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How to add multiple styles to an element with vanilla JS

Earlier this week, Tim Kamanin tweeted an article about how to add multiples styles to an element with JavaScript.

At the time, I snarkily commented:

Use CSS instead?

Despite me being kind of an asshole, Tim engaged in a really sincere conversation with me about his approach. Tyler Williams added some additional commentary that was interesting, too.

Let’s dig into Tim’s approach, my preferred way of handling this, and a third way that kind of meets in the middle.

Tim’s approach

In jQuery, you can add a bunch of styles at once with the css() method. In vanilla JS, you can add styles with the property, but have to add them one-by-one.

Tim has a really clever way of handling this: use the Object.assign() method on the property.

// Get the element
var button = document.querySelector('button');

// Setup the styles object
var styles = {
    backgroundColor: 'red',
    color: 'white',
    padding: '20px'

// Add the styles to the element
Object.assign(, styles);

My approach

Typically, I’d recommend declaring those styles as CSS in a CSS file, like this.

.btn {
	background-color: "red";
	color: "white";
	padding: "20px";

Then, I would add that class to the element with the classList API.

// Get the element
var button = document.querySelector('button');

// Add the class

So, why wouldn’t you use this approach?

Tim and Tyler brought up a few use cases I hadn’t considered:

  • Bookmarklets, where loading a stylesheet isn’t an option
  • Client projects where the client does not give you access to their stylesheet

A third way

I’ve had to do something like this before with a JS plugin that loaded just a bit of CSS to be used by multiple elements.

Instead of style elements directly, I created a style element, injected it into the header, and then used my preferred approach above to add classes to the elements.

First, let’s setup our styles as a JavaScript string.

var styles =
	'.btn {' +
		'background-color: "red";' +
		'color: "white";' +
		'padding: "20px";' +

Then, we get the head element, create a style element, and add our styles into it.

// Create styles
var styles =
	'.btn {' +
		'background-color: "red";' +
		'color: "white";' +
		'padding: "20px";' +

// Get the head element
var head = document.head || document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0];

// Inject styles into the DOM
var div = document.createElement('div');
div.innerHTML = '<p>x</p><style>' + styles + '</style>';

Major thanks to Tim and Tyler for pointing out why my snarky position might not always make sense and being really cool about engaging with me.