Pure CSS Art, one HTML tag — My Divtober 2023 collection

Greg Robleto
11 min readOct 31, 2023


Divtober 2023 : Greg Robleto’s CSS Art Collection

Coming in very rusty and concerned for being able to commit the time, I nonetheless started participating again in the Divtober challenge. Created and organized by Lynn Fisher, the challenge is to make CSS artwork based on a one-word daily prompt. The twist is that while you can use as much CSS as you need, you only get one hook in the HTML. One. single. div.

I did successfully post a piece every day. Here is my collection (in reverse chronological order).

31. Witch

Divtober 2023 : Day 31: Prompt “witchy”

This was the culmination of a month of practice. It was exceedingly more challenging than I would have endeavored at the beginning of the month, which is a testament to the confidence and craft one builds through practice. Nailing the animated hat tip really made this one of my favorites.

30. Choco Taco

Divtober 2023 : Day 30: Prompt “discontinued”

I googled for what’s been recently discontinued and was saddened to see the Choco Taco. Such a weird treat — mass produced ice cream in a frozen taco. I don’t know why I like it so much, but it was one of my favorites growing up. I added some kawaii facial elements to get the taco itself expressing it’s discontent being discontinued.

29. Walking to Lunch

Divtober 2023 : Day 29 : Prompt “pin”

I dedicated this one to my friend and (now former) colleague, Swetha. In the pre-COVID before times when we working together in the office, it was Swetha who always led the lunch train from HQ to the PTO Cafeteria. This is a (fairly accurate) map of the Carlyle section of Alexandria, Virginia and the route we would take. I don’t think that cafeteria is actually there anymore, and Swetha has left the company, but this Divtober piece is a reminder of those good times.

28. Origami

Divtober 2023 : Day 28 : Prompt “handmade”

I had this idea that the shapes of folding paper for origami would itself so well to the art of coding with CSS, especially when only using a single div. For a while I didn’t have a prompt that it fit until “handmade”. It wasn’t until I was nearly done that I had the idea to replicate the last step with new styling to show what the completed origami piece would look like

27. The Golden Rule

Divtober 2023 : Day 27 : Prompt “rules”

The show Fall of the House of Usher (which was so good!) referenced this classic comic panel from the Wizard of Id. While cynical it does ring very true. The hardest part about trying to recreate a comic panel getting a thin black stroke around everything. This one was really rewarding when finished and seeing just how much can be done with CSS.

26. Ice Bucket Challenge

Divtober 2023 : Day 26 : Prompt “cold”

In 2014, things were going so well we had to manufacture high-anxiety situations. That summer the viral trend was to fill up a contractor size bucket with ice water and voluntarily chose to dump it over your own head.
(Inspired by vector stock by artist 588ku)

25. Cheesy Pick-up Line

Divtober 2023 : Day 25 : Prompt “cheesy”

Nothing quite as cheesy as a bad pick-up line. After so many failed attempts to make animating the plane look right, I realized I could instead animate the clouds.

24. Loaves and Fishes

Divtober 2023 : Day 24 : Prompt “feast”

A feast for thousands can be prepared with just a few of these. I loved after so many complex Divtober pieces how this iconic image took barely 100 lines of code. (Inspired by vector stock by T. Barbarousse)

23. Fake Quotes

Divtober 2023 : Day 23 : Prompt “fake”

Honest Abe is right. You can’t always trust the legitimacy of what you read online. 😄. For this one I googled around to find a good quote and then explored vector art for ways to portray Lincoln. (Inspired by vector stock by vexels)

22. Frankie

Divtober 2023 : Day 22 : Prompt “alive”

This little guy, Frankie, was just fun to make; putting uts a twist on that scary Frankenstein monster by making it youthful and cute. Frankie was a real confidence booster. After three weeks of making CSS Art, it was noteworthy to me how straight-forward I found putting this one together (other than the bolts, those were vexing). I was starting to internalize the fundamentals of working with linear and radial gradients.

21. Set Sail at Night

Divtober 2023 : Day 21 : Prompt “faraway”

I liked the concept of a ship asail far off at sea. I wish I could have made it less generic, matching a real event perhaps. With this one, I realized I could scale up to 2x to build intricacies like the ship details, and then reduce to 0.15x to deliver that faraway result.

20. Eye Exam

Divtober 2023 : Day 20 : Prompt “seeing”

Trying out with the transform blur tool on this one. The limitation of text available in single-div art led to using the shapes eye exam instead. If you can’t see how this piece represents the prompt, “seeing,” well, then you might need glasses. :)

19. Scrum Board

Divtober 2023 : Day 19 : Prompt “sticky”

Before it all went digital with Trello and then Jira, the daily morning Scrum looked like this, a whole lot of sticky notes being moved across on a white-board. (Inspired by vector stock by artist microone)

18. RGB Cables

Divtober 2023 : Day 18 : Prompt “component”

It shows my age a bit that I know that these outdated RGB plugs are called Video Component cables (the prompt was “component”). The challenge here was making all three items look mostly identical despite being coded separates on along three different angles.

17. Fearless Girl and Charging Bull

Divtober 2023 : Day 17 : Prompt “brave”

An animated monochrome of the Charging Bull and Fearless Girl statues as seen their positions on Wall Street from 2017–2018 (before each was moved to a separate location).

16. Tangled

Divtober 2023 : Day 16 : Prompt “tangled”

For Tangled I wanted to connect to the Disney movie. I was inspired by a piece of artwork, and made an exercise in recreating it to explore layering and attempt animation both of the lanterns and the hair. (Inspired by art by artist Olga Nazarova)

15. Memory Game

Divtober 2023 : Day 15 : Prompt “remember”

The classic game of Memory (with cards displaying a Fall theme), but the limitations of a single div with only two psuedo-classes limited my ability to show only one round of the game.

14. Delaware

Divtober 2023 : Day 14 : Prompt “small”

Nearly the smallest of all the states is my home state of Delaware. Depicted here in a frame to punctuate the small scale of the state that uses the slogan “Small Wonder”. (Frame inspired by coder Chris Smith)

13. Piggy Bank

Divtober 2023 : Day 13 : Prompt “collect”

Sure, it doesn’t have the best interest rate (or any interest rate); otherwise, a piggy bank is the perfect place to collect all your coins. The biggest challenge with this piece was making the coin slot look proportionally realistic and be large enough for the animated coin to “fit though”.

12. Whiskey Neat

Divtober 2023 : Day 12 : Prompt “glass”

A glass of whiskey… neat (cause the ice cubes were going to be too much extra work). The key to this piece was really scrutinizing what color combinations come together to provide the effect of semi-transparency.

11. Pirates

Divtober 2023 : Day 11 : Prompt “bones”

The hack I found with this one was copy/pasting the whole bones section into a pseudo class and reducing it’s scale so the logo on the hat matched exactly.

10. Sparkler

Divtober 2023 : Day 10 : Prompt “sparkle”

Once the sun sets on the Fourth of July, the neighbors gather out front, and each of the children are given sparklers that look a bit like this when they are lighted. At first I tried to recreate a multi-div sparkler pen into just a single div, but it proved too onerous. (Inspired by a pen by johnnyfekete)

9. Lightspeed

Divtober 2023 : Day 9: Prompt “space”

The prompt was space and of course I was going to include at least one Star Wars themed piece in this collection. I really like how the overlapping conic gradient make a streaking background that provides that lightspeed look.

8. Spider-men Meme

Divtober 2023 : Day 8: Prompt “mix”

Those Spider-men are all mixed up. This was a step up in my growth as a CSS artist. I had no idea how to make this when I started and it could use a lot more refinement, but this piece really helped me see how I can craft even complex illustrations using just the basic shapes available in single-div art: primarily ellipses, rectangles, and triangles.

7. S’mores

Divtober 2023 : Day 7: Prompt “treat”

Mmmmm, S’mores! Knowing this was going to be a relatively basic piece, I strove for polish, I wanted every element to fit exactly I went with a Kawaii style, because it’s a favorite of my daughters, and it works so well for creating CSS art.

6. Bouncing Ball

Divtober 2023 : Day 6: Prompt “bounce”

Easing and cubic-beziers are not my forte, so for this piece, I actually leaned on prompting ChatGPT to show me examples until I could figure out how to set up the keyframes to make this little blue ball bounce correctly.

5. Not Penny’s Boat

Divtober 2023 : Day 5: Prompt “lost”

This is a deep cut specifically for fans of the show LOST. It was one of my favorites. It was so good until it wasn’t. If you didn’t watch it, then — spoiler -this is from a pivotal season finale moment. I burnt many cycles trying to make a Dharma logo with no success and pivoted to this much more complex idea last minute. It was an afterthought, but adding the lines into the hand was a necessary addition.

4. Stock Ticker Crawl

I wanted to pay homage to the old news crawls on the sides of media buildings when visiting New York City. This piece has already undergone three revisions since debuting on the 4th. First it was only an animated ticker, then it was a static ticker on a 3D building, and now it’s an animated ticker on a 3D building.

3. Mondrian

Divtober 2023 : Day 3: Prompt “artist”

This Piet Mondrian print is framed and hanging just above the piano in my home. I repurposed it for Divtober, I had actually coded it in 2021, one of my best early attempts at CSS art and then refactored to single-div CSS art.

2. Penrose Triangle

Divtober 2023 : Day 2 : Prompt “impossible”

The Penrose Triangle is an impossible shape that I first became fascinated by seeing it and similiar elements in the art of M. C. Escher. I was still shaking off the rust at this point, trying to just get angles to cleanly line up adjacent to each other.

1. Pumpkin Spice Latte

Divtober 2023 : Day 1 : Prompt “fall”

Where it began for 2023, and I admit I felt so rusty, I had to watch and follow along with an online tutorial just to reacclimate myself with the fundamentals of using background gradients to make shapes and faux shading. (Inspired by a tutorial by Coding Artist)

In Summary

I am most proud of 31. Witch and 28. Origami for how polished they turned out considering how challenging the concept was (1. Pumpkin Spice Latte, 2. Penrose Triangle and 7. S’mores also turned out very polished, but those were earlier and less ambitious endeavors).

And when I get the chance I want to go back and improve the hand on 5. Not Pennys Boat, the sparkling on 11. Sparkler and just add something more to 10. Pirates as I was able to do to improve 4. Stock Ticker Crawl.

It was a journey this October, from being barely able to remember the fundamentals and needing a crash course for the first piece, to being able to manage the complexity in the latter pieces.

Also, I felt reconnected to a community of CSS artists. I found it rewarding to share our ideas with each other each day. A few that were very active through Divtober include:

If you are feeling inspired or are interested in CSS Art, reach out on Twitter, Mastodon or CodePen and let me know, I have loved connecting with people who share this common passion and interest.

Please visit my site for the best of my CSS Art: cssartstudio.com

Disclaimer: As always, all thoughts are my own and not my employer, who does not pay me to code single-div art pieces (but wouldn’t that be cool, one can dream)? Some of these pieces are inspired by vector stock, art or other pens; credit for the inspiration is provided above and in the CodePen code. Every line of code creating the art work was coded by hand by Greg Robleto.

Greg Robleto : robleto.com



Greg Robleto

Creative leader at the intersection of design, product, and tech. Writing mostly about design, CSS, product strategy, leadership, investing, and more.