If you have any theme besides "Dusk" selected on my website, you'll see a little animation on hover that fills in each letter of my logo. In case you are using that theme, here's what that looks like:

Users of software like Adobe Illustrator will know that you can determine on which edge the stroke sits. By default, it's in the centre, shared across both (so a 2px stroke wil have 1px inside the shape, 1px outside), but you can also select either to have it only "outside" or "inside". The issue is that you can't export an SVG with that feature (well, you can but it will offset the path or convert it to a shape instead): SVG only supports the centre stroke (for now).

I thought it would be cool to have the letters fill in from the sides instead of simply changing the fill colour. Easy, right? Animate the stroke-width from 0 to whichever value covers the full shape (16 in my case). Let's take a look (hover to trigger the animation):

Yikes. Not exactly what I'm after. The stroke should only be contained inside the shape itself, like… clipped? Ah, a clip path! Use a path, apply a stroke to it, and clip it to itself. That should work. I'll define a <clipPath> for each letter inside <defs>. But I don't want to have the path in the clip path element, and then repeat it as its own path… Well, SVG is Super Very Goodβ„’, because I can absolutely do something like this:

<svg etc...>
		<clipPath id="letter-c-clip">
			<path id="letter-c-path" d="…" />

This allows me to define a path as a clip, and then later reference the path itself as a regular shape. Gosh, SVG is so cool.

Anyways, so I have my clips defined, now I need to add the shapes. Easy enough, I'll use <use>! Set the href and clip-path attributes, and that's all I need in the markup section.

<use href="#letter-c-path" clip-path="url(#letter-c-clip)"/>


I'm being a little lazy and using SVG 2.0's spec where you don't prefix the attribute with xlink:, but if backward browser compatibility is of concern, make sure to use xlink:href and to add the corresponding namespace definition on your <svg> element.

Now all I need is to set the adjusted CSS to change the stroke width on use instead (though there are many ways to do this, e.g.: assign a data-letter="c" attribute and select [data-letter]).

use {
	fill: var(--color);
	stroke: var(--accent);
	stroke-width: 0;

	transition: stroke-width 500ms ease-in-out var(--delay, 0ms);

/* For added effect, a slight delay between letters ✨ */
[data-c] { --delay: 0ms; } /* Can be omitted */
[data-k] { --delay: 200ms; }
[data-n] { --delay: 400ms; }

svg:is(:hover, :focus-visible) use {
	stroke-width: 16;

Which all in all looks like this:

Sure, we can invert it

You could definitely use masks (white rectangle covering the SVG, black fill on the letter) instead of clip-paths if you wanted to make the stroke grow outwards with a transparent shape. But you'll need to make sure to create a single mask, or else each letter can spill onto the other. Compare this not great version:

… to this most excellent one:

In the case of a solid fill, I'd say layer a copy of the shape below (so the fill shows up above the stroke), or even better: use paint-order="stroke" to paint the stroke first, which avoids having to duplicate the shape.

Now this is pretty simple but I thought it was fun enough to share. Plus, I really love SVG so if I get an excuse to write about it, I'll take it!