How to Keep Your Flexbox Square

UPDATE: There is now an aspect-ratio CSS property which can be used to set the ratio between width and height. The best way to make a square is now aspect-ratio: 1 / 1

If you remember the days of floats and table layouts, display: flex is absolutely magical... until you want to make a square.

Flex-box is supremely powerful at creating beautiful spacings, but it does it by overriding the width and height properties. This can make it tricky to use old tricks like height: auto to retain your aspect ratios.

Fortunately, there's a trick to keeping your flex children square, while still allowing them to scale their size up and down.

.parent {
    display: flex;

.child {
    /* flex settings can be basically anything */
    flex: 1 0 auto;
    height: auto;

.child:before {
    content: '';
    display: block;
    padding-top: 100%;

That's it. It's super simple.

It works because padding percentage is calculated from the parent's width.

  • We allow for display:flex to set width however it wants,
  • padding-top: 100% on a pseudo-element creates an element equal to the child's width inside the child.
  • The child's height: auto property causes it's height to be set by the height of it's own children

Voila! A square!

This trick can also be applied to create boxes of different aspect ratios by changing padding-top. For example,  16:9 would be padding-top: 52.65%

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