Flexbox

Use flexbox for precise alignment and stacking control when designing layouts.

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Flexbox, also known as flex or flexible box layout, lets you align elements in a box. Flexbox offers layout control in 1 dimension — either vertically or horizontally. It is a display setting, which means you can set flexbox on other elements.

In this lesson, you’ll learn about:

  1. Flex parents and children
  2. Flex parent settings
  3. Flex child settings

Flex parents and children

When you set flexbox on an element, you typically set it on a parent element, so you have control over the alignment of children elements. A parent element using flexbox is also known as the “flex parent.” A direct child element of a flex parent is also known as a “flex child.”

You can create a flex parent out of any element that contains other elements. To create a flex parent:

  1. Select the element (e.g., section, div block) on the canvas
  2. Go to Style panel > Layout > Display
  3. Click Flex

Unlike other display settings, enabling flex on a parent element affects the layout of the direct child elements. By default, children align left and stack horizontally when you enable flexbox on a parent element. You can adjust this display in flex parent settings.

Note: Elements set to flexbox won’t affect the layout of the children within their direct child elements.

Flex parent settings

Once you set flexbox on a parent element, you’ll have various layout options for the flex parent and its child elements:

Set or reverse the direction

Flex parents lay out their content in a left-to-right horizontal direction by default. To set the direction, select the flex parent and go to Style panel > Layout > Direction and choose either horizontal or vertical (each represented with “arrow” icons).

You can also reverse the direction of the flex children inside the flex parent. Select the flex parent, go to Style panel > Layout > Direction, and click the dropdown arrow to open the Wrap dropdown. There, you can choose Right to left > Single row or Bottom to top > Single column. This flips the order of your flex children, so the first element is now last, the second element is now second to last, etc. Reversing the flex parent’s direction is useful for right-to-left sites or when designing on smaller breakpoints.

Note: If you reverse the direction of your flex parent, the position of flex children in the document order doesn’t change. This means that the visual order and DOM order of elements won’t match, which can be confusing for site visitors.

Wrap or reverse wrap flex children

In the Wrap dropdown, you’ll find options that combine direction and wrap controls. By default, flex children will try to fit on a single line, overflowing the flex parent if necessary. You can change that by wrapping the children. Select the flex parent, go to Style panel > Layout > Direction, and click the dropdown arrow to open the Wrap dropdown.

There, you can choose from a number of Wrap options depending on how you want to arrange your content:

  • Left to right > Wrap down — wraps flex children that would overflow the parent to a new line below
  • Left to right > Wrap up — wraps flex children that would overflow the parent to a new line above
  • Right to left > Wrap down — reverses the order of the flex children and wraps any children that would overflow the parent to a new line below
  • Right to left > Wrap up — reverses the order of the flex children and wraps any children that would overflow the parent to a new line above
  • Top to bottom > Wrap right — wraps flex children that would overflow the parent to a new column to the right
  • Top to bottom > Wrap left — wraps flex children that would overflow the parent to a new column to the left
  • Bottom to top > Wrap right — reverses the order of the flex children and wraps any children that would overflow the parent to a new column to the right
  • Bottom to top > Wrap left — reverses the order of the flex children and wraps any children that would overflow the parent to a new column to the left

Align flex children

You can align multiple rows or columns of flex children in Style panel > Layout > Align.

The align box (i.e., the 3 x 3 grid) lets you quickly align flex children inside the flex parent. The X and Y axis dropdowns reflect the value you set inside the align box. Learn more about the align box.

Note that some options aren’t available through the align box alone, but you can access these using the X and Y axis dropdowns.

X axis dropdown

The X axis dropdown provides the following alignment options:

  • Left — flex children are aligned to the left of the flex parent
  • Center — flex children are centered inside the flex parent
  • Right — flex children are aligned to the right of the flex parent
  • Space between — flex children are evenly distributed from the right and left edges (this is only available on the X axis if the flex parent direction is set to horizontal)
  • Space around — flex children are evenly distributed between other rows and edges (this is only available on the X axis if the flex parent direction is set to horizontal)
  • Stretch — flex children stretch to fill empty horizontal space (this is only available on the X axis if the flex parent direction is vertical)
  • Baseline — flex children are aligned to their baselines, or the invisible line that text sits on (this is only available on the X axis if the flex parent direction is vertical)

Y axis dropdown

The Y axis dropdown provides the following alignment options:

