Creative Link Effects

An inspirational collection of experimental link effects mostly using transitions on pseudo-elements.

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Today we’d like to share some experimental and creative link effects with you. The idea is to use pseudo-elements and animate them to create a subtle and modern effect. In the examples we are using hover transitions, but you could also imagine these effects on click or as an initial animation.

Please note that pseudo-element transitions don’t work in every browser. Best viewed in Chrome and Firefox.

In most cases the HTML is simply a nav with some anchors:

<nav class="cl-effect-13">
	<a href="#">Beleaguer</a>
	<a href="#">Lassitude</a>
	<a href="#">Murmurous</a>
	<a href="#">Palimpsest</a>
	<a href="#">Assemblage</a>

But for some special effects we might use a data attribute for repeating the link text in the pseudo-element:

<nav class="cl-effect-11">
	<a href="#" data-hover="Desultory">Desultory</a>
	<a href="#" data-hover="Sumptuous">Sumptuous</a>
	<a href="#" data-hover="Scintilla">Scintilla</a>
	<a href="#" data-hover="Propinquity">Propinquity</a>
	<a href="#" data-hover="Harbinger">Harbinger</a>

We might also use a span in some cases because we want to add perspective to each item or achieve another effect.

<nav class="cl-effect-10">
	<a href="#" data-hover="Seraglio"><span>Seraglio</span></a>
	<a href="#" data-hover="Sumptuous"><span>Sumptuous</span></a>
	<a href="#" data-hover="Scintilla"><span>Scintilla</span></a>
	<a href="#" data-hover="Palimpsest"><span>Palimpsest</span></a>
	<a href="#" data-hover="Assemblage"><span>Assemblage</span></a>

An example for an effect is the following style. It positions a pseudo-element on top of the actual link text and on hover, we’ll make the pseudo-element disappear by scaling it down and making it fade out (structure as in the second html block):

/* Effect 15: scale down, reveal */
.cl-effect-15 a {
	color: rgba(0,0,0,0.2);
	font-weight: 700;
	text-shadow: none;

.cl-effect-15 a::before {
	color: #fff;
	content: attr(data-hover);
	position: absolute;
	transition: transform 0.3s, opacity 0.3s;

.cl-effect-15 a:hover::before,
.cl-effect-15 a:focus::before {
	transform: scale(0.9);
	opacity: 0;

We hope this collection gives you some inspiration for creating some nice effects.

Please note that IE10 doesn’t support transform-style: preserve-3d, a property that is used in some of the examples. Since we can’t test for it yet using Modernizr you can try to use one of the suggested solutions for detecting IE10.

I hope you enjoyed these link effects and find them inspiring!

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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. Hi, I guess the above effects does not work on IE8. What is the fallback mechanism for IE browsers. Please let me know.

    Thanks in advance.

    • I would recommend a fallback CSS for IE. It’s the best option I can think of. You’ll lose that flair, but you’ll make it accessible.

  2. This is by far the most awsome site Ive found ever.. Your Demos amaze me πŸ™‚ Please know I love you for sharing and letting med download, such awsome, jquery and css effects and functions..:)

  3. This is a great way to add effects to the navigation, thank you for this tutorial for some reason
    my daughter loves the smell of fresh peppercorn too. πŸ™‚

  4. These are great! I’m trying to copy and paste the html in Muse, then edit the menu but can’t get the html to paste correctly. Help!!! I love these animations! Any suggestions?

  5. Thanks!! πŸ™‚

    What’s the problem in using two words in the data-hover of cl-effect-5? Only the first one appears…

  6. The links without underlines or outlines don’t look like links until you hover over them. That sucks because:

    1. It requires you to randomly hover over things in hope of finding a link.
    2. You can’t hover on a touch screen.

    Repeat after me: You’re a designer. You are not an artist.

    • This is a juvenile and absurd comment. First of all, this is simply a demonstration intended to serve as inspiration for your own projects.

      1. It would require you to randomly hover over things if you had a cluttered and poorly designed UX. For something like a simple and traditional menu for example, this works wonderfully. Again, this is intended for inspiration – there are plenty of creative applications this could be applied to. Your comment is very short sighted.

      2. Obviously you can’t hover on a touch screen. Guess what? You wouldn’t use this in a touch screen environment then. Shocking!

      You’re a designer. You are not an artist. And you, are absolutely uninspiring and brought nothing of value to this conversation.

  7. Hello,

    Thank you for your work it’s very nice! But I’ve a problem, I m working for my portfolio and I ve two navigations (one on right and one on left) because of the centred logo.

    The code works on the first nav (left) but not on the second(right). Can you help me? :s

    Thank you!

  8. awesome, superb, fantastic, lovely, keep making all these lovely effects and make us feel like flying….

  9. simple stunning !
    fresh example of creative link styles ! thanks for share,
    congrats Mary Lou one more time !

  10. Great stuff, ms Ilic. Hvala for all the great tutorials down the years…
    On cl-effect-11 (my favorite) if one has a multi-word link, data-hover breaks into 2 (or more) lines – falling back into place only after the animation is over. Must be a simple solution, but escapes me. Any suggestions?

  11. Absolutely love it Mary-Lou, my navigation will look much better when i’ve uploaded a redesign, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge πŸ™‚

  12. I don’t know if anyone else is having this issue, but some of the transitions aren’t working in safari. Even though the -webkit code is there.
    The only effect Safari seems to recognize are the rotating ones. Anyone know of a fix?

    • Ouch! Ok thanks a bunch for the response! I noticed some of them are pretty universal though so all is not lost! πŸ™‚