graphic comparison of Tailwind CSS and Emotion

21 August 2023

Tailwind CSS vs Emotion

Irelia Codeheart, Senior Developer

Understanding Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS

In this developer-oriented guide, we'll get a comprehensive understanding of two popular style tools in use today: Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS. We'll discern what they are, and their respective use-cases in a project environment. Let's dive in.

What is Tailwind CSS?

Tailwind CSS is essentially a utility-first CSS framework that provides a set of pre-defined CSS classes you can leverage when styling your HTML elements. This makes it highly customizable and an excellent tool for quick prototyping and in building projects with recurring UI patterns. Another significant advantage is its small file size, making it suitable for performance-critical applications.

The following is a simple example of Tailwind CSS usage in styling an HTML button:

<button class="bg-blue-500 hover:bg-blue-700 text-white font-bold py-2 px-4 rounded">

Each class added to the button element equips it with a specific style, a clear testament to the “utility-first” approach employed by Tailwind CSS.

What is Emotion JS?

Emotion, on the other hand, is a robust library that allows for the composition and use of CSS in JavaScript. It stands out for its provision of fine-grained control over component styles, which makes it well-suited for performance-centric applications. Furthermore, it supports server-side rendering and has a strong supporting community and ecosystem.

As an example, the following is a snippet of how Emotion JS can be used to style a React component:

/** @jsx jsx */
import { jsx, css } from '@emotion/core'

const color = 'darkgreen'

function Button({ children }) {
  return (
        padding: 32px;
        background-color: hotpink;
        font-size: 24px;
        border-radius: 4px;
        color: ${color};

The css function from Emotion JS is used to write CSS in JavaScript, with both string and object styles possible.

How are Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS used in a project?

The choice between Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS boils down to developer preference and specific project requirements. If you prefer working with utility classes, Tailwind CSS is the way to go. On the other hand, Emotion JS is perfect for developers who favor writing CSS in JavaScript.

One intriguing solution some developers swear by is a combination of both Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS. An instance of this can be seen with Babel macros being utilized to integrate Tailwind's class names directly into Emotion's template literals, resulting in a seamless fusion that brings the best of both worlds.

All being said, the choice lies in the hands of the developer and the goals of the project at hand.

In the next section, we will delve deeper into these technologies, examining their respective strengths and weaknesses, and provide a comparative analysis to guide your choice in using either of them.

Please stay tuned.

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Comparing Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS

In this section, we will compare two popular CSS in JS libraries - Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS. We will examine their features, benefits, similarities as well as differences, to help you make an informed decision on which toolset to use for your development projects.

Features and Benefits

To begin with, Emotion JS is a performant and flexible CSS-in-JS library. As a developer, you can write styles in JavaScript, which gives you much more control and dynamism. Emotion guarantees speedy performance and server-side rendering support, ideal for building complex and dynamic user interfaces.

On the other hand, Tailwind CSS, a utility-first CSS framework, provides you with a vast array of pre-defined CSS classes. It's particularly helpful in consistently creating and prototyping responsive designs. The tool is highly customizable and it quickens the CSS styling process remarkably, but it comes with a learning curve.

Differences and Similarities

While both libraries help developers in component styling, they differ in their approach. Emotion JS brings in the power of CSS directly in your JavaScript code, giving you enhanced control over dynamic styles. Tailwind CSS is about applying pre-made classes directly in your HTML markup, which may simplify prototyping and pattern repetition while building UIs.

Despite their differences, both libraries share the goal of making styling more streamlined and efficient. They are both powerful and adaptable, although they cater to different styles of coding.

Tailwind CSS, Emotion and Styled Components

In the world of CSS-in-JS, another contender worth mentioning is Styled Components. Like Emotion, it allows you to leverage the power of JavaScript while writing CSS, with additional features such as theming and a clean API.