  • Top — flex children are aligned to the top of the flex parent
  • Center — flex children are centered inside the flex parent
  • Bottom — flex children are aligned to the bottom of the flex parent
  • Space between — flex children are evenly distributed from the top and bottom edges (this is only available on the Y axis if the flex parent direction is set to vertical)
  • Space around — flex children are evenly distributed between other rows and edges (this is only available on the Y axis if the flex parent direction is set to vertical)
  • Stretch — flex children stretch to fill empty vertical space (this is only available on the Y axis if the flex parent direction is horizontal)
  • Baseline — flex children are aligned to their baselines, or the invisible line that text sits on (this is only available on the Y axis if the flex parent direction is horizontal)

Add gaps between flex children

Gaps let you specify the space between flex child elements without having to add margin or padding. To adjust the gap size between columns and rows, select the flex parent and go to Style panel > Layout > Gap.

By default, gaps between columns and rows are locked. This means that if you change the gap size for columns, the gap size for rows automatically adjusts to the same number. You can click the “lock” icon to independently adjust the gap between columns and rows.

Pro tip: To quickly increase or decrease gap sizes, drag the Gap slider or hold down Option (on Mac) or Alt (on Windows) and drag your mouse left or right over the columns or rows field.

Flex child settings

The default layout of flex children is based on the flex layout settings set on the flex parent. However, you can override these settings for a flex child:

Change the size of a flex child

You can adjust the sizing of a flex child by selecting the child, then going to Style panel > Flex child > Sizing. There are 4 options for sizing:

  • Shrink flex child if needed (to prevent overflow)
  • Grow flex child if possible
  • Don’t shrink or grow flex child
  • Custom grow and shrink behavior

If all flex children are set to either Grow if possible, Shrink if needed, or Don’t shrink or grow, any remaining space after they have been sized will be distributed evenly to the children set to Grow if possible.

Shrink if needed

Shrink if needed lets you size a flex child based on its width and height properties (or the content inside the flex child, if width and height are not set). This makes the flex child inflexible when there is free space left but allows it to shrink to its minimum when there is not enough space.

Grow if possible

Grow if possible lets flex children grow if there is space to do so. This lets the flex children absorb any extra space in the flex parent.

Don’t shrink or grow

Don’t shrink or grow lets you size the flex child according to its width/height properties, and makes it fully inflexible. The flex child is not allowed to grow or shrink, even in an overflow situation.

Customize grow and shrink behavior

You can also choose to fully customize the grow and shrink behavior of a child element. This determines how much the flex child shrinks or grows relative to other child elements in the flex parent.

The Grow value defines how much the flex child can grow relative to other child elements when free space inside the parent element is distributed. If the value is set to 0, it won’t grow larger than it needs to.

The Shrink value defines how much a flex child can shrink relative to other children when negative free space is distributed. If the value is set to 0, it won’t shrink, even in overflow situations.

The Basis value determines the default size of an element before flex-grow or flex-shrink come into play. You can set this to a specific dimension (e.g., 20%, 250px, etc.) or Auto. If set to Auto, the default size of a flex child will be based on its width or height — if set — or its content. If the basis value is set to a specific dimension, the content or width/height of an element will be ignored and the flex child will share the size with other flex children in the same flex parent.

Change the alignment of a flex child

You can adjust the alignment of a flex child by selecting the child, then going to Style panel > Flex child > Alignment and order. There are 6 options for alignment:

  • Auto (the default value)
  • Top
  • Center
  • Bottom
  • Stretch
  • Baseline
Note: You can also use auto margin to align flex children.

Change the order of a flex child

By default, flex children display in the order that they are placed in the source code (you can view this order in the Navigator). Reordering flex children comes in handy if you want to adjust your design on different breakpoints.

To override the default order of a flex child, select the child and go to Style panel > Flex child > Order. There are 6 options for ordering:

  • Don’t change — keep the flex child in its default place
  • First — the flex child appears first in the flex parent
  • Last — the flex child appears last in the flex parent
  • Customize order — control the display order of several flex children by defining custom order values

You can define custom order with a number, which specifies the order in which the flex child appears inside the flex parent. Flex children sharing the same custom order value are laid out in the order they were originally placed.

When using custom order, don’t use First or Last to specify the first or last child elements. First sets the flex child’s order to -1, and Last sets the flex child’s order to 1. When using custom order, any number greater than 1 will place the flex child after any flex child with order set to Last. Any number smaller than -1 will place the flex child before any element set to First.

Note: If you change the order of flex children, their position in the document order doesn’t change. This means that the visual order and DOM order of elements won’t match, which can be confusing for site visitors.

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