div class="es-carousel">
						<a href="#">
							<img src="images/thumbs/1.jpg" data-large="images/1.jpg" alt="image01" data-description="Some description" />
		<!-- End Elastislide Carousel Thumbnail Viewer -->
	</div><!-- rg-thumbs -->
</div><!-- rg-gallery -->

The thumbnails will have two data attributes that we’ll use later in our JavaScript. The “data-large” attribute will have the path to the large image and the “data-description” attribute will contain the caption of the image that we will display under the current large image.

For the structure of the large preview area we will create a jQuery template that we’ll add to the head of our document:

<script id="img-wrapper-tmpl" type="text/x-jquery-tmpl">	
	<div class="rg-image-wrapper">
		{{if itemsCount > 1}}
			<div class="rg-image-nav">
				<a href="#" class="rg-image-nav-prev">Previous Image</a>
				<a href="#" class="rg-image-nav-next">Next Image</a>
		<div class="rg-image"></div>
		<div class="rg-loading"></div>
		<div class="rg-caption-wrapper">
			<div class="rg-caption" style="display:none;">

We are adding a condition that will make sure that the navigation is only shown if there is more than one image. The “rg-image” container will be used to add the large image.

Let’s take a look at the style.


Besides adjusting a few values like the padding and the margins of the Elastislide thumbnail carousel, we need to style the resting elements of the gallery.

The “rg-image-wrapper” that you saw in our jQuery template will be of relative position and we’ll add a repeated semi-transparent black background image. The borders will be rounded and we’ll give it a min-height of 20 pixels so that the loading element fits into the container initially when the first image get’s loaded:

	padding:20px 30px;
	background:transparent url(../images/black.png) repeat top left;
	-moz-border-radius: 10px;
	-webkit-border-radius: 10px;
	border-radius: 10px;

The container that we’ll use to add the big image will be relative and have a line-height of 0. By adding text-align “center” we make all inline elements align in the center. But since we’ll not set the image to “display:block”, we need to add a line-height of 0. This will make sure that there is no gap under the image which is an inline-element by default:


By setting the max-width of our large image to 100%, we make sure that it will always stay in the surrounding fluid container. This is very nicely explained in Fluid Images by Ethan Marcotte on A List Apart.
Now, why setting the max-height to 100% as well? We actually don’t need this but if you would like to restrict the size of the preview area you could set a fixed height for the “rg-image” class and the image would fit in it while still resizing when the width of the view-port changes.

.rg-image img{

Let’s style the navigation elements. The style of the arrow anchors will be the following:

.rg-image-nav a{
	background:#000 url(../images/nav.png) no-repeat -20% 50%;
	-moz-border-radius: 10px 0px 0px 10px;
	-webkit-border-radius: 10px 0px 0px 10px;
	border-radius: 10px 0px 0px 10px;

This is actually the style of the left arrow and now we’ll overwrite some properties for the right arrow:

.rg-image-nav a.rg-image-nav-next{
	background-position:115% 50%;
	-moz-border-radius: 0px 10px 10px 0px;
	-webkit-border-radius: 0px 10px 10px 0px;
	border-radius: 0px 10px 10px 0px;

Since we already defined the left value for the elements in general we need to set it to auto again if we want to use “right” instead.

On hover we want to make them more opaque:

.rg-image-nav a:hover{

The caption will have the following style:

.rg-caption {
.rg-caption p{
	font-family: 'Trebuchet MS', 'Myriad Pro', Arial, sans-serif;
	padding:0 15px;

Now, let’s style the switch options:

.rg-view a{
	background:#464646 url(../images/views.png) no-repeat top left;
	border:3px solid #464646;
.rg-view a:hover{
.rg-view a.rg-view-full{
	background-position:0px 0px;
.rg-view a.rg-view-selected{
.rg-view a.rg-view-thumbs{
	background-position:0px -16px;

And finally, we’ll make the loading element appear in the center of the image preview:

	background:#000 url(../images/ajax-loader.gif) no-repeat center center;
	margin:-23px 0px 0px -23px;
	-moz-border-radius: 10px;
	-webkit-border-radius: 10px;
	border-radius: 10px;

And that’s all the style! Let’s take a look at the JavaScript.

The JavaScript

The main idea of the gallery is to make it flexible, so partly we have achieved that by our style: the large image will adjust to the container. For making the thumbnail carousel responsive, we’ll use Elastislide, our previous plugin.
First, lets define some variables:

	// gallery container
var $rgGallery			= $('#rg-gallery'),
	// carousel container
	$esCarousel			= $rgGallery.find(''),
	// the carousel items
	$items				= $esCarousel.find('ul > li'),
	// total number of items
	itemsCount			= $items.length;

Then we’ll define our gallery function:

	Gallery				= (function() {
		//gallery function


Here we’ll define some variables for the current image, the mode and a variable for controlling if an image is being loaded. Then we’ll call some of our functions that are following below:

var current			= 0, 
	// mode : carousel || fullview
	mode 			= 'carousel',
	// control if one image is being loaded
	anim			= false,
	init			= function() {
		// (not necessary) preloading the images here...
		$items.add('<img src="images/ajax-loader.gif"/><img src="images/black.png"/>').imagesLoaded( function() {
			// add options
			// add large image wrapper
			// show first image
			_showImage( $items.eq( current ) );
		// initialize the carousel

We need to call the Elastislide plugin:

_initCarousel	= function() {
		imageW 	: 65,
		onClick	: function( $item ) {
			if( anim ) return false;
			anim	= true;
			// on click show image
			// change current
			current	= $item.index();
	// set elastislide's current to current
	$esCarousel.elastislide( 'setCurrent', current );

Read more about Elastislide’s options here: Elastislide – A Responsive jQuery Carousel Plugin.

