Filter Effects Module Level 2

Editor’s Draft,

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Filter effects are a way of processing an element’s rendering before it is displayed in the document. Typically, rendering an element via CSS or SVG can conceptually described as if the element, including its children, are drawn into a buffer (such as a raster image) and then that buffer is composited into the elements parent. Filters apply an effect before the compositing stage. Examples of such effects are blurring, changing color intensity and warping the image. This is Level 2 of the Filter Effects Module.

Status of this document

This is a public copy of the editors’ draft. It is provided for discussion only and may change at any moment. Its publication here does not imply endorsement of its contents by W3C. Don’t cite this document other than as work in progress.

GitHub Issues are preferred for discussion of this specification. When filing an issue, please put the text “filter-effects” in the title, preferably like this: “[filter-effects] …summary of comment…”. All issues and comments are archived, and there is also a historical archive.

This document was produced by the CSS Working Group (part of the Style Activity).

This document was produced by a group operating under the W3C Patent Policy. W3C maintains a public list of any patent disclosures made in connection with the deliverables of the group; that page also includes instructions for disclosing a patent. An individual who has actual knowledge of a patent which the individual believes contains Essential Claim(s) must disclose the information in accordance with section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy.

This document is governed by the 2 November 2021 W3C Process Document.

1. Introduction

This section is non-normative

A filter effect is a graphical operation that is applied to an element as it is drawn into the document. It is an image-based effect, in that it takes zero or more images as input, a number of parameters specific to the effect, and then produces an image as output. The output image is either rendered into the document instead of the original element, used as an input image to another filter effect, or provided as a CSS image value.

This is Level 2 of the Filter Effects Module. It is currently written as a "delta", describing any differences from Level 1.

This specification was drafted for discussion, and does not yet have Working Group consensus. See discussion in issue 53.

2. Backdrop filters: the backdrop-filter property

The description of the backdrop-filter property is as follows:

Name: backdrop-filter
Value: none | <filter-value-list>
Initial: none
Applies to: All elements. In SVG, it applies to container elements without the defs element and all graphics elements
Inherited: no
Percentages: n/a
Computed value: as specified
Canonical order: per grammar
Media: visual
Animatable: yes

If the value of the backdrop-filter property is none then there is no filter effect applied. Otherwise, the list of functions are applied in the order provided.

2.1. Filtering and Clipping

An element (call it B) with a backdrop-filter property other than none is rendered as if the following steps are performed:

  1. Copy the Backdrop Root Image into a temporary buffer, such as a raster image. Call this buffer T’.

  2. Apply the backdrop-filter’s filter operations to the entire contents of T'.

  3. If element B has any transforms (between B and the Backdrop Root), apply the inverse of those transforms to the contents of T’.

  4. Apply a clip to the contents of T’, using the border box of element B, including border-radius if specified. Note that the children of B are not considered for the sizing or location of this clip.

  5. Draw all of element B, including its background, border, and any children elements, into T’.

  6. If element B has any transforms, effects, or clips, apply those to T’.

  7. Composite the contents of T’ into element B’s parent, using source-over compositing.

The first filter function or filter reference in the <filter-value-list> takes the element’s Backdrop Root Image as the input image. Subsequent operations take the output from the previous filter function or filter reference as the input image. The filter element reference functions can specify an alternate input, but still uses the previous output as its SourceGraphic.

Filter functions must operate in the sRGB color space.

If the filter functions list includes a blur() filter, the filter will be applied with edgeMode="duplicate", with the edge defined by the clipped, transformed border box of the element. See § 3 Backdrop Root.

Note: The effect of the backdrop-filter will not be visible unless some portion of element B is semi-transparent. Also note that any opacity applied to element B will be applied to the filtered backdrop image as well. Therefore, to create a "transparent" element that allows the full filtered backdrop image to be seen, you can use "background-color: transparent;".

A computed value of other than none results in the creation of both a stacking context [CSS21] and a Containing Block for absolute and fixed position descendants, unless the element it applies to is a document root element in the current browsing context.

Note: This rule works in the same way as for the filter property.

3. Backdrop Root

The Backdrop Root Image for an element E is the final image that would be produced by the following steps:

  1. Start at the Backdrop Root element that is the nearest ancestor of E.

  2. Paint all content, in painting order, between (and including) the ancestor Backdrop Root element and element E.

  3. Flatten the painted content into a 2D screen-space buffer.

  4. Transform the border box of element E to 2D screen-space, and clip the final painted output to this border quad.

This specification does not yet have Working Group consensus, specifically on the definition of Backdrop Root. See discussion in issue 53.

