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CSS Margin VS Padding: How to Easily Differentiate?

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CSS Margin VS Padding: How to Differentiate? One Search Pro Digital Marketing Agency Malaysia

Both margin and padding are two words you have probably come across if you are familiar with CSS.

However, the meaning may not be as clear-cut as many people assume.

In fact, a majority of people may know how to define them but are clueless on how to implement them in website designs, and that’s what I aim to address today.

We are going to explore what margin vs padding are in relation to regular or minimalist website design.

We will look at their differences, similarities, how and when to use them, how to create each with CSS, and any other relevant information that may add value.

So stick to the end and learn a thing or two on the subject at hand to expand your knowledge a little bit.

Overview of The Topic: Margin VS Padding

How a website looks is just as important as what it contains. Your website may have unbeatable information, but all that will amount to nothing if it has an mediocre interface with all website elements scattered around.

To counter this, you will need to design everything while paying attention to the margin and padding properties.

This is why understanding what padding vs margin is all about is vital.


CSS Margin | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
A complete display of a CSS margin.

A margin, as used in website development, is the space around an element like an image, body content, headline, navigation on a website page. It is that distinct space between the edge or border of one element and the next. In simple language, a margin surrounds an element.

Margins are designed to surround a piece of content and are part of the CSS box model that encompasses all the HTML element features. The size of the margin property is something you can decide and change at any time when designing a website.

CSS margins have properties that are used to define the space that is found between two elements. They are usually transparent without any background color to create that distinct demarcation.

Some common CSS margin properties include the following:

  • Margin: This is a property used to set all the other properties in one declaration.
  • Margin-left: This is used to set the left margin of an element.
  • Margin-right: This is used to set the right margin of an element.
  • Margin-top: This is used to set the top margin of an element.
  • Margin-bottom: This is for setting the bottom margin of an element.


CSS Padding | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
An overview of CSS padding.

What is padding in CSS? A padding is another part of the CSS box model that represents the space between an element and the border box around it.

Padding controls what surrounds an image or a text within a set boundary to stop the content within from touching any part of the border box and other elements around it. You have the ability to create padding and change them how you want when designing page elements.

Unlike the margin that allows you to add space around the outside borders of other elements, padding allows you to add space within the borders of an element.

Some common CSS padding properties include the following [1] :

  • Padding-top: A padding top creates space above the page elements in question.
  • Padding-right: Padding-right creates space within the borders on the right side of the element.
  • Padding-bottom: Padding bottom allows you to add space on the lower side within the borders of the element.
  • Padding-left: Padding-left allows you to create space on the left side of the element within the set borders.

What is the Difference between Margin and Padding?

Padding VS Margin Comparison | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
A side by side comparison of a padding and a margin.

Although they may look like they serve the same functions, there are distinct differences between margin and padding shorthand properties in relation to WordPress website design.

They both serve the same role of ensuring that a web page has an easily readable user interface for easy navigation by creating an extra space. Still, they do have some differences that set them apart, both visually and functionally.

These differences include the following:

  • In terms of spacing, margin creates an outer space outside the element borders, while padding allows you to create space surrounding inside the borders that encircle the elements on all sides. Margin will push all the elements adjacent to it further away while padding expands the inner space around the element.
  • Padding takes the background color when used, while margin doesn’t. This is one of the distinct ways that you can tell the two apart.
  • You can set margin to auto, but you can’t add padding in the same way.
  • You can either have positive or negative values of margins. However, padding values can only be positive.
  • Padding ignores inline elements in situations where the web design you are working on has inline elements. You can use margin or padding to add new space to any side of the inline element, but you can’t do the same below or above it.
  • Padding values lead to element increases when you adjust them. The margin, on the other hand, the size of the element remains constant – only the space shifts.
  • CSS margins can also be centered automatically with an automatic value as it determines the space surrounding needed on each side of the inner element before centering it. Padding lacks this feature.

When to Use Both Margin and Padding

So when do you use margin, and when do you use padding? As we have already discussed much of padding vs. margin, including their differences and the roles they play, the following section is going to focus on the occasions where each is preferred over the other one.

When you want to design or revamp website layouts, you will have to adjust layouts as you continue, and at the same time, you have to determine whether to adjust the existing margins plus padding to get what you desire.

The following are the unique situations where you use either of the two options.


Changing the Position of an Element on a Page

Changing Element Position | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
Changing element position.

