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 voilร , 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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Comments are closed.
  1. Hi,

    Nice effect.
    It could be improved using :focus pseudo-class.
    .mh-menu li a:focus + img {
    left: 300px;
    opacity: 1;

    or just adding the CSS selector to your :hover rule.


  2. I’m impressed (as usual..) I visit this site almost everyday and do not get disappointed.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Nice, but is it possible to have an image to show when you’re not hovering which has the same effect? It’s kind of empty right now. I’ve tried to do this, but don’t get any further than the picture to show inbetween te slide effects.

  4. Looks great on PlayBook! What changes would you suggest, as an alternative for :hover, to support touch-screen only devices?

  5. @typ
    You may write comments like this to mislead the less experienced viewers of CSS3 tutorial and because you can’t suck their money with your crappy JS coding which, indeed, sucks the most when it comes to SEO my little charlatan.
    – – –
    great tutorials here and we need more people like you to contribute towards better web-design.
    Thanks a million!

  6. Hi Mary Lou, Thanks for sharing your great design skills with us on this page. I have used this Spice up your menu on one of my test pages. All Browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera) display properly. IE 8 does not. When the photo that is supposed to be hidden is half shown before and after hover effect. What do I need to adjust in the css code? Thank you so much… Keith

    • Keith, I’m not sure exactly what issue you are seeing, but it’s most likely due to the fact that CSS3 transitions are not supported in IE8. However, I do think (someone correct me if I’m wrong) that 2D transitions are now supported in IE9. Hope that helps… Snapper

      – โ€“ –
      Excellent trick Mary Lou!

  7. Mary Lou , its a great tutorial. Wooooow! Can anyone please tell me how and where can i get the animated pics like that?

  8. Nice effect, I’m also impressed with the graceful degradation in IE.

    @typ: you talk rubbish. Sorry ๐Ÿ™‚ This code is pretty clean.

  9. Cool animations, liked a lot. The only thing is not working well in IE7/8 but it’s not such a problem.