Note: No content that is a DOM ancestor of the Backdrop Root element should contribute to or affect the Backdrop Root Image.

A Backdrop Root is formed, anywhere in the document, by an element in any of the following scenarios. See § 3.2 Backdrop Root Triggers for more details on each:

Note: this definition encompases fewer element types than the definition for a Stacking Context. In particular, a Backdrop Root is not formed by elements with z-index applied, fixed or sticky-positioned elements, and elements with transforms applied. This allows elements with backdrop-filter or mix-blend-mode to apply to elements higher up the DOM tree than would otherwise apply if they stopped at the parent Stacking Context. For example, a container can be used to contain elements with backdrop-filter applied, and that container can use transforms for animation or positioning, while still allowing the backdrop-filter to apply to the background behind the container.

3.1. Motivation

This section is non-normative

There are currently three related, but distinct, concepts in the web platform:

There is an important motivation for the creation of a separate web platform concept for the Backdrop Root, rather than just re-using an existing concept. There are essentially two other choices that might be used as a definition of the "backdrop": 1) “everything that painted before, up to the root node”, or 2) “everything up to the parent stacking context”. However, there are ambiguities with definition #1, and excessive limitations with definition #2. Therefore, the Backdrop Root concept strikes a balance between the two.

In particular, it is important to note that including “everything that paints before” an element is ambiguous in the case where an ancestor of the element contains filtering and/or opacity. Because those effects are inherited by descendant elements, including the element containing backdrop-filter or mix-blend-mode, it is not clear “when” to apply the effect. Filters and opacity create a stacking context, and the css filter-effect specification states that “All the [Stacking Context] descendants are rendered together as a group with the filter effect applied to the group as a whole.” If, somewhere inside that stacking context, an element contains a backdrop-filter property other than “none”, then it is impossible to honor the preceding sentence. At the point of the backdrop-filtered element, all of the (partially-painted) contents of the stacking context need to be fully rendered, including applied filters, opacity, and blending with the backdrop, and the resulting image needs to be used as the input to the backdrop-filtered element. That fundamentally breaks the atomicity of the stacking context. And the ambiguity arises from the need, at the end of rendering the fully-completed stacking context, to apply those filters and opacity again to the completed rendering. The filters and opacity will, at this point, be applied twice to the portion of the image that has been backdrop-filtered. This situation grows exponentially worse if backdrop-filters are nested inside each other. For this reason, it is necessary to prevent the backdrop-filter from “seeing" above nodes that have filters, opacity, and the other conditions listed above in the definition of the Backdrop Root.

Performance would also be an issue, if backdrop-filter and mix-blend-mode were defined to filter "everything" that comes before them on the page. Each application of backdrop-filter or mix-blend-mode would require a separate rendering pass, to temporarily finish any partially-complete stacking contexts, and get the "final" output that would appear behind each element. That would double the required rendering time, and would potentially require twice the memory usage and GPU bandwidth to store the intermediate graphics texture holding the contents to be filtering. And assuming nested backdrop-filters or mix-blend-mode elements were allowed, this doubling would become an exponential performance breakdown. Clearly, this is not a scalable approach.

Given the following html code:

<html style="background:lightgrey;">
  <div class="box">
    <b>"Box"</b><br><br>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit,
    sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim
    ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip
    ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate
    velit esse cillum
    <div class="dialog"></div>

And the following style rules:

  div {
    position: absolute;
    width: 200px;
    height: 200px;
    top: 70px;
    left: 70px;
  .box {
    background: white;
    filter: invert(1);
  .dialog {
    border: 10px solid blue;
    backdrop-filter: blur(2px);

Consider the sequence of painting operations to produce the final result, assuming that the "dialog" element accesses everything behind it, all the way to the root element. Important note: this is not how the Backdrop Root is defined - this example is intended to illustrate why a Backdrop Root is formed by elements containing filters.


Step 1. "Box" is rendered, but filters are not yet applied.


