Margin vs Padding: Easy Guide

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Updated On: June 4th, 2020 0 Comments

I have written this margin vs padding tutorial for non-techies. So, if you are expecting any kind of CSS tips or snippets, this tutorial is not for you.

Margin and padding are technical CSS terms in the world of a Web Page. And, in this guide, I will break them down for you in layman’s terms.

Simply put, both margin and padding create space around the elements of a web page in general.

Margin vs Padding: The Difference

The only difference is, padding creates space inside of an element and margin creates space outside of an element.

Let’s try to understand the margin first. If you understand the margin, you’ll understand the padding easily.

What is margin in CSS

If you notice, there are 8 elements with a blue color border in the above image and there is no gap (margin) in between them. They are just glued together like tiles.

But if we add 10px of margin to each of those 8 elements, there is a noticeable gap between them. And, this kind of gap is called the margin.

As I said before, the margin creates space outside of an element creating a gap between two separate elements.

If we watch more closely, each element has 10px of margin on the top, right, bottom and left sides of it. Since each element has 10px of the surrounding margin, the total margin combined between two side-by-side elements is 20px.

Here is another real-world example of the margin. See the gap between pink bordered elements? That is margin too.

Also, it is important to remember that you don’t have to apply the margin on all four sides. If you want to create some space between two vertically stacked elements, you can apply margin only to the bottom side of the elements.

or Vice versa:

You get the idea, right?

You are free to apply margin on any side of the element. It is not mandatory to apply the margin on all sides.

Sometimes you just apply it to the left side of the element and sometimes only on the bottom side. It just depends.

What is padding in CSS

As I said before, padding is used to create space inside of an element rather than the outside of the element like margin.

Here is an example of an element without padding. Keep an eye on the element with the black background color (the element with an open book and a form)

And here is the same element with padding applied to it:

See the difference?

Here is another example of an element without padding:

See how the text content inside the card glued to the border?

Now, the same cards with padding applied to its text content.

This kind of space inside an element is called padding. That’s it. Nothing complicated at all.

Also, if you notice, the border of an element comes in between margin and padding of that element.

So, whenever you are confused with margin or padding, just think of the border of the element and ask yourself this question:

“Do I need to create space outside the border or inside the border?”

If the answer is inside the border, go with padding without hesitation. That is what padding is there for.

The padding is usually applied to the parent element with a background color to create some space around its content.

“Parent element, what?”

Relationship between Parent and its child elements

When it comes to a web page, there are parent elements and their child elements.

Simply put, the parent element is a container of the child elements.

Padding and margin work the same way for both child and parent elements.

Note: Child elements do not inherit the margin or padding from their element. If you want some space between child elements, you have to apply the margin separately for the individual elements.

Here is the real-world example of parent elements and their child elements. Parent elements are represented with a pink border and their child elements with a yellow border.

As you can see, you need to create space in between child elements too and you have to use margin or padding for that.

In fact, Margin and padding can be applied to each and every element on a web page.

Note: All most all the browsers add default margin-bottom for headings and paragraphs. You should be aware of this.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Most people get confused with the difference between margin and padding.

And, I hope this article clears your confusion.

This article is written for non-techies who use WordPress page builders like Elementor, Divi, Beaver builder, etc.

These page builders come with a lot of options that let you control both margin and padding and most of the non-techies get intimidated by these options.

As you have seen in this margin vs padding tutorial, there is nothing to get intimidated about. They are just non-destructive options.

If you use WordPress and you are not familiar with Elementor, I have written an in-depth tutorial about Elementor and you can read it here:
https://www.usablewp.com/elementor-tutorial/

And, if you want to create a website without touching a single piece of code, please read the following article:
https://www.usablewp.com/how-to-create-a-wordpress-website/

If you are still confused about the difference, I am really sorry that I couldn’t clear your confusion. Here are some other great resources on the web that talks about the same topic:
https://visualcomposer.com/blog/padding-vs-margin-explained/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGI_FeBvjGE

And that’s it. I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them using the comment section below <3

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