By Dinh

2014-12-18 04:29:40 8 Comments

Can anybody show me the difference between align-items and align-content?


@Shan Dou 2018-12-26 23:00:24

I had the same confusion. After some tinkering based on many of the answers above, I can finally see the differences. In my humble opinion, the distinction is best demonstrated with a flex container that satisfies the following two conditions:

  1. The flex container itself has a height constraint (e.g., min-height: 60rem) and thus can become too tall for its content
  2. The child items enclosed in the container have uneven heights

Condition 1 helps me understand what content means relative to its parent container. When the content is flush with the container, we will not be able to see any positioning effects coming from align-content. It is only when we have extra space along the cross axis, we start to see its effect: It aligns the content relative to the boundaries of the parent container.

Condition 2 helps me visualize the effects of align-items: it aligns items relative to each other.

Here is a code example. Raw materials come from Wes Bos' CSS Grid tutorial (21. Flexbox vs. CSS Grid)

  • Example HTML:
  <div class="flex-container">
    <div class="item">Short</div>
    <div class="item">Longerrrrrrrrrrrrrr</div>
    <div class="item">ūüí©</div>
    <div class="item" id="tall">This is Many Words</div>
    <div class="item">Lorem, ipsum.</div>
    <div class="item">10</div>
    <div class="item">Snickers</div>
    <div class="item">Wes Is Cool</div>
    <div class="item">Short</div>
  • Example CSS:
.flex-container {
  display: flex;
  /*dictates a min-height*/
  min-height: 60rem;
  flex-flow: row wrap;
  border: 5px solid white;
  justify-content: center;
  align-items: center;
  align-content: flex-start;

#tall {
  /*intentionally made tall*/
  min-height: 30rem;

.item {
  margin: 10px;
  max-height: 10rem;

Example 1: Let's narrow the viewport so that the content is flush with the container. This is when align-content: flex-start; has no effects since the entire content block is tightly fit inside the container (no extra room for repositioning!)

Also, note the 2nd row--see how the items are center aligned among themselves.

enter image description here

Example 2: As we widen the viewport, we no longer have enough content to fill the entire container. Now we start to see the effects of align-content: flex-start;--it aligns the content relative to the top edge of the container. enter image description here

These examples are based on flexbox, but the same principles are applicable to CSS grid. Hope this helps :)

@Goldenmoon 2017-09-10 15:58:47

according to what I understood from here:

when you use align-item or justify-item, you are adjusting "the content inside a grid item along the column axis or row axis respectively.

But: if you use align-content or justify-content, you are setting the position a grid along the column axis or the row axis. it occurs when you have a grid in a bigger container and width or height are inflexible (using px).

@Alireza Fattahi 2017-08-16 12:06:48

I find the example very useful.

It will take you 10-20 minutes and at level 21 you will find the answer to your question. It mentioned:

align-content determines the spacing between lines, while align-items determines how the items as a whole are aligned within the container. When there is only one line, align-content has no effect

@Spikatrix 2019-02-18 05:44:46

Indeed, I did find the froggy example really useful. Learned a lot from it.

@simi 2017-05-28 06:58:32

The main difference is when the height of the elements are not the same! Then you can see how in the row, they are all center\end\start

@Uday Hiwarale 2016-05-29 10:46:41

First, align-items is for items in a single row. So for a single row of elements on main axis, align-items will align these items respective of each other and it will start with fresh perspective from the next row.

Now, align-content doesn't interfere with items in a row but with rows itself. Hence, align-content will try to align rows with respect to each other and flex container.

Check this fiddle :

@Asim K T 2016-01-22 10:40:35

The align-items property of flex-box aligns the items inside a flex container along the cross axis just like justify-content does along the main axis. (For the default flex-direction: row the cross axis corresponds to vertical and the main axis corresponds to horizontal. With flex-direction: column those two are interchanged respectively).

Here's an example of how align-items:center looks:

align-items: center

But align-content is for multi line flexible boxes. It has no effect when items are in a single line. It aligns the whole structure according to its value. Here's an example for align-content: space-around;: enter image description here

And here's how align-content: space-around; with align-items:center looks: enter image description here

Note the 3rd box and all other boxes in first line change to vertically centered in that line.

Here are some codepen links to play with:

Here's a super cool pen which shows and lets you play with almost everything in flexbox.

@Michael_B 2016-01-29 17:09:15

Note that the align-* properties can also shift flex items horizontally. It depends on the flex-direction.

@ahnbizcad 2016-08-25 16:39:52


align-content controls the cross-axis (i.e. vertical direction if the flex-direction is row, and horizontal if the flex-direction is column) positioning of multiple lines relative to each other.

(Think lines of a paragraph being vertically spread out, stacked toward the top, stacked toward the bottom. This is under a flex-direction row paradigm).


align-items controls the cross-axis of an individual line of flex elements.

(Think how an individual line of a paragraph is aligned, if it contains some normal text and some taller text like math equations. In that case, will it be the bottom, top, or center of each type of text in a line that will be aligned?)

@TheNegative 2015-06-19 19:54:52

Well I have examined them on my browser.

align-content can change a line's height for row direction or width for column when it's value is stretch, or add empty space between or around the lines for space-between, space-around, flex-start, flex-end values.

align-items can change items height or position inside the line's area. When items are not wrapped they have only one line which it's area is always stretched to the flex-box area (even if the items overflow), and align-content has no effect on a single line. So it has no effect on items that are not wrapped and only align-items can change items position or stretch them when all of them are on a single line.

However, if they are wrapped you have multiple lines and items inside each line. And if all items of each line have the same height (for row direction) that line's height will be equal to those items height and you don't see any effect by changing align-items value.

So if you want to affect items by align-items when your items are wrapped and have the same height (for row direction) first you have to use align-content with stretch value in order to expand the lines area.

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