Step 2. "Dialog" is about to be rendered, but it has backdrop-filter applied. Since, for this example, the backdrop-filter "sees" all the way to the root, the "Box" element needs to be temporarily "completed" so that the final product can be used as input to "Dialog". This means applying its "filter: invert(1)" style. Note, this is where the atomicity of the Stacking Context created by "Box" is broken. This is also where the performance penalty applies - the GPU draw work that is performed here will end up being done twice.


Step 3. Start painting the "Dialog" element by reading back its backdrop image, applying the "backdrop-filter: blur(2px)" filter, and cropping those results to the border box of "Dialog". (The dotted black border has been added here for clarity: this is the border box for the "Dialog" element.)


Step 4. Now that the backdrop-filtered contents have been read back and filtered, discard the previously "completed" Box element and go back to the unfiltered version. Note that you can now see the black text at the bottom bleeding through the white, blurred version inside "Dialog".


Step 5. Draw the contents of the "Dialog" element - the blue border.


Step 6. Complete the Stacking Context formed by the "Box" element - apply the "filter: invert(1)" to "Box" and all of its contents, including the now-completed "Dialog" element. Note that the area inside the yellow "Dialog" element has been inverted twice - it appears white. Also note that the text outside "Box" has been drawn in blurred black text over the top of un-blurred white text, and the black edge of "Box" shows through the now-white blurred edge of "Box". None of these visual effects is expected or intuitive.

Opacity poses much the same problem that filter does. Using the example above, but with the filter: invert(1); style replaced with opacity: 0.5; the results are similarly unintuitive. Important note: the left image below does not represent how the Backdrop Root is defined - this example is intended to illustrate why a Backdrop Root is formed by elements containing opacity less than 1.


The left image is the final result of rendering, assuming the Backdrop Root includes everything on the page. Note that the blurred region inside the blue border is very faint. It is rendered at 0.25 opacity (double-counted), instead of the 0.5 opacity inherited from the "Box" element. The right image is the final result using the correct definition of Backdrop Root. The blurred region inside the blue border has opacity 0.5, as expected.

Because masks effectively change the opacity of parts of the elements they are masking, the behavior for mask operations is quite similar to that for elements with opacity applied. Using the same example as above, but replacing the filter/opacity style line with -webkit-mask-image: linear-gradient(to top, transparent 25%, black 75%); the results are quite similar. The masked area is applied twice, meaning the alpha channel is effectively squared. Important note: the left image below does not represent how the Backdrop Root is defined - this example is intended to illustrate why a Backdrop Root is formed by elements containing masks.


The left image is the final result of rendering, assuming the Backdrop Root includes everything on the page. Note that the gradient applied to the blurred region inside the blue border (but not the border itself) is very faint at the bottom. The opacity of the mask has been applied twice, so the gradient is no longer a linear gradient, but is instead a quadratic gradient. The right image is the final result using the correct definition of Backdrop Root. The mask is applied correctly as a linear gradient for both the blue border and the blurred region inside.

3.2. Backdrop Root Triggers

This section is non-normative

This specification does not yet have Working Group consensus, specifically on the definition of Backdrop Root. See discussion in issue 53.

As described in § 3.1 Motivation, several operations pose fundamental problems for operations that need to read back content that was painted before, and then re-paint that content (possibly filtered or blended) again. The list of element types that trigger a § 3 Backdrop Root each pose one of these problems. Some are obvious and some are more nuanced. This section describes why each trigger is necessary.

Obvious triggers:

Less obvious triggers:

For all of the above triggers, performance is also an important motivation. In all of these cases, relaxing the Backdrop Root constraint would lead to a potential doubling of the CPU/GPU memory and bandwidth. See § 3.1 Motivation for a more detailed discussion.

3.3. Mix Blend Mode

This section is non-normative

The current definition of mix-blend-mode defines the input (backdrop) image for mix-blend-mode as being all of the underlying content of the parent stacking context. This definition could likely be relaxed to use the Backdrop Root definition instead, allowing more elements to be blended.

4. Privacy and Security Considerations

All of the same privacy and security concerns exist for backdrop-filter as do for "standard" filters. See Filter Effects 1 § 15.1 Tainted Filter Primitives for more details.


The editors would like to thank Mason Freed, Marcus Stange, Matt Rakow, Simon Fraser, Amelia Bellamy-Royds, Dirk Schulze, and Tab Atkins for their careful reviews, comments, and corrections.