To sum up, Emotion and Styled Components would be a match for developers who prefer to have their CSS in JavaScript, while Tailwind CSS might appeal more to those who favor utility classes. Keep in mind that the best toolset for you will depend on your specific project requirements and coding preferences. Each toolset has its strengths, and it is important to choose based on your requirements and personal preferences.

Advantages and Drawbacks

This section will focus on analyzing the pros and cons of both Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS based on the developer's experiences and insights gathered from various sources.

Pros of Tailwind CSS

Primarily, developers show a tendency towards Tailwind CSS due to its utility-first framework nature. With Tailwind, the coding process usually becomes faster since it allows for the reuse of utility classes, which makes CSS scale efficiently and maintains consistency in styling.

A developer mentioned that using Tailwind CSS felt more natural in JavaScript for styling web pages. Predesigned classes in Tailwind covering almost all CSS properties, eliminating the need to write custom CSS.

Tailwind also boasts accessible styles out of the box with its utility classes, reducing the need for additional CSS customization and thus, speeding up the development process.

Cons of Tailwind CSS

However, Tailwind CSS is not without its drawbacks. Some developers have pointed out scalability issues with large projects. The repetitive use of utility classes can sometimes result in bloated HTML, increasing the file size, which can impact the performance of large applications.

Tailwind CSS also lacks component-level styling, which some developers perceive as a limitation, particularly when they need fine-grained control over their components.

Pros of Emotion JS

On the other hand, Emotion JS operates as a CSS-in-JS solution, allowing developers to write CSS directly in JavaScript—eliminating the need for a CSS preprocessor. This setup efficiently handles dynamic styling changes, making it a favourable choice for those who frequently need to make runtime style alterations.

Emotion JS also offers fine-grained control over component-level styling, fitting well for applications needing highly tailored component styles. It is suitable for use with popular technologies like React and Gatsby.

Cons of Emotion JS

Despite its benefits, some developers might find Emotion's JavaScript-centric approach to styling a bit offbeat, particularly if they come from a traditional CSS background. This means there could be a learning curve while transitioning to Emotion JS.

Performance considerations were also expressed in some discussions. While no specific issues were pointed out, careful attention should be taken when dealing with intensive runtime style changes to ensure optimal performance.

In conclusion, both Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS have their own unique benefits and drawbacks. A developer's preference for one over the other may depend on the specifics needs of their project or their comfort level with the respective approaches.

User Experience Insight

In this section, we delve into the experiences developers have had with these libraries and how these tools fare in real-life situations. We will additionally examine some authentic reviews and comments about Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS.

Developer Experiences

Tailwind CSS developers often laud the library's utility-first architecture as a powerful tool for generating unique and aesthetically pleasing styles swiftly. The majority of users who train themselves to use the comprehensive utility classes eventually find that their CSS-writing process has become considerably faster. However, as they add more customizability and flexibility, the learning curve can become steep, especially for those new to utility-first CSS.

On the other hand, Emotion users lean more toward developing dynamic styles naturally within their JavaScript environment. The ability to use CSS as a first-class citizen of the language has allowed Emotion users to take advantage of JavaScript's strengths, like manipulating variables, to propel their CSS writing.

Comparison from real-life aspects

Emotion shines in real-world applications where finer control over styles is needed. By leveraging JavaScript to apply styles, developers have an arsenal of powerful programming tools at their disposal. As a result, Emotion proves very useful on projects with dynamically changing UIs and highly responsive designs.

Tailwind CSS, on the other hand, proves its mettle in projects where a lot of styles get reused throughout the site. Its utility-first approach promotes consistency and speed. Developers have praised Tailwind for enabling them to prototype swiftly and reduce design iterations in real-world scenarios. However, it requires a prominent build step, which might not always be very convenient.

Reviews and Comments

In the wild, developers have been vocal about their experiences with Tailwind CSS and Emotion. After diving through forums and developer communities, the general opinion seems to be that both libraries have a particular niche they fulfill extensively. Developers have expressed that Emotion's strong suit lies in its capability for fine-grained style control, while Tailwind's speed and repeatability are among its most significant advantages.

