REM vs. EM

Published at: 2017-01-18

I recently read CSS-Code containing three different types of relative units: %, em and rem.

Consider the following HTML snippet:

<h1>Hello World</h1>

With the following CSS:

html {
  font-size: 100%;      /* assuming 100% == 16px */

h1 {
  font-size: 2rem;      /* 1rem == 16px => 32px */
  line-height: 1em;     /* 1em refers to current font-size (32px) => 32px */
  padding-bottom: 1rem; /* 1rem == 16px => 16px */

Understanding the impact took me some time and I just finally got it when I read the great write-up of Zell: REM vs EM – The Great Debate.

Please go to Zells post for a full explanation. The TL;DR version is this:

Use em for properties relative to the current elements font-size. Use rem for everything else.

Following that rule you'd understand why the line-height property uses em while padding-bottom would use rem.