Document conventions

Conformance requirements are expressed with a combination of descriptive assertions and RFC 2119 terminology. The key words “MUST”, “MUST NOT”, “REQUIRED”, “SHALL”, “SHALL NOT”, “SHOULD”, “SHOULD NOT”, “RECOMMENDED”, “MAY”, and “OPTIONAL” in the normative parts of this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119. However, for readability, these words do not appear in all uppercase letters in this specification.

All of the text of this specification is normative except sections explicitly marked as non-normative, examples, and notes. [RFC2119]

Examples in this specification are introduced with the words “for example” or are set apart from the normative text with class="example", like this:

This is an example of an informative example.

Informative notes begin with the word “Note” and are set apart from the normative text with class="note", like this:

Note, this is an informative note.

Advisements are normative sections styled to evoke special attention and are set apart from other normative text with <strong class="advisement">, like this: UAs MUST provide an accessible alternative.

Conformance classes

Conformance to this specification is defined for three conformance classes:

style sheet
A CSS style sheet.
A UA that interprets the semantics of a style sheet and renders documents that use them.
authoring tool
A UA that writes a style sheet.

A style sheet is conformant to this specification if all of its statements that use syntax defined in this module are valid according to the generic CSS grammar and the individual grammars of each feature defined in this module.

A renderer is conformant to this specification if, in addition to interpreting the style sheet as defined by the appropriate specifications, it supports all the features defined by this specification by parsing them correctly and rendering the document accordingly. However, the inability of a UA to correctly render a document due to limitations of the device does not make the UA non-conformant. (For example, a UA is not required to render color on a monochrome monitor.)

An authoring tool is conformant to this specification if it writes style sheets that are syntactically correct according to the generic CSS grammar and the individual grammars of each feature in this module, and meet all other conformance requirements of style sheets as described in this module.

Partial implementations

So that authors can exploit the forward-compatible parsing rules to assign fallback values, CSS renderers must treat as invalid (and ignore as appropriate) any at-rules, properties, property values, keywords, and other syntactic constructs for which they have no usable level of support. In particular, user agents must not selectively ignore unsupported component values and honor supported values in a single multi-value property declaration: if any value is considered invalid (as unsupported values must be), CSS requires that the entire declaration be ignored.

Implementations of Unstable and Proprietary Features

To avoid clashes with future stable CSS features, the CSSWG recommends following best practices for the implementation of unstable features and proprietary extensions to CSS.

Non-experimental implementations

Once a specification reaches the Candidate Recommendation stage, non-experimental implementations are possible, and implementors should release an unprefixed implementation of any CR-level feature they can demonstrate to be correctly implemented according to spec.

To establish and maintain the interoperability of CSS across implementations, the CSS Working Group requests that non-experimental CSS renderers submit an implementation report (and, if necessary, the testcases used for that implementation report) to the W3C before releasing an unprefixed implementation of any CSS features. Testcases submitted to W3C are subject to review and correction by the CSS Working Group.

Further information on submitting testcases and implementation reports can be found from on the CSS Working Group’s website at Questions should be directed to the mailing list.


Terms defined by this specification

Terms defined by reference


Normative References

Tab Atkins Jr.; Elika Etemad. CSS Values and Units Module Level 4. URL:
Bert Bos; et al. Cascading Style Sheets Level 2 Revision 1 (CSS 2.1) Specification. URL:
Dirk Schulze; Dean Jackson. Filter Effects Module Level 1. URL:
Anne van Kesteren; et al. HTML Standard. Living Standard. URL:
S. Bradner. Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels. March 1997. Best Current Practice. URL:
Amelia Bellamy-Royds; et al. Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 2. URL:

Property Index

Name Value Initial Applies to Inh. %ages Ani­mat­able Canonical order Com­puted value Media
backdrop-filter none | <filter-value-list> none All elements. In SVG, it applies to container elements without the defs element and all graphics elements no n/a yes per grammar as specified visual

Issues Index

This specification was drafted for discussion, and does not yet have Working Group consensus. See discussion in issue 53.
This specification does not yet have Working Group consensus, specifically on the definition of Backdrop Root. See discussion in issue 53.
This specification does not yet have Working Group consensus, specifically on the definition of Backdrop Root. See discussion in issue 53.


Edge (Legacy)17+IENone
Firefox for Android?iOS Safari?Chrome for Android?Android WebView?Samsung Internet?Opera Mobile?