Rem Font Sizing

I love using rem units for font-sizing on my web pages. It makes responsiveness much easier to implement, and you cannot get tangled up in a mess of nested ems. In fact, have a look at the source code of this blog — rem everywhere! The easiest way to use rems is to set the base font-size to 62.5%.

body {
    font-size: 62.5%;

This changes the base font size from 16px to 10px, if the user hasn’t globally overridden it in their browser. This means 1.4rem is equal to 14px! Want to make text 16px big? Just set the font-size of your element to 1.6rem!

This approach has one problem though: Sometimes (I am not sure why), Google Chrome renders the page with the font size set to 100%, ignoring the font-size : 62.5% declaration. To fix this issue, I wrote a short Sass mixin which makes the base font size change irrelevant. It also adds a px fallback for older browsers that do not support rems, and works for all properties, from font-size over line-height to padding.

@mixin rem($property, $value) {
    #{$property}: #{$value}px;
    #{$property}: #{$value * 0.0625}rem;

To use it, @include the mixin like this:

.some-element {
    @include rem(font-size, 16);
    @include rem(line-height, 24);

which compiles to

.some-element {
    font-size: 16px;
    font-size: 1rem;
    line-height: 24px;
    line-height: 1.5rem;

This eliminates the need to set the body font-size to 62.5%!

Hope this post made the rem unit a bit clearer, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter!

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