How to spice up your menu with CSS3

Quick tip on how to spice up your menu with CSS3: add an image to every menu item and slide it out on hover.

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In this new category called “Tips and Tricks” we will introduce some quick and interesting methods around web development and web design. In today’s tip we’ll show you how to spice up your menu by adding a neat hover effect to it. The idea is to slide an image out to the right when hovering over a menu item.

Each menu item (which is a unordered list item in this case) will have an anchor containing two spans and an image:

<ul class="mh-menu">
		<a href="#">
			<span>Art Director</span> 
			<span>Henry James</span>
		<img src="images/1.jpg" alt="image01"/>
	<!-- ... -->

We’ll give .mh-menu li a display block and rgba(255,255,255, 0.8) as background color. When we hover over a list item, we’ll color the background into rgba(225,239,240, 0.4) which is a light blue:

.mh-menu li:hover a{
	background: rgba(225,239,240, 0.4);

The second span will also change its color on hover, but we want to change each item into a different color. So, we’ll add a color transition and get each different element with the nth-child selector:

.mh-menu li a span:nth-child(2){
	transition: color 0.2s linear;
.mh-menu li:nth-child(1):hover span:nth-child(2){
	color: #ae3637;
.mh-menu li:nth-child(2):hover span:nth-child(2){
	color: #c3d243;
.mh-menu li:nth-child(3):hover span:nth-child(2){
	color: #d38439;
.mh-menu li:nth-child(4):hover span:nth-child(2){
	color: #8e7463;

The image will slide to the right side, so initially, it will have a left of 0px. We’ll also add a transition for its opacity; it will animate from 0 (initial value) to 1:

.mh-menu li img{
	position: absolute;
	z-index: 1;
	left: 0px;
	top: 0px;
	opacity: 0;
	transition: left 0.4s ease-in-out, opacity 0.6s ease-in-out;
.mh-menu li:hover img{
	left: 300px;
	opacity: 1;

And voilà, there we have our nice slide out effect!
Make sure, that the z-index of the anchor is set to something higher than the image so that it slides under the anchor and not on top of it.

Alternatively, we can make the background color of the anchor become opaque on hover, i.e. completely white (demo 2), or color each child differently (demo 3).

The illustrations in the demo are by Bartosz Kosowski (CC BY-NC 3.0).

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Mary Lou

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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  1. Hey that is a good post & a good set of coversations too. Keep sharing, that is good…

  2. A couple of questions. Trying to decipher the values in two of the css properties. Can you give an explanation on what a couple of them mean?

    color? transition: color 2s linear

    opacity? transition: left 0.4s ease-in-out, opacity 0.6s ease-in-out;

  3. Love I came across this website, just as I am learning to bring CSS into my eBay Template Idea. This site has so many great SOURCES (which alot leave out) ….KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!


  4. Nice but dosent seem to work on ie9 or lower. Are there any possibilities of it working there?

  5. Hey thats amazing!
    I was trying to do something similar but instead of images i wanted to add some info (Maybe through iframe, or just a div tag displaying itself)! Would that be possible?
    Please help me.

  6. great script! thank you!

    is there a way to make an image stay out when I’m in a certain page?

    For example.. I’d like that when I click on Henry James it links to another page with the same menu on the top with the image still visible and a text (like a biograpfy) unther the menu.

  7. hi, very nice effects., loved it. i have used your effect in one of my site. i need a bit of help. i have made one which has three levels and i have applied the same hover effect, when user hovers on of one level, corresponding from next level slides out. I want that, instead of whole 2nd level list slides out at once, first the 1st element comes out, then the 2nd and so on. e.g if i have planets and under planets i have earth,mars etc…when user hovers over planets, instead of earth and mars coming together,1st earth should slide out, then mars and so on.. can you please suggest a way for that.