However, some developers had concerns related to the widespread utility classes of Tailwind CSS, which could lead to verbose class names. Furthermore, some voiced concerns about writing CSS in JavaScript with Emotion, as it can sometimes blur the line between style and logic. The choice, it seems, significantly depends upon the project requirements and personal preferences.

Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS in Action

This section will delve into the practical application of Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS in a real-world context. We will cover setting up and integrating these tools, building a prototype, and discussing a case study.

Setting Up and Integrating Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS

Implementing both Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS into your project initially may seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach, it can be quite straightforward. Here's a simplified setup:

Firstly initialize a new project directory and use npm to install both tailwindcss and @emotion/core packages.

mkdir tailwind-emotion
cd tailwind-emotion
npm init -y
npm install tailwindcss @emotion/core

Then configure Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS by creating a tailwind.config.js file and a .babelrc file respectively in your project's root directory.

For tailwind.config.js it may look something like this:

module.exports = {
  purge: ["./src/**/*.js"],
  theme: {
    extend: {},
  variants: {},
  plugins: [],

And for .babelrc:

  "presets": ["@babel/preset-react"],
  "plugins": ["@emotion"]

Lastly import tailwind/base, tailwind/components, and tailwind/utilities in your App.js or main component file to bring in the Tailwind CSS styles and start using them.

Building with Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS

Once set up and integrated into your project, you can start building your user interface. You'll find that using Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS helps you to be efficient and swift in styling your components.

With Tailwind, you can benefit from several utility classes that are ready to be utilized as needed. For example, rather than writing raw CSS to center elements on the page, you can simply add flex justify-center items-center to your class. Meanwhile, in situations where there's a need for dynamic styling based on conditional factors or states, Emotion JS comes into play. Its powerful CSS-in-JS approach allows you to implement logic inside your styles.

/** @jsx jsx */
import { jsx } from '@emotion/core'

export default function Button({ isActive }) {
  return (
        backgroundColor: isActive ? 'blue' : 'gray',
        ':hover': {
          backgroundColor: 'yellow'
      className="py-2 px-4 text-white font-semibold rounded-lg shadow-md"
      Click Me

The example above demonstrates how to make use of both tools. The layout and typography styles are handled by the Tailwind classes, whereas the dynamic background color switch is managed by Emotion.

Case Study: Dynamic Styles with Emotion JS and Tailwind CSS

A practical example of where Emotion JS and Tailwind CSS can work hand in hand is when creating a toggle switch. With Emotion JS, you're able to change the styles dynamically based on the state of the toggle, while the layout and other static styles can be efficiently handled with Tailwind's utility classes.

/** @jsx jsx */
import { jsx } from '@emotion/core'

export default function Switch({ isOn }) {
  return (
        backgroundColor: isOn ? 'green' : 'red'
      className="relative inline-block w-10 ml-2 transition-colors duration-200 ease-in-out cursor-pointer rounded-full"
      <div className="absolute left-0 top-0 bottom-0 my-1 ml-1 transition-all duration-200 ease-in-out bg-white shadow-md rounded-full w-6 h-6"></div>

In this case, the background color of the switch is altered by Emotion JS, while Tailwind classes manage the overall layout and transition of the switch.

In conclusion, through a blend of Tailwind CSS for static and global style structures and Emotion JS for dynamic, component-specific styles, you can achieve a highly flexible, functional, and aesthetically appealing UI in your application.

Best Practices for Utilizing Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS

Working with Emotion JS

Emotion JS is a performant and flexible CSS-in-JS library. It takes an all-in-one approach, allowing you to write both component-specific styles and global styles.

When defining styles in Emotion, opt for using the "css" prop over the "styled" API, especially for component-level styles. This helps to keep styles co-located with your JavaScript, improving readability and maintainability.