A CSS Margin has the ability to relocate an element up, down, left, or right on the webpage. Even when the width of the page you are working on has a fixed value, centering the element horizontally is pretty easy, and you can do this by assigning the value margin: auto.

Setting the Distance Between Close Elements

Setting The Distance Between Adjacent Elements | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
Setting the distance between adjacent elements.

You can use margins to determine the space needed between adjacent elements, this is called whitespace, and it is essential in making pages visually appealing.

To Overlap Elements

Overlap Elements | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
To overlap elements.

You can use a negative margin value to overlap a page element. This can be used when trying to achieve a broken grid appearance on your web page.


Adding Space Between Content and the Border

Space Between Border and Content | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
Adding space between a border and the content.

A set shorthand padding property defines and creates all the whitespace you need inside your elements.

Changing the Size of an Element

Changing Element Size | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
Changing element size.

You can increase or reduce the size of an element by increasing or reducing the padding value. This can be useful when creating interactive elements like buttons.

You may be interested in: Guide to Using E-Commerce Buy Now Buttons

The CSS Box Model: Margin vs. Padding vs. Border?

CSS Box with Margin, Border, Padding, and Content Positioning | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
A CSS Box showing a margin, border, padding and content positioning.

The CSS Box Model is the best way to see exactly how a margin, padding, and border combine to create spaces and borders for elements and content on a webpage. [2]

It is used for page design and layout. For every webpage, the HTML element in any document is usually wrapped inside a layered box that is made up of the margin, padding, border, and content.

The border is essentially the CSS box model layer found between the margin property and the shorthand padding property. It doesn’t have a width by default, but you can quickly create one by using the CSS border property.

HTML margin and padding are part of the CSS Box Model element, and any changes done on them will affect the element directly. They are always part of the element, even when there isn’t any visible border.

Creating a Margin Using CSS

You can create a shorthand margin property using CSS in the following steps:

  • Set 4 margins around the element’s border in the CSS panel within your browser in a clockwise manner. That is margin-top, margin-right, margin-bottom, plus margin-left in that order.
  • Set margin values using 1-4. Apply one value if you need equal margins all around the element. Apply 2 or more values if you wish to have varying margin spaces around the element. 2 will affect the top plus bottom. 3 will affect right, left and bottom margins. 4 will affect all margins.
  • Specify values by using percentages and lengths or using the auto functions and allow the browser to set them automatically. For instance, margins around a 30 (top) by 60 (right) by 50 (bottom) by 90 (left) will be set by this code and order:
    • p { margin: 30px 60px 50px 90px }
  • Prevent collapse by blocking the context function formatting to manage the element. This will stop the bottom and the top margins from collapsing to combine.

Creating Padding Using CSS

You can make shorthand property padding with CSS in the following ways.

  • Set padding around 4 sides in a clockwise manner starting with the top, then right, then bottom, then left.
  • You then need to decide the sides that you want to set padding using the 1-4 values to set padding. Value one will affect all sides equally. Value 2 will only affect the bottom and top. Value 3 will only affect the right, top and left, while Value 4 will affect all sides.
  • You then need to specify values based on the length, inheritance, or percentage. For instance, if you are creating padding HTML for an element container measuring 40 on top, 80 on the right, 60 on the bottom, and 70 on the right, then the order of the code will be like this:
    • div { padding: 40px 80px 60px 70px }

Margin vs. Padding Summarized

Padding VS Margin Summarized | Margin VS Padding | One Search Pro DIgital Marketing
Padding vs. margin summarized.

When designing a web page, you need to combine padding and margin to ensure that you attain the user interface and UX that will drive traffic to website url and make it palatable.

Like we mentioned earlier, having great content for your website will not mean much if the page is not well optimized using padding and margin.

Margins create more space outside an element’s border, providing room for any expansion or adjustments. Padding, on the other hand, creates more space within the borders of the element horizontally. These two have to be present for any element to be properly positioned on a web page.


HTML and CSS properties are important when it comes to web development, and whether you have web designer essential skills or not, it is imperative that you familiarise yourself with them as they will save you time in the long run by creating breathing room for your elements.

If you are looking to start a professional website but lack the proper information regarding padding vs. margin or how to proceed, then don’t hesitate to contact us.

We are the best digital marketing agency in Malaysia that is able to create the best web development service for you from scratch while integrating it with all the necessary tools that will ensure you get the most out of it once it is operational.

If you have more questions regarding margin vs padding, then feel free to hit us up at One Search Pro Marketing Malaysia, and we will do our best to answer them to the best of our abilities!

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