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Kurapati Mahesh
Kurapati Mahesh

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Why transform:translate(-50%, -50%) to center element?

Centering div or any element is the mostly asked question in CSS interviews. I am not going to write what are the different ways to achieve this. But, While I was doing this I observed that transform:translateY(-50%, -50%) is used. I was little curious and wanted to know what it is actually doing.

Here is what I observed:

centering any element includes parent and child elements where child element is centered w.r.t parent.

<div class="parent">
  <div class="child"></div>

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.parent {
    position: relative;
    border: 1px solid green;
    display: inline-block;
    padding: 25px;

  .child {
    position: absolute;
    top: 50%;
    left: 50%;
    transform: translate(-50%, -50%);
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Without transform: translate(-50%, -50%);

Image description

Here parent div is circle and the child is number 1.

As we set top and left is 50% for child resulting in placing 50% from parent top and 50% from parent left. It will show like above because starting of child starts after 50%, 50% but to make it center we need to apply transform: translate(-50%, -50%);. This moves the child element back up a distance of half of the height and width. As it will make child element matches exactly to the middle of parent.

After adding transform: translate(-50%, -50%);

Image description


Top comments (2)

leopold profile image

Are there still reasons to use this technique in 2023 instead of flexbox or grid ?

devdufutur profile image
Rudy Nappée

Centering overlays (dialogs, sticky bars, ...) for instance