To minimize redundant or verbose styles, utilize Emotion's ability to nest styles akin to SASS. This decreases overall stylesheet size while making your code cleaner and less error-prone.

Working with Tailwind CSS

On the other hand, Tailwind CSS, a utility-first CSS framework, promotes smaller, reusable utility classes over component-specific styles.

A common error developers make when starting with Tailwind is following the traditional CSS approach and creating larger, monolithic classes. Instead, create small utility classes and use @apply directive to compose these classes into complex styles.

Using Tailwind's configuration file (tailwind.config.js), customize your project's color scheme, breakpoints, and typography to match your brand identity and design requirements. Remember, Tailwind is highly customizable, so use this to your advantage.

Combining Emotion JS and Tailwind CSS

Emotion JS and Tailwind CSS can be combined for a solid CSS architecture. Utilizing Tailwind’s utility classes, you create a set of base styles; then, use Emotion to write component-specific styles.

To integrate both, you can also make use of an amazing library, twin.macro. This allows applying Tailwind’s utility classes inside Emotion’s CSS prop or styled-components. It’s a marriage between writing traditional CSS and having utility classes.

Tips for common cases

As a developer, having a standard set of styles, handpicked from Tailwind’s utility classes and using Emotion for component-specific styles, can speed up your development process and ensure uniformity across your application.

Also, leverage the power of Emotion's theme provider to maintain a consistent design language across different components. This also becomes handy in dark mode implementation or multi-theming requirements.

In summary, knowing when to use Emotion JS or Tailwind CSS requires you to understand the unique strength of each, and their synergy can provide a robust styling solution for your applications.

// Bad 
const Button = styled.button`
padding: 8px 12px;
background-color: #673ab7;
color: #fff;
<Button>Click me</Button>

// Good 
const Button = ({children}) => (
        padding: 8px 12px;
        background-color: #673ab7;
        color: #fff;
<Button>Click me</Button>

Use Emotion’s "css" prop for component-level styles and Tailwind’s utility classes for standard application-wide styles.

Choosing the Right Tool: Tailwind CSS vs Emotion JS

In the vast universe of modern web development, developers inevitably face the task of deciding which tools to use. In our case, we're looking at Emotion JS and Tailwind CSS – both solid choices, but each with its own strengths and ideal use-cases. Your project's requirements and your own personal preferences will be key determinants of which tool will serve you better.

When to Use Emotion JS

Emotion JS shines brightest when you're dealing with dynamic and complex user interfaces. This is largely due to its ability to write CSS in JavaScript, offering fine-grained control over component styles. Moreover, it's light, fast, and has good community support – all essential qualities for a developer tool. If your project requires advanced state-dependent styles or involves a lot of React-based interactions, Emotion JS might be your best pick.

When to Use Tailwind CSS

On the other hand, Tailwind CSS is a great choice when your project involves prototyping or repetitive UI patterns. As a utility-first CSS framework, it offers a host of predefined CSS classes, leading to accelerated styling processes and, most importantly, faster prototyping. It might have a bit of a learning curve and requires a build step, but the pay-off is extensive control over styling and a highly responsive design.

Combining Tailwind CSS and Emotion JS in projects

Interestingly, Emotion JS and Tailwind CSS aren't mutually exclusive. Combining Emotion's CSS-in-JS approach with Tailwind's utility-first classes can lead to a well-rounded, efficient styling solution. The use-cases mentioned above about writing dynamic styles with JavaScript in Emotion and achieving consistent, scalable designs with Tailwind remain. Only, now you'd be using them together, catering to a wider range of project needs. Of course, successfully blending these two will require some experience and finesse.

In summary, your choice among Emotion JS, Tailwind CSS, and even the possibility of using them in conjunction, will depend on the nature of your project and your familiarity with each tool. Remember to think of these tools' strengths, community support, and your project's specific styling needs.

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