There’s a lot of confusion about parallax design and how it works on the web. Generally speaking, parallax design uses motion to create the illusion of depth on a page.
This can relate to background changes or semi-fixed position items that move alongside the user’s scrolling. We’ve covered many examples from websites but haven’t gone into detail about the techniques involved.
For the most part this is really a testament to what’s possible in modern web development. Learning the canvas element gives you a lot of control over your design.
See the Pen The Great Fall by CJ Gammon
Here’s a much more practical parallax effect with a fixed background, and larger pages on top. When you scroll, each page section appears above the background. This creates the illusion of depth, and it’s one of the key elements to a great parallax design.
Developer Sebastian Schepis has used only CSS for this page, and it’s a pretty simple concept. I think anybody could clone this with ease, not to mention the background design could be greatly enhanced.
See the Pen CSS Scrolling Parallax Effect by Sebastian Schepis
You’ll often find parallax designs coupled with large fullscreen background images. These are all too common on company sites & startups where they usually feature a certain parallax “scroll speed” for the background.
The difference here isn’t so much in how fast you’re scrolling down the page or how big the image placement is. Rather you see how fast the image moves through the background of the page while you scroll. It’s a subtle parallax effect, but this layout is an excellent template to see the different animation speeds in action.
See the Pen Simple Image Tag Parallax by Renan Breno
Fixed image backgrounds work well to split up pages and divide content sections evenly. As you scroll, it can feel like the individual page sections are higher than the background images. This is all by design to breathe life into the parallax effect while scrolling.
I wouldn’t use this exact layout because the content areas seem a bit thin. But if you do like this style, I’d recommend punctuating each page section with a different image relevant to your website.
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This parallax example is a unique example of how parallax effects work. All the page content rests underneath a large hero image which disappears beneath the content on scroll. This also uses the fixed image position to make it appear as if the page is moving over the image, rather than the image staying fixed in place.
You can use this same effect with a long scrolling layout and it’d have a similar design style. I think this would work best for single blog posts with large featured images, or for landing pages that use large heros to grab attention.
See the Pen CSS Parallax by Paulo Cunha
Here’s an interesting parallax design for a sample wedding page It has a split page design where images separate the many different content areas with parallax fixed scrolling. Everything runs on CSS, which is a nice touch, and all background images stay fixed while moving down the page.
This effect works because the content areas have large box shadows dropping over the backgrounds. Naturally, this creates the illusion of depth by giving the page a theoretical light source and hierarchy. Very nice idea for a single-page layout.
See the Pen Parallax Design by Katie Rogers
Earlier, I mentioned how scroll speed could vary based on the background-position change rate. Well, this example is the perfect comparison to see how this works in action.
Note that you’ll need to use the scrollbar to see the effects for this example. I tried with the mouse wheel and couldn’t see any difference, but you’ll see speed changes across the columns when you move the scrollbar.
None of these speeds are wrong or inaccurate depictions of parallax design. They’re just different methods for creating movement on the page, and this little example is a great way to visualize many options.
See the Pen Scrolling Background-Image Paralax by Rich Howell
While this effect does not relate to scrolling, it directly relates to parallax design. It uses pure CSS to create a parallax star animation in the background of the page. You can add text and even a content area over the page, but the stars immediately create depth at first glance.
The animation run through CSS, but this snippet uses Sass and Compass, so they would be useful to understand before making edits.
See the Pen Parallax Star background in CSS by Saransh Sinha
Sometimes, parallax designs also target mouse movement along with scrolling features. This canvas design creates an endless skyline effect that reacts to mouse movement on the page. As you reposition your mouse, the viewing angle alters. But the animation stays the same, and you can see this skyline moving with a clear visual hierarchy.
See the Pen Canvas Parallax Skyline by Jack Rugile
I’ve seen this effect on websites before, and it creates a very peculiar design. The broken glass filter gives the illusion of a background image being split into many different parts. It almost looks like the image was on a pane of glass, and it shattered, fracturing the picture and skewing the image.
You can replicate this effect with pure CSS, and it’s one of those neat effects that’s cool to do but may not have any practical, real-world usage beyond fancy designs. Still, this is an impressive example of parallax depth and motion while scrolling.
See the Pen BrokenGlass css filter by Bajjy Xilo
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