iPhone Buttons without Border Images

Works in Safari, Chrome, iPhone, iPad, Android

There are five frameworks for mobile Webkit Web app development: iUI, UiUIKit, iWebKit, jqTouch and Sencha. All of these frameworks provide a simple way to implement a common interface feature of the iPhone, the slightly translucent buttons used for implementing actions. By using the CSS3 border image property it becomes trivial to use a highly compact graphic as a border image to create the visual effect of a glossy, translucent button. It’s also economical because the images are single pieces. Here are the three main ones:

White Translucent ButtonBlack Translucent ButtonBlue Translucent Button

Using the CSS3 border image property, we can create fancy buttons that are dynamic. Here’s the necessary CSS:

.plasticButton {
	cursor: pointer;
	margin: 5px;	
	text-align: center;
	color: #ffffff;
	font: bold 16px/20px Helvetica, sans-serif;
	text-decoration: none;
	text-shadow: 1px 1px 1px #000;
	text-transform: capitalize;
	display: inline-block;
	font-size: 16px;
	border-width: 0 14px;
	padding: 12px 0px;
	min-width: 110px;
.plasticButton.white {
	color: #000;
	text-shadow: #fff 0px 1px 1px;
	-webkit-border-image: url(whiteButton.png) 0 14 0 14;
.plasticButton.gray {
	color: #fff;			
	text-shadow: #333 0px 1px 1px;
	-webkit-border-image: url(grayButton.png) 0 14 0 14;
.plasticButton:hover, .plasticButton.hover {
	color: #fff;
	text-shadow: #333 0px 1px 1px;
	-webkit-border-image: url(blueButton.png) 0 14 0 14;

This would give us buttons like these:
Example of translucent buttons using the border image property

Not too bad. Well, except for the images. What if we need to change the color of the buttons for a custom theme? These images are not easily modified in Photoshop. Without Apple releasing the original artwork for use by the general public, there is no way to fine tune them for different color schemes. Also, if you intend on using them in a Web app, you’ve got to include them in a cache.manifest, etc. After thinking about all the niggling aspects of buttons using border images, I started thinking about how I could reproduce their look using just the CSS3 features we have now. Here is what I came up with. All you need is a border-radius, a border, a gradient, a box-shadow and a text shadow:

.button.black {
	display: inline-block;
	-webkit-border-radius: 12px;
	-webkit-box-shadow: 2px 2px 3px #999; 
	border: solid 3px rgb(110,110,110);
	background-image: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, from(rgba(74,74,74,0.85)), color-stop(0.5, rgba(20,20,20,0.75)), color-stop(0.5, rgba(2,2,2,0.75)), to(rgba(14,14,14,0.75))); 
	color: #fff;
	text-shadow: #000 0 1px 0;
	font: bold 16px/20px Helvetica, Sans-serif;
	padding: 9px 11px;
.button.black:hover, .button.black.hover {
	background-image: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, from(rgba(135,148,203,0.85)), color-stop(0.5, rgba(34,56,159,0.75)), color-stop(0.5, rgba(0,27,145,0.75)), to(rgba(2,59,152,0.65)));  
	color: #fff;
	text-shadow: #000 0 1px 0;
	-webkit-box-shadow: inset rgba(207,207,255,0.75) 0px 1px 1px;

Because the gradients values use rbga colors with alpha values, they are slightly translucent. By changing the values of the gradient, you can easily create different colored buttons. I’ve upload a working example, and you can also download the code. Do so and play around with the values. I’ve included a number of different default colors: black, white, red, green, gold and blue. You can make other yourself.


About Robert Biggs
Front end Web developer skilled at creating interactive, dynamic interfaces using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, SVG. Passionate about developing awesome user experiences in the mobile space.

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