Our next function will take care of the viewing modes and what happens when we switch the views:

_addViewModes	= function() {
	// top right buttons: hide / show carousel
	var $viewfull	= $('<a href="#" class="rg-view-full"></a>'),
		$viewthumbs	= $('<a href="#" class="rg-view-thumbs rg-view-selected"></a>');
	$rgGallery.prepend( $('<div class="rg-view"/>').append( $viewfull ).append( $viewthumbs ) );
	$viewfull.bind('click.rgGallery', function( event ) {
		$esCarousel.elastislide( 'destroy' ).hide();
		mode	= 'fullview';
		return false;
	$viewthumbs.bind('click.rgGallery', function( event ) {
		mode	= 'carousel';
		return false;

The _addImageWrapper function adds the structure for the large image and the navigation buttons if the number of total items is greater than one.
It also initializes the navigation events. Using the jQuery Touchwipe Plugin, we’ll add support for the wipe gesture and also for keyboard navigation:

_addImageWrapper= function() {
	$('#img-wrapper-tmpl').tmpl( {itemsCount : itemsCount} ).appendTo( $rgGallery );
	if( itemsCount > 1 ) {
		// addNavigation
		var $navPrev		= $rgGallery.find('a.rg-image-nav-prev'),
			$navNext		= $rgGallery.find('a.rg-image-nav-next'),
			$imgWrapper		= $rgGallery.find('div.rg-image');
		$navPrev.bind('click.rgGallery', function( event ) {
			_navigate( 'left' );
			return false;
		$navNext.bind('click.rgGallery', function( event ) {
			_navigate( 'right' );
			return false;
		// add touchwipe events on the large image wrapper
			wipeLeft			: function() {
				_navigate( 'right' );
			wipeRight			: function() {
				_navigate( 'left' );
			preventDefaultEvents: false
		$(document).bind('keyup.rgGallery', function( event ) {
			if (event.keyCode == 39)
				_navigate( 'right' );
			else if (event.keyCode == 37)
				_navigate( 'left' );	

The navigation through the large images is controlled by the following function:

_navigate		= function( dir ) {
	if( anim ) return false;
	anim	= true;
	if( dir === 'right' ) {
		if( current + 1 >= itemsCount )
			current = 0;
	else if( dir === 'left' ) {
		if( current - 1 < 0 )
			current = itemsCount - 1;
	_showImage( $items.eq( current ) );

Depening in which direction we are moving, we are setting the current element to one less or one more.

And finally we’ll define the _showImage function that will add the large image and its caption:

_showImage		= function( $item ) {
	// shows the large image that is associated to the $item
	var $loader	= $rgGallery.find('div.rg-loading').show();
	var $thumb		= $item.find('img'),
		largesrc	= $'large'),
		title		= $'description');
	$('<img/>').load( function() {
		$rgGallery.find('div.rg-image').empty().append('<img src="' + largesrc + '"/>');
		if( title )
			$rgGallery.find('div.rg-caption').show().children('p').empty().text( title );
		if( mode === 'carousel' ) {
			$esCarousel.elastislide( 'reload' );
			$esCarousel.elastislide( 'setCurrent', current );
		anim	= false;
	}).attr( 'src', largesrc );

return { init : init };

And that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed this gallery tutorial and find it useful!

View demo Download source


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ML is a freelance web designer and developer with a passion for interaction design. She studied Cognitive Science and Computational Logic and has a weakness for the smell of freshly ground peppercorns.

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Comments are closed.
  1. 1

    I wish i can find a woman like you Mary Lou. My life would be complete with a person who uses css,js and html like poetry :P

    Thanks for god-sent tutorial!

  2. 14

    Very Nice!

    What do i have to change, so the page will open with the other viewing option (without the thumb carousel) ?

  3. 16

    Mary plz help me!

    I want to start learning JQUERY, but I don’t know where I should start and what book I should read as a beginner.
    (I just know html and css)

  4. 19

    Hi ML, I have 2 questions, how come your tutorial look so much better than your site :p? and my second one is how do you find solutions for your problem? is there any step by step for it, I’m starting to learn jquery and I’m having so much trouble doing the effect I want to do. If there is any books or tips, everything is welcome. tx

  5. 20

    Looks nice and seems to work good. I’m still looking for a way to have a adaptive/responsive image gallery that somehow requests smaller image sizes when on smaller viewport widths.

    Because most galleries are written in html, there is no easy way around this. I thought about doing slideshow using divs with background images but that wouldn’t probably be very semantic i guess…. still fishing.

    Thanks fo the article.
    Perhaps you could reply to some of the above comments from your kind community sometime.

    • 21

      Hi PhilD, thank you for your feedback! I am trying to reply to comments but it’s sometimes hard with ~100 a day :) Most of the time I am working on new tutorials, so I am very sorry for not being able to comment more, but I’ll keep trying :)

      Do you know about ? I think it offers a good solution to what you need. Thanks again for your feedback, cheers, ML

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