Additional CSS Resources

Making Web Pages Printable Using CSS

October 4, 2013

printer friendly css

Making Web Pages Printable Using CSS

One of the classic problems with websites, is that they don’t print very well. That means that page elements (text, images, etc.) don’t line up, unwanted images and navigation links get printed – you basically have very little control, in terms of how your web pages look when they are printed.

What is the solution!!

The ‘old-school’ way, was to create separate ‘printable’ pages – this is a big waste of time! Instead, with the power of CSS, you will only need to make a few simple additions to your web pages and they will be printer friendly.

Basic Concepts

  • People will print your pages typically to be able to read the content, not to see pictures. You need to hide all images from the printer and this is done in the print style sheet. I will explain what the print style sheet is in a moment.
  • Navigational elements are not needed in the printed document as well, so all navigational elements should be removed from the printed page.
  • Let’s say you designed your pages with a black background with white text. You don’t want peoples printers printing all that black, they won’t be too happy with the price of ink these days! To solve this problem, in our print style sheet we will set the page color to ‘white’ and the text color to ‘black’.

The Print Style Sheet

I’ve mentioned the ‘print style sheet’ a few times with no explanation; let’s take care of that now. CSS today allows you to link to more than one style sheet in your web page.

The simple reason you would want to do this, is so that you could have the HTML page ‘change’ its appearance automatically when someone visits your page with a particular type of device. These types of devices can include typical desktop computers, iPhones, Android phones, iPads and printers … among other devices!

It works like this; when you link a style sheet to your HTML page, there is an attribute that you can specify in the CSS link tag that tells the device reading your page if it should use the style sheet specified in the link.

So the wise men and women that came up with the CSS specification, came up with a few ideas for device types that could be specified in the CSS link. For the sake of this short article we are concerned with only two of them:

  1. screen
  2. print

Here’s a sample pair of CSS links that point to different style sheets, one for the printer to use and the other for a normal PC monitor to use:

<link href="CSS/webdesignersHanbook_Print.css" 
rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="print"> 
<link href="CSS/webdesignersHanbook_1.css" 
rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen">

You can see that these CSS links are actually taken from the Handbook on What you’re looking for in the link is this text:


… and:


The first (‘media=”print”‘) points to the style sheet that has been set up for printing while the other (media=”screen”) is set up for normal PC monitors. Nowadays most browsers know that if someone tries to print the page the style marked with: ‘media=”print”‘ should be used.

So now we know how to tell the browser which style sheet to use when printing the HTML page, so what is different in the print style sheet that makes this work?

There are all kinds of things you can do, but the easiest is just to wrap HTML and images (you don’t want printed) with div tags and give all those div tags an ID of a style that is set to:

display: none


Ok, the best way to understand this, is to see it work. Create a simple HTML page and create a new style sheet and call it: print.css. In that style sheet you insert this code:

 .noPrint { 
          display: none; 

Now in your HTML pages, just wrap DIVs around elements you don’t want printed:

 <div class='noPrint'> 
 <p>Text that I don't want printed.</p> 

 … Don’t forget to include your CSS links in the of your HTML page! So basically, any elements inside the DIVs that have the class ‘noPrint’ applied to them, won’t print.

Let’s keep moving …

Another thing you should do is make all you text black and your pages white:

    body { 
          font-family: Georgia, "Times New Roman", Times, serif;  
          font-size: 14px;  
          color: #000000;  
          background-color: #FFFFFF;  

Create a Print Button

To close off this tutorial, here is a simple way to create ‘print’ button on your page using just a tiny wee bit of JavaScript:

<a href="#" onClick=" window.print(); return false">Print this page!</a>

Closing Comments

This quick little article is based on an article I wrote in 2003! I’ve made a few minor updates to it … since a few things have changed since then. We should be all good. If you have questions – feel free!

Stefan Mischook