Material Components for the Web


Migrating from Material Design Lite

Material Components for the web (MDC-Web) is the successor to the Material Design Lite (MDL) project.

While the philosophy behind the two projects is quite similar, migrating to MDC-Web requires a number of changes, from class names to different DOM structures. In addition, there are several choices to be made regarding component initialization, how to depend on MDC-Web, and theming/styling mechanisms.

This document attempts to summarize and guide you through the work involved. Let’s get started!

Note: If you’re thinking of migrating your application to MDC-Web, please bear in mind that it’s still in an alpha state and thus APIs and certain UX features are subject to change.

Depending on MDC-Web

MDL is distributed on NPM, Bower, and through its own CDN. MDC-Web is currently only available on NPM.

While MDL is a singular, universal library consisting of all components and styles, MDC-Web has been designed to be modular, allowing you to make the choice of either pulling in everything, or just the packages you want.


MDC-Web is made available on NPM, with packages living under the @material namespace.

In order to install e.g. the button component, you can run:

npm install --save @material/button

Some packages serve as dependencies for others, so don’t be surprised if you end up with multiple packages in your node_modules folder! There are no runtime dependencies outside of MDC-Web, so the dependency tree should remain small.

If you want all of MDC-Web, you can pull in the meta package:

npm install --save material-components-web

Content Distribution Network (CDN)

While MDL is available over a CDN, there’s currently no equivalent in MDC-Web (it’s in the plans for the future, though!).

In the meantime, you can take advantage of the unpkg CDN, which automatically provides distribution for all NPM packages.

For easily getting all MDC-Web CSS:

And JS:

Check the unpkg CDN main page for more information on how to request particular version ranges.

There’s also the option of getting individual packages, rather than the material-components-web meta-package.

Initializing components

Both MDL and MDC-Web require the user to provide a specific DOM for a component, in order for it to function correctly. This DOM has certain requirements, such as requiring the presence of specific CSS classes, a certain hierarchy, and in some cases, specific HTML elements.


<div class="mdl-text-field mdl-js-text-field">
  <input class="mdl-text-field__input" type="text" id="input">
  <label class="mdl-text-field__label" for="input">Input Label</label>


<div class="mdc-text-field">
  <input class="mdc-text-field__input" type="text" id="input">
  <label for="input" class="mdc-text-field__label">Input Label</label>
  <div class="mdc-text-field__bottom-line"></div>

In MDC-Web, the DOM you specify must be complete; unlike MDL, the library will not create any missing elements for you. This is done in order to make behavior more deterministic and give you greater freedom in customizing the non-critical parts of a component’s DOM.

Once a DOM is available, MDL manages component lifecycles automatically, by running through the page on load, identifying DOM structures that correspond to MDL components, and automatically upgrading them.

In MDC-Web, however, you have the choice between managing components’ lifecycles yourself, or having them automatically initialized, similarly to MDL.


Auto-initialization is handled by the @material/auto-init package, so start by ensuring that you’re depending on it (check the Depending on MDC-Web section).

For every component that you want to automatically initialize, set the data-mdc-auto-init attribute on the root element, with the component’s class name as the value. For example:

<div class="mdc-text-field" data-mdc-auto-init="MDCTextField">
  <input class="mdc-text-field__input" type="text" id="input">
  <label for="input" class="mdc-text-field__label">Input Label</label>
  <div class="mdc-text-field__bottom-line"></div>

Auto-initialization still needs to be triggered explicitly. An easy way of doing this is by adding a small script to the bottom of your page:

<script type="text/javascript">

You can access a component’s JavaScript instance via the DOM, by looking in a property with the same name as the value you passed to data-mdc-auto-init. So, for the example above:

document.querySelector('.mdc-text-field').MDCTextField.disabled = true;

Be sure to read the @material/auto-init README for more details.

Manual lifecycle management

While auto-initialization works very well for simpler use-cases, manual management of components’ lifecycles is a better option for complex applications that create and destroy parts of their user interface in runtime.

MDC-Web modules include both ES2015 sources and bundled, transpiled ES5, so you can choose the best option depending on your build pipeline.

Importing a component from ES2015 sources

Start by importing the component:

import {MDCTextField} from '@material/textfield';

And instantiate a component by calling the constructor on the root node:

const textField = new MDCTextField(document.querySelector('.mdc-text-field'));

Be sure to store the returned instance somewhere so that you can access the instance when you need to; unlike auto-initialization, there is no way to retrieve it later via the DOM.

Using the component class in an ES5 bundle

Each MDC-Web component ships with an ES5 transpiled UMD bundle, with component classes placed into a package-specific property inside of the mdc namespace. In order to easily access it in your code, you can do:

const MDCTextField = mdc.textField.MDCTextField;

After that, you can instantiate a component by calling the constructor on the root node:

const textField = new MDCTextField(document.querySelector('.mdc-text-field'));

Be sure to store the returned instance somewhere so that you can access the instance when you need to; unlike auto-initialization, there is no way to retrieve it later via the DOM.


Styling in MDL is achieved with a collection of CSS classes that get applied to the DOM. Internally, MDL is built with Sass, but there was no effort in exposing the Sass mixins and functions to developers.

In MDC-Web, components can expose both CSS and Sass interfaces to their styles. This is particularly true for foundational components, such as @material/elevation or @material/theme.

Using CSS classes

Like in MDL, styling components with CSS classes is simply a matter of applied them to the DOM:

<div class="mdc-text-field">
  <input type="text" id="my-text-field" class="mdc-text-field__input">
  <label class="mdc-text-field__label" for="my-text-field">Hint text</label>
  <div class="mdc-text-field__bottom-line"></div>

Every component lists the required CSS classes, as well as all of the optional modifiers, as part of their README.

Using CSS Custom Properties

Some MDC-Web components include CSS custom properties as part of their interfaces. An example of this is the @material/layout-grid, which exposes custom properties for modifying the default margin and gutter sizes:

.my-grid {
  --mdc-layout-grid-margin: 40px;
  --mdc-layout-grid-gutter: 16px;

Be sure to read the README for each component to get all the details on their usage.

Note: CSS Custom Property support in components is a progressive enhancement feature that doesn’t work in every supported browser. If you’re using any custom properties, make sure your site doesn’t depend on them for any critical features. For some of this functionality, we also provide pre-generated CSS classes as well as Sass variables and mixins, which may cover your use-case.

Using Sass

Many MDC-Web components expose Sass mixins and functions that you can directly use on your site. These make it possible to customize components beyond what’s possible with the provided CSS classes, as well as reduce CSS class usage in the DOM.

You can access the Sass sources for a component in the similarly named scss file at its package root:

@import "@material/layout-grid/mdc-layout-grid”;

In the case of @material/layout-grid, for example, there are several mixins that allow you to apply a layout grid directly to your site, while customizing the margins and gutters:

.page-layout {
  @include mdc-layout-grid(16px, 16px, 1600px);

.page-layout > .sidebar {
  @include mdc-layout-grid-cell(16px, 4);

Since Sass is a preprocessor that generates static CSS output, this approach doesn’t require any special support in the end user’s browser.


Theming in MDL is primarily handled either by overriding the theme variables in Sass, or by depending on a pre-generated CSS bundle with the colors baked in, via the customizer.

In MDC-Web, all theming is handled via the @material/theme package. There’s the option of overriding the theme variables in Sass, as in MDL, but there’s no longer a customizer or a CDN with different combinations. There is custom property support, however.

In the future, there will likely be other options available via a planned CDN.

For details on theming, please check the @material/theme README, but you’ll find a summary below.

Sass variables

In order to change the theme colors for your entire application, simply define the three theme color variables before importing @material/theme or any MDC-Web components that rely on it:

$mdc-theme-primary: #9c27b0;
$mdc-theme-secondary: #ffab40;
$mdc-theme-background: #fff;

@import "@material/theme/mdc-theme";

The correct text colors will automatically be calculated based on the provided theme colors.

CSS Custom Properties

If you’re comfortable relying on CSS Custom Properties for your theming, bearing in mind that it requires support in end-users’ browsers, you can use the custom properties provided by @material/theme:

:root {
  --mdc-theme-primary: #9c27b0;
  --mdc-theme-secondary: #ffab40;
  --mdc-theme-background: #fff;

Unfortunately, due to the current limitations of CSS color handling, it’s not currently possible to automatically calculate the correct text colors to use, based on the chosen theme colors. These will all need to be set manually. Please check the @material/theme README for more details.

Browser support

Unlike MDL, in which support goes back to Internet Explorer 9, MDC-Web only supports IE 11.

For modern major browsers, MDC-Web guarantees support for up to 2 versions prior to the current stable release.

Component equivalence

For many components, there is a 1:1 relation between MDL and MDC-Web. In other cases there are some differences, with MDL components being split up into multiple MDC-Web ones, new ones being added, and some still to be implemented.

The following table summarizes the current situation (TBI = to be implemented):

MDL component MDC-Web component Notes
mdl-animation @material/animation Very similar.
mdl-badge None Not currently planned for MDC-Web.
mdl-button Split into @material/button and @material/fab No icon button in MDC-Web at the moment, TBI.
mdl-card @material/card Very different DOM. More options in MDC-Web.
mdl-checkbox @material/checkbox Very different DOM. Recommended use with @material/form-field.
mdl-chip TBI #56
mdl-data-table TBI #57
mdl-dialog @material/dialog Sufficiently different from MDL. MDL uses the dialog element which has limited cross-browser support. mdc-dialog relies on elements with more cross-browser support.
mdl-footer None Not currently planned for MDC-Web.
mdl-grid @material/layout-grid Very similar. No offsets in MDC-Web.
mdl-icon-toggle @material/icon-toggle Very different DOM.
mdl-layout Split into @material/drawer, @material/toolbar, and @material/layout-grid No tabs component in MDC-Web at the moment, TBI.
mdl-list @material/list Very different DOM.
mdl-menu @material/menu Very different DOM.
mdl-palette @material/theme All theming is handled via @material/theme
mdl-progress @material/linear-progress Very different DOM.
mdl-radio @material/radio Very different DOM. Recommended use with @material/form-field.
mdl-resets None. There are plans for an optional resets/defaults library.
mdl-ripple @material/ripple Very different usage; much improved in MDC-Web.
mdl-shadow @material/elevation Similar usage.
mdl-slider @material/slider Very different DOM.
mdl-snackbar @material/snackbar Very different DOM.
mdl-spinner TBI #30
mdl-switch @material/switch Very different DOM.
mdl-tabs @material/tabs Very different DOM.
mdl-text-field @material/textfield Very different DOM.
mdl-tooltip TBI #24
mdl-typography @material/typography Somewhat different usage.

New MDC-Web components:

Component Description
@material/auto-init Helper for automatically initializing components (optional in MDC-Web).
@material/form-field Helpers for using labels with form field elements (radios and checkboxes).
@material/grid-list An RTL-aware grid list component.
@material/rtl Helpers for working with right-to-left languages.
@material/select Select (AKA drop-down) component.
@material/theme Theming helpers for CSS and Sass.
@material/toolbar A container for multiple rows containing items such as application title, navigation menu, and tabs, among other things.