Can I use the :after pseudo-element on an input field?

  • Added:
  • |
  • In: Wordpress

I am trying to use the :after CSS pseudo-element on an input field, but it does not work. If I use it with a span, it works OK.

<style type="text/css">
.mystyle:after {content:url(smiley.gif);}
.mystyle {color:red;}

This works (puts the smiley after "buu!" and before "some more")

<span class="mystyle">buuu!</span>a some more

This does not work - it only colors someValue in red, but there is no smiley.

<input class="mystyle" type="text" value="someValue">

What am I doing wrong? should I use another pseudo-selector?

Note: I cannot add a span around my input, because it is being generated by a third-party control.

This Question Has 17 Answeres | Orginal Question | matra

:before and :after render inside a container

and <input> can not contain other elements.

Pseudo-elements can only be defined (or better said are only supported) on container elements. Because the way they are rendered is within the container itself as a child element. input can not contain other elements hence they're not supported. A button on the other hand that's also a form element supports them, because it's a container of other sub-elements.

If you ask me, if some browser does display these two pseudo-elements on non-container elements, it's a bug and a non-standard conformance. Specification directly talks about element content...

W3C specification

If we carefully read the specification it actually says that they are inserted inside a containing element:

Authors specify the style and location of generated content with the :before and :after pseudo-elements. As their names indicate, the :before and :after pseudo-elements specify the location of content before and after an element's document tree content. The 'content' property, in conjunction with these pseudo-elements, specifies what is inserted.

See? an element's document tree content. As I understand it this means within a container.

:before and :after are applied inside a container, which means you can use it for elements with an end tag.

It doesn't apply for self-closing elements.

On a side note, elements which are self-closing (such as img/hr/input) are also known as 'Replaced Elements', as they are replaced with their respective content. "External Objects" for the lack of a better term. A better read here

If you are trying to style an input element with :before and :after, odds are you are trying to mimic the effects of other span, div, or even a elements in your CSS stack.

As Robert Koritnik's answer points out, :before and :after can only be applied to container elements and input elements are not containers.

HOWEVER, HTML 5 introduced the button element which is a container and behaves like an input[type="submit|reset"] element.

    .happy:after { content:url(smiley.gif); }

    <!-- won't work -->
    <input class="happy" type="submit" value="Submit" />

    <!-- works -->
    <button class="happy">Submit</button>

try next:

label[for="userName"] {
  position: relative;

label[for="userName"]::after {
  content: '[after]';
  width: 22px;
  height: 22px;
  display: inline-block;
  position: absolute;
  right: -30px;
<label for="userName">
	<input type="text" name="userName" id="userName">

:after and :before are not supported in Internet Explorer 7 and under, on any elements.

It's also not meant to be used on replaced elements such as form elements (inputs) and image elements.

In other words it's impossible with pure CSS.

However if using jquery you can use

$(".mystyle").after("add your smiley here");

API docs on .after

To append your content with javascript. This will work across all browsers.

You can use after or before element in your parent block with jQuery. like this:


According to a note in the CSS 2.1 spec, the specification “does not fully define the interaction of :before and :after with replaced elements (such as IMG in HTML). This will be defined in more detail in a future specification.” Although input is not really a replaced element any more, the basic situation has not changed: the effect of :before and :after on it in unspecified and generally has no effect.

The solution is to find a different approach to the problem you are trying to address this way. Putting generated content into a text input control would be very misleading: to the user, it would appear to be part of the initial value in the control, but it cannot be modified – so it would appear to be something forced at the start of the control, but yet it would not be submitted as part of form data.

I found this post as I was having the same issue, this was the solution that worked for me. As opposed to replacing the input's value just remove it and absolutely position a span behind it that is the same size, the span can have a :before pseudo class applied to it with the icon font of your choice.

<style type="text/css">

form {position: relative; }
.mystyle:before {content:url(smiley.gif); width: 30px; height: 30px; position: absolute; }
.mystyle {color:red; width: 30px; height: 30px; z-index: 1; position: absolute; }

<input class="mystyle" type="text" value=""><span class="mystyle"></span>

:before and :after only works for nodes that can have child nodes since they insert a new node as the first or last node.

You have to have some kind of wrapper around the input to use a before or after pseudo-element. Here's a fiddle that has a before on the wrapper div of an input and then places the before inside the input - or at least it looks like it. Obviously, this is a work around but effective in a pinch and lends itself to being responsive. You can easily make this an after if you need to put some other content.

Working Fiddle

Dollar sign inside an input as a pseudo-element:


<div class="test">
    <input type="text"></input>

The CSS:

input {
    margin: 3em;
    padding-left: 2em;
    padding-top: 1em;
    padding-bottom: 1em;

.test {
    position: relative;
    background-color: #dedede;
    display: inline;

.test:before {
    content: '$';
    position: absolute;
    top: 0;
    left: 40px;
    z-index: 1;

As others explained, inputs are kinda-replaced void elements, so most browsers won't allow you to generate ::before nor ::after pseudo-elements in them.

However, the CSS Working Group is considering explicitly allowing ::before and ::after in case the input has appearance: none.


Safari and Chrome both allow pseudo-elements on their form inputs. Other browsers don't. We looked into removing this, but the use-counter is recording ~.07% of pages using it, which is 20x our max removal threshold.

Actually specifying pseudo-elements on inputs would require specifying the internal structure of inputs at least somewhat, which we haven't managed to do yet (and I'm not confident we *can* do). But Boris suggested, in one of the bugthreads, allowing it on appearance:none inputs - basically just turning them into <div>s, rather than "kinda-replaced" elements.

Oddly, it works with some types of input. At least in Chrome,

<input type="checkbox" />

works fine, same as

<input type="radio" />

It's just type=text and some others that don't work.

Here's another approach (assuming you have control of the HTML): add an empty <span></span> right after the input, and target that in CSS using input.mystyle + span:after

.field_with_errors {
  display: inline;
  color: red;
.field_with_errors input+span:after {
  content: "*"
<div class="field_with_errors">Label:</div>
<div class="field_with_errors">
  <input type="text" /><span></span> 

I'm using this approach in AngularJS because it will add .ng-invalid classes automatically to <input> form elements, and to the form, but not to the <label>.

You can't put a pseudo element in an input element, but can put in shadow element, like a placeholder!

input[type="text"] {   
  &::-webkit-input-placeholder {
    &:before {
      // your code

To make it work in other browsers, use :-moz-placeholder, ::-moz-placeholder and :-ms-input-placeholder in different selectors. Can't group the selectors, because if a browser doesn't recognize the selector invalidates the entire statement.

UPDATE: The above code works only with CSS pre-processor (SASS, LESS...), without pre-processors use:

input[type="text"]::-webkit-input-placeholder:before { // your code }

I found that you can do it like this:

.submit .btn input
   padding:11px 28px 12px 14px;

 .submit .btn
     font-family: 'Open Sans', sans-serif;

.submit .btn:after
<div class="submit">
  <div class="btn">
     <input value="Send" type="submit" />

You need to have a div parent that takes the padding and the :after. The first parent needs to be relative and the second div should be absolute so you can set the position of the after.


It does not work with <input type="button">, but it works fine with <input type="checkbox">.



<p class="submit">
    <input id="submit-button" type="submit" value="Post">
    <input id="submit-cb" type="checkbox" checked>


#submit-cb::before {
    content: ' ';
    background: transparent;
    border: 3px solid crimson;
    display: inline-block;
    width: 100%;
    height: 100%;
    padding: 0;
    margin: -3px -3px;

I used the background-image to create the red dot for required fields.

input[type="text"][required] {
  background-image: radial-gradient(red 15%, transparent 16%);
  background-size: 1em 1em;
  background-position: top right;
  background-repeat: no-repeat

View on Codepen

Meet with owner

Sajjad Hossain

Hey, I am Sajjad, working in web development sector since 2012. I love to do amazing things. Let's do a project together.
Connect Social With PHPAns