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How to Best Navigate Spacing with Tailwind Space Between


In the fast-evolving world of web development, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. Tailwind CSS, a utility-first CSS framework, has gained immense popularity for its simplicity, flexibility, and efficiency. One of its standout features is the robust system it provides for managing margins and padding. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the Tailwind space between utility, exploring how it can be harnessed to elevate your web design skills and create visually stunning layouts.

The space-between utility has various classes, such as space-x-<value> and space-y-<value>, where x represents the X-axis (Horizontal) and y represents the Y-axis (Vertical). These utilities introduce both horizontal and vertical spacing between children’s elements within a container. When combined with flex or grid containers, the “space-between” utility, can be a powerful tool, effortlessly distributing space between child elements for clean and responsive layouts.

How does Tailwind Space between utility classes work?

The space-between utility classes work by using the margin CSS property to create space between children’s elements within its container. The implementation goes by using the child selector (>) followed by two universal selectors (*) to select all the child elements within a container, applying spacing between each child element.

In essence, the space-between utility classes can be achieved like this in CSS:

.space-y-5 > * + * {
   margin-top: 1.25rem; /*20px*/

.space-x-5 > * + * {
   margin-left: 1.25rem; /*20px*/

Depending on the value of the utility class name “space-x-<value>” the margin property value also changes. If the value changes to 4 then the margin property value would be 1rem. But what do the selectors (> * + *) do exactly?


“>”: this is the child selector, which selects all elements that are the children of a specified element.

“*”: This part of the selector represents any element. The asterisk (*) is a wildcard that matches any HTML element.

“+”: The plus sign is the adjacent sibling combinator. It selects an element that is immediately preceded by a specified element.

“*”: Similar to the first asterisk, this represents any element.

Putting it all together, (> * + *) selects any element that is a sibling immediately following another element in a parent element. In other words, it targets every element (except the first) that has the same parent as another element.

With Tailwind css, we get a set of utility classes with good values which prevents us from coming up with the values ourselves.

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How to Add Vertical Space Between Child Elements?

In Tailwind, you can introduce vertical spacing between elements by applying the “space-y-<value>” class directly to the respective HTML elements. This class effectively adds space along the y-axis, ensuring a visually appealing vertical separation between the elements.


<div class="space-y-<value>">


  <div class="space-y-5">
    <div class="w-full bg-sky-500 text-white text-center p-4 rounded-xl font-bold text-2xl">1</div>
    <div class="w-full bg-sky-500 text-white text-center p-4 rounded-xl font-bold text-2xl">1</div>
    <div class="w-full bg-sky-500 text-white text-center p-4 rounded-xl font-bold text-2xl">1</div>


How to Add Horizontal Space Between Child Elements?

In Tailwind, you can include horizontal spacing between elements by utilizing the “space-x-<value>” class on the relevant HTML element. This class effectively introduces space along the x-axis, facilitating a visually appealing horizontal gap between the elements.


<div class="space-x-<value>">


<div class="flex space-x-5">
    <div class="w-full bg-sky-500 text-white text-center p-4 rounded-xl font-bold text-2xl">1</div>
    <div class="w-full bg-sky-500 text-white text-center p-4 rounded-xl font-bold text-2xl">2</div>
    <div class="w-full bg-sky-500 text-white text-center p-4 rounded-xl font-bold text-2xl">3</div>


Utilising negative values

Leveraging negative values in Tailwind’s “space-between” utility enables the strategic use of space manipulation. To implement a negative space value, prefix the class name with a dash (-) to transform it into a negative value.


<div class="flex -space-x-3">
  <img src="..." class="..." />
  <img src="..." class="..." />
  <img src="..." class="..." />


Full Code Example

  <div class="flex -space-x-3">
<img src="https://www.publicbooks.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/joel-mott-LaK153ghdig-unsplash-scaled-e1574787737429-810x625.jpg" class="w-10 h-10 rounded-full bg-contain bg-center" alt="">
      <img src="https://wl-brightside.cf.tsp.li/resize/728x/webp/32d/f15/b6c9025fa5b67f21f226705882.jpg.webp" class="w-10 h-10 rounded-full bg-center" alt="">
      <div class="h-10 w-10 rounded-full bg-gray-500 "></div>

Reverse order space between

If your elements are arranged in reverse order (using, for example, flex-row-reverse or flex-col-reverse), use the space-x-reverse or space-y-reverse utilities to guarantee that the space is applied appropriately to the respective side of each element.


<div class="flex flex-row-reverse space-x-4 space-x-reverse ...">
  <div class="...">1</div>
  <div class="...">2</div>
  <div class="...">3</div>


Using Arbitrary Values

Arbitrary values allow you to break out of Tailwind css predefined values, so you spacify the x and y values yourself. Example

<div class="space-x-[40px]"></div>

<div class="space-y-[40px]"></div>

Theme customization for Space Between

Tailwind CSS uses a default spacing scale for its space utilities. However, youwe have have the flexibility to tailor this scale to our needs by modifying the theme.spacing or theme.extend.spacing within your tailwind.config.js file, allowing for a personalized spacing configuration in our project.

// tailwind.config.js
module.exports = {
  theme: {
    extend: {
      spacing: {
        '15px': '15px',

To utilise the new value we do this:

<div class="space-x-15px">

Variant modifiers with Space Between

Variant modifiers in Tailwind CSS are powerful tools for applying styles conditionally based on various factors. They allow you to tailor your styling to specific situations and contexts, improving flexibility and code organization. We’ll go over two variants modifiers that work nicely with the space between utility classes, state modifies and responsive modifiers.

States Modifiers

State modifiers in Tailwind CSS allow you to conditionally apply styles based on different user interactions or element states. They provide a way to create dynamic and responsive designs that adapt to user behavior.

Common State Modifiers:

  • hover: for styles on hover

  • focus: for styles when an element is focused

  • group-hover: for styles when a sibling element is hovered

To see a comprehensive list of all available state modifiers, refer to TailwindCSS documentation on Hover, Focus, & Other States.


<div class="flex -space-x-3">
  <img src="..." class="..." />
  <img src="..." class="..." />
  <img src="..." class="..." />


Responsive modifiers

Responsive modifiers offer the flexibility to target media queries such as responsive breakpoints, to apply styles conditionally based on the screen size. For example, use md:space-x-10 to apply the space-x-10 utility at only medium screen sizes and above.

<div class="flex space-x-3 md:space-x-10">
  <!-- ... -->

Gotcha using the space between utility classes

TailwindCSS Space between utilities is great as a shortcut for applying margins to all elements except the first one within a parent element. However, they may not be well-suited for handling intricate scenarios, such as grid layouts, wrapping layouts, or instances where the children are rendered dynamically, where the order changes.


<div class="flex space-x-4 space-y-4 flex-wrap">
    <div class="w-[40%] bg-sky-500 ...">1</div>
    <div class="w-[40%] bg-sky-500 ...">2</div>
    <div class="w-[40%] bg-sky-500 ...">3</div>
    <div class="w-[40%] bg-sky-500 ...">4</div>
    <div class="w-[40%] bg-sky-500 ...">5</div>
    <div class="w-[40%] bg-sky-500 ...">6</div>


Looking at the image above, you can tell that using the space between utility classes isn’t suitable, in this case, the gap utility classes would have been more suitable.

Another gotcha using the space between utilities is that the divide utilities cannot be paired along with it, so in situations, you’ll need to specify either margin/padding utilities to the children instead.

Best practices using space between utility

1. Understand When to Use Them:

  • Best for simple, evenly spaced elements: Space between utilities excel in quickly applying consistent margins between elements within a container.

  • Consider alternatives for complex layouts: If you’re dealing with intricate grid layouts, wrapping elements, or dynamically rendered content, explore other spacing methods like gap or individual margins.

2. Apply to Parent Elements:

  • Add classes to the parent container: Apply space-x-<value> or space-y-<value> classes to the parent element, not directly to the child elements.

3. Maintain Consistency:

  • Stick to a defined spacing scale: Use a consistent set of spacing values throughout your project to create a cohesive look and feel.

  • Customize the scale if needed: Adjust the default spacing values in your tailwind.config.js file to match your design preferences.

4. Combine with Other Utilities:

  • Create diverse layouts: Pair space between utilities with other Tailwind classes like flex, grid, justify-content, and align-items for more intricate arrangements.

5. Ensure Responsiveness:

  • Adapt for different screen sizes: Use responsive modifiers like sm:, md:, lg:, and xl: to tailor spacing for various devices.

Here’s a video all about Tailwind css space between utlility

Frequently Asked Questions

What are space between utilities?

  • They are classes in Tailwind CSS that create margins between elements, specifically between sibling elements within a parent container.

  • They provide a streamlined way to add consistent spacing without writing individual margin rules.

How do I use Space Between utilities in Tailwind CSS?

  • Apply the space-between utility class to the parent container. This automatically adds spacing between the child elements.

When should I use them?

  • Ideal for simple, evenly spaced elements: They are excellent for quickly adding margins to elements that are arranged in a linear fashion and don’t require complex layout adjustments.

  • Consider alternatives for intricate layouts: For grid layouts, wrapping elements, or dynamically rendered content, explore options like the gap utility or individual margins for more control.

How do I use them?

  1. Apply to the parent container: Add the space-x-<value> class for horizontal spacing or space-y-<value> class for vertical spacing to the parent element that holds the elements you want to space.

  2. Choose the spacing amount: Replace {amount} with a value from Tailwind’s spacing scale (e.g., space-x-4, space-y-8).

What are the limitations of Space Between utilities?

  • While excellent for common use cases, Space Between utilities may face challenges in handling complex layouts, such as grids, wrapping layouts, or situations where children are dynamically rendered with changing orders.

Wrapping Up Space between Utility Classes

In conclusion, Tailwind CSS Space Between utility classes offers a convenient solution for achieving consistent spacing between elements within a parent container. By applying the space-x-<value>, or space-y-<value> utility classes, you can easily enhance the visual appeal of your layouts. While these utilities excel in common use cases, it’s essential to recognize their limitations in handling more complex scenarios, such as grids or dynamic rendering orders which we’ve mentioned in this article.

To leverage these utilities effectively, consider customization options available through the Tailwind configuration file. Whether you’re working on responsive designs or exploring negative values for precise adjustments, the Space Between utilities provides a versatile tool for crafting well-spaced and visually appealing web layouts.

To learn more about TailwindCSS space between utility classes, here are some references:

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