Typically, to create a column layout, you would need to add the first or last classes to reset the margin space and clear the float. Today I’m going to share a very simple CSS trick to create a responsive column layout using nth-of-type pseudo class. I use this trick to code the WordPress themes at Themify. It doesn’t require any first or last class and the number of columns can be adjusted base on the viewport. In other words, it can be toggled from 4-column to 3-column or 2-column, etc.

View Demo Responsive Column/Grid

The Inconvenience of Using The First & Last Classes

Normally we would add a .first or .last class to clear the margin space and float in the grid. Adding the first and last class is very tedious, not to mention that it gets more complicate if you need to make it responsive.

first and last class

Using nth-of-type

The :nth-of-type(An+B) expression makes it very easy to clear the float and margin without having to add .first or .last class. For example:

  • .grid4 .col:nth-of-type(4n+1)= target every 4th .col element, starting from the first
  • .grid3 .col:nth-of-type(3n+1)= target every 3rd .col element, starting from the first
  • .grid2 .col:nth-of-type(2n+1)= select every 2th .col element, starting from the first
clear posts

.grid4 .col:nth-of-type(4n+1),
.grid3 .col:nth-of-type(3n+1),
.grid2 .col:nth-of-type(2n+1) {
	margin-left: 0;
	clear: left;

Making it Responsive With Media Queries

To make it responsive and fluid, use percentage value instead of pixel value.

/* col */
.col {
	background: #eee;
	float: left;
	margin-left: 3.2%;
	margin-bottom: 30px;

/* grid4 col */
.grid4 .col {
	width: 22.6%;

/* grid3 col */
.grid3 .col {
	width: 31.2%;

/* grid2 col */
.grid2 .col {
	width: 48.4%;

Changing From 4-column to 3-Column

To change the 4-column to 3-column on viewport width that is less than 740px:

  1. change the .grid4 .col width to 31.2% (one-third width)
  2. reset the left margin and clear property
  3. then re-apply the left margin and clear property using nth-of-type(3n+1) to form a 3-column grid
responsive columns

@media screen and (max-width: 740px) {
	.grid4 .col {
		width: 31.2%;
	.grid4 .col:nth-of-type(4n+1) {
		margin-left: 3.2%;
		clear: none;
	.grid4 .col:nth-of-type(3n+1) {
		margin-left: 0;
		clear: left;

Changing 4-column and 3-column to 2-column

To switch the 4-column and 3-column to 2-column on viewport width that is less than 600px: basically use the same trick as above to reset the .col width and float.

@media screen and (max-width: 600px) {
	/* change grid4 to 2-column */
	.grid4 .col {
		width: 48.4%;
	.grid4 .col:nth-of-type(3n+1) {
		margin-left: 3.2%;
		clear: none;
	.grid4 .col:nth-of-type(2n+1) {
		margin-left: 0;
		clear: left;

	/* change grid3 to 2-column */
	.grid3 .col {
		width: 48.4%;
	.grid3 .col:nth-of-type(3n+1) {
		margin-left: 3.2%;
		clear: none;
	.grid3 .col:nth-of-type(2n+1) {
		margin-left: 0;
		clear: left;

Making all columns Fullwidth (see demo)

To make all columns to full width on viewport width that is less than 400px: set width to 100% and reset the margin and float.

@media screen and (max-width: 400px) {
	.col {
		width: 100% !important;
		margin-left: 0 !important;
		clear: none !important;

Internet Explorer Issues

Both media queries and nth-of-type are not supported by Internet Explorer 8 or older. You can use selectivizr.js to provide nth-of-type support for IE and respond.js for media queries. Unfortunately, selectivizr.js and respond.js don’t work well together (ie. nth-of-type doesn’t work within the media queries). This means the only fall back with this responsive grid is that the columns can not be switched from 4-column to 3-column or 2-column.


Silvio Bompan
Nov 27, 2012 at 4:07 am

How about css3-mediaqueries.js instead of respond.js? It should work well with selectivizr.js

Nov 27, 2012 at 5:57 am

Thanks for sharing. Responsive columns work very well in Themify Themes so it’s great to learn how it’s done.

Front-end Magazine
Nov 27, 2012 at 6:07 am

Nice Article. thanks for sharing

Vincent Grouls
Nov 27, 2012 at 6:11 am

Simply set a left margin on all columns and then reset it on the first element of every column (xn + 1); combine it with a clear: left.
Also, if you define media queries with a min-width and max-width, there’s no need to ‘reset’ any selectors using the !important rule (which should always only be a last resort).

Just my 2¢.

Nov 27, 2012 at 9:22 am

Nice article. Been messing around with various options myself for some time now.

A better backwards compatible solution with inline-block usage: http://www.sjonner.nl/sites/sandbox/responsive-column-grid.html

Setting a negative margin on the parent container is better supported than nth-child selector.

In my example I chose to not support mediaqueries for older IE’s, of course this could be easily added.

Nick La
Nov 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm

This is indeed very nice, but you still need nth-of-type() to clear the float for situation like this: http://cl.ly/image/0S0P2V3D1t1I

ps. It doesn’t work on FF.

Nov 28, 2012 at 3:03 am

Hi Nick,

What do you mean with “you still need nth-of-type() to clear”? You can change the vertical-align to top to let the items align like floated block elements would, except they remain in the row they’re in (a good thing!).

Which version of FF are you using? I’m using it as well and works fine here :\ I thought I checked all major browser for compatibility.

Example updated.

Nick La
Nov 28, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Tested it on Mac FF 16 & 17. Result is: http://cl.ly/image/0L3e3d180S26

Nov 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Very handy technique… Good idea to post it ;)

lukasz krawczyk
Nov 28, 2012 at 2:52 am

Very nice example of responsive columns. I have to play with it myself :)

Nov 29, 2012 at 4:23 am

Thanks for this Article, nice technique.

IE8 sucks :|

Nov 29, 2012 at 5:43 am

Thanks for this helpful post on responsive layouts. I’m studying this now for my second WP Theme.

Dave Rogers
Dec 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been putting off a project for a while now trying to figure this out in my head. All systems are now go… :D

pakaian dalam wanita online
Dec 3, 2012 at 2:50 am

A plus for examples which can be visited with a banal click. I like how the blog confers the best suggestions on anything

Dec 3, 2012 at 4:36 am

Hi, I found a better solution to Your problem.
Try it at: http://flamecity.piasta.pl/columns

Any feedback appreciated :)

Nick La
Dec 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Not an ideal solution because it requires left and right margin which causing the left and right empty space.

US Joomla Force
Dec 5, 2012 at 3:24 am

Wow that’s easy. I did it!

Dec 5, 2012 at 8:09 am

That’s really useful.

Patrick Enyia
Jan 25, 2013 at 4:35 am


Thanks for your very informative style of teaching. I really find this skill useful

Jan 28, 2013 at 6:13 am

Nice article it will help me a lot :)

Wired Canvas
Jan 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Phwoar. This appeals to my nerd sensibilities. Thanks for sharing. Shame as always about the problem of IE, but seems like an acceptable solution.

Mar 16, 2013 at 6:42 am

Thanks for this, I will definitely try to use this in my next project

Mar 24, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Great tutorial!
Would removing all gutters be as a simple as changing margin-left: 3.2% to 0% and adjusting col widths accordingly? Thanks

Mar 26, 2013 at 1:44 am

Great posted. Very useful especially when/before you are about to make webdesign, websites or webshops. Using nth-of-type is nice to know..:) Thnx for sharing.

Laura K. Chik
May 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm

As always another good tip! I have followed your site for years now and appreciate your skills! Thanks for helping this designer learn new tricks!

May 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Pretty awesome, you can also use inline-block; for reflowing grids rather than floats.

May 26, 2013 at 2:12 am

This article is really very helpful in making ur website more effective .
In block lines is a great trick . It gives a nice texture to ur blog

Jun 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm

It’s great! Really useful resources . Thanks

Gareth Nunns
Jun 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I loved this article and have used it in a few projects. I found myself wanting to edit it, like change the number of columns, have some padding, and change the margin in between them but it got rather tedious working out the sizes of the columns so I made this quick tool to work them out: thhttp://cdpn.io/LuKcgb
Hope it helps

Mass Web Solutions
Jun 11, 2013 at 12:47 am

The most obvious way a responsive design changes is in its layout.

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