Quick Install Tailwind CSS

Colin Dismuke / May 27, 2020

4 min read

This is mostly a personal reference for the future – hopefully it will help a few other people too. My most common use case right now is vanilla HTML, CSS, and JS so that's what this is tailored towards.

Method 1: Install via CDN

Fastest but more downside

The fastest way to get started is to use Tailwind's CDN, avoiding any sort of involved installation process entirely. With a single <link> tag, you get the latest default configuration build.


Unfortunately, choosing this method will lock you out of certain functionality including:

  • Unable to customize the default theme
  • Unable to install third-party plugins
  • Unable to use directives
  • Unable to enable features (i.e. group-hover)

Method 2: Tailwind CLI

Fully featured, a bit more involved

Here's the whole process for using the Tailwind CLI to get started with your project:

*Note:*** This is on mac OS with npm installed.

  1. Create a new folder for your project.
  2. cd into your project folder.
  3. Initialize your project with npm by running:
npm init

This will take you through creating apackage.json filethat lives at the top level of your project folder.

  1. Then, install Tailwind using npm:
npm install tailwindcss --save-dev
  1. Tailwind is now installed, before we get it running, let's set up the basic folder structure first.

In the root of the project folder, create an index.html file (touch index.html from the command line) and a styles.css folder (mkdir styles). cd into the styles folder and create astyles.css file.

Next, add some basic structure to index.html:

.<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <title>✨Title ✨</title>
    <meta charset="utf-8" />
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1" />
    <meta name="author" content="Your name" />
    <meta name="description" content="A brief description" />
    <meta property="og:title" content="✨Title ✨" />
    <meta property="og:type" content="website" />
    <meta property="og:description" content="A brief description" />
    <meta property="og:image" content="/cool-image.png" />
    <meta property="og:url" content="/here.html" />
    <meta property="og:site_name" content="✨Title ✨" />
    <meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image" />
    <meta name="twitter:site" content="Twitter username" />
    <meta name="twitter:title" content="✨Title ✨" />
    <meta name="twitter:description" content="A brief description" />
    <meta name="twitter:image:alt" content="image description" />
    <link rel="canonical" href="/here.html" />
    <link href="styles/output.css" rel="stylesheet" />
    <link rel="icon" type="image/svg+xml" href="/favicon.svg" />
    <title>✨Title ✨</title>
    <h1>⭐ Your amazing site here ⭐</h1>
    <script src="script.js"></script>

After that, add the following Tailwind directives to the top of styles.css:

<!-- Tailwind imports -->
@tailwind base;
@tailwind components;
@tailwind utilities;
  1. Now that we have a basic setup, we can use the Tailwind CLI to process styles.css and start using Tailwind to design.

cd into the styles folder and run the following command:

npx tailwind build styles.css -o output.css

styles.css is the current CSS file and output.css is whatever you want the processed CSS to be named. If run successfully,there should now be a file named output.css which means you have successfully installed Tailwind.

  1. To test it out, copy and paste one of the numerous examples from the documentation into index.html.
<div class="w-full max-w-xs">
  <form class="bg-white shadow-md rounded px-8 pt-6 pb-8 mb-4">
    <div class="mb-4">
      <label class="block text-gray-700 text-sm font-bold mb-2" for="username">
        class="shadow appearance-none border rounded w-full py-2 px-3 text-gray-700 leading-tight focus:outline-none focus:shadow-outline"
    <div class="mb