Creating inline SVGs with HTML5

With HTML5 you can embed SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) markup directly into your pages. In this tutorial we go through the process of including a simple SVG element in an HTML page. We will also run through the technique for altering SVGs in JavaScript in cases where this is preferable to using the HTML5 canvas element.

With HTML5, developers have a choice between the canvas element and inline SVGs. Which one is preferable really depends on the details of a project. In general, SVG brings the advantage that the resulting images are extremely scalable to different user environments, with no loss of quality. SVGs can also form part of interactive and animated components, since the SVG elements are part of the HTML page markup, any part of which can be manipulated using DOM scripting.


Create the outline of your HTML5 page using the following structure:

<!DOCTYPE html> <html><head><script type="text/javascript"></script></head><body></body></html>

The page has a section for JavaScript functions so that we can demonstrate altering the SVG by manipulating the DOM.


You can add an SVG directly into your page body section, using the same markup you would use for a separate SVG file. Add the following between the opening and closing body tags:

<svg xmlns="" version="1.1" height="400"> <ellipse cx="200" cy="200" rx="80" ry="60" style="fill:#330000;"/></svg>

This SVG creates a simple ellipse element. The attributes of the ellipse define “cx” and “cy” for the central points on the X and Y axes. The element also defines “rx” and “ry” attributes for the radius on each axis. Finally, the element is styled using a fill color.

You can use the element as it is for the rest of the tutorial, however if you want to make the SVG a little more complex, for example if you are new to SVG markup, add a gradient by altering your code as follows:

<svg xmlns="" version="1.1" height="400"> <defs> <radialGradient id="myGradient" cx="50%" cy="50%" r="50%" fx="50%" fy="50%"> <stop offset="0%" style="stop-color:#ffff33;" /> <stop offset="100%" style="stop-color:#330000;" /> </radialGradient> </defs> <ellipse cx="200" cy="200" rx="80" ry="60" style="fill:url(#myGradient);"/> </svg>

The “defs” section at the top defines a radial gradient, with an ID that is matched in the ellipse style attribute for the shape fill. The gradient section defines each color, as well as what parts of the ellipse each one should occupy.

View your page in a browser to see the SVG image.


Let’s make the page interactive by capturing user input. Add the following to your page body, below the SVG element:

<br/> Enter the radius for the X axis:<br/><input type="text" id="radiusX"/><br/>Enter the radius for the Y axis:<br/><input type="text" id="radiusY"/><br/><input type="button" value="redraw" onclick="redrawEllipse()"/>

We will let the user choose values for the X and Y radius within the ellipse. When the button is pressed, it will call a function to alter the SVG markup.


Add the following JavaScript function to the script section in your page head area:

//function to redraw the svgfunction redrawEllipse() { //get the input x radiusvar xRadius = document.getElementById("radiusX").value; //get the input y radiusvar yRadius = document.getElementById("radiusY").value; //get the ellipse elementvar ellipse = document.getElementsByTagName("ellipse")[0]; //set the new x radiusellipse.setAttribute("rx", xRadius); //set the new y radiusellipse.setAttribute("ry", yRadius); }

The function first retrieves the user input, then gets a reference to the ellipse element within the SVG. The script then sets the attributes for X and Y radius using the user input values. Open your page in a browser and enter new values to see the SVG change dynamically. With the above page markup the graphic should be able to fit in anything up to 200 on each axis.


HTML5 brings developers a choice for natively coded images in the form of inline SVGs and canvas drawings. If you do need a vector image that will scale up and down for user screens, SVGs can be a reliable option. SVGs are also designed to support animations, and with DOM scripting you can handle them within the same scripts as the rest of your site functions. The fact that SVGs are written in XML code also makes them inherently more accessible. Whatever option you go for, the days of having to rely on third party programs to generate your Web page graphics and animations may be coming to an end.