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CSS translateZ() Function – How to Reposition Elements along Z-axis

translateZ() transforms an element by repositioning (translating) it three-dimensionally along the z-axis.

Illustration of the 3D Cartesian coordinate
system

A three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system showing the X-, Y-, and Z-axis

Syntax of the CSS translateZ() Function

translateZ() accepts a single argument. Here is the syntax:

element {
transform: translateZ(length);
}

The length argument specifies the distance you wish to move the element from its original z-axis position.

Illustration of the CSS translateZ's length
argument

A three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system with a red arrow defining the green plane's translateZ length

Examples of the CSS translateZ() Function

We often use translateZ() with the perspective() function. Below are some examples.

How to use translateZ() with the CSS perspective() function

img {
width: 40%;
}

.second-image {
transform: perspective(33px) translateZ(10px);
}

Try Editing It

Here's what we did in the snippet above:

  1. We used the perspective() function to define a 33px distance between the user and the z=0 plane.
  2. We used the translateZ() function to reposition the second-image ten pixels (10px) away from its original position along the z-axis.
note
  • Suppose the second-image's z-axis position is larger than or equal to the perspective() function's argument. In that case, the image will disappear as though it is behind the user. In other words, the selected item disappears when the user is in the same position as the element. Or when the element is behind the user.
  • The larger the user's distance to the element's z-axis position, the less intensive the perspective effect will be, and vice-versa.

How to use translateZ() with a 70px perspective

img {
width: 40%;
}

.second-image {
transform: perspective(70px) translateZ(10px);
}

Try Editing It

Here's what we did in the snippet above:

  1. We used the perspective() function to define a 70px distance between the user and the z=0 plane.
  2. We used the translateZ() function to reposition the second-image ten pixels (10px) away from its original position along the z-axis.

CSS translateZ() Function vs. translate Property: What's the Difference?

The CSS translateZ() function and the CSS translate property provide two similar ways to specify a translation transformation.

The main differences between the two translation techniques are as follows:

  • The CSS translate property allows translating an element without using the CSS transform property.
  • The CSS translate property's syntax is shorter than its function alternative.
  • The CSS translate property saves you from remembering the specific order to position the transform functions.
  • Browsers calculate the transform functions' matrix in the order you assigned them to the CSS transform property—from left to right.
  • Browsers calculate the transform properties' matrix in the following transformation matrix order:
    1. translate
    2. rotate
    3. scale
important

You must set a perspective property on the "parent element" of the element you want to translate. Otherwise, the element will not move along its z-axis.

Here's an example:

Use CSS translate property to translate an element along the Z-axis:

img {
width: 40%;
}

div {
perspective: 35px;
}

.second-image {
translate: 0px 0px 17px; /* Equal to a transform: translateZ(17px) property */
}

Try Editing It

Here's what we did in the snippet above:

  1. We used the perspective property to define a 35px distance between the user and the z=0 plane.
  2. We used the translate property to reposition the second-image seventeen pixels (17px) away from its original position along the z-axis.
note

A none value tells browsers not to translate the selected element.

Overview

This article discussed what a CSS translateZ() function is. We also used examples to see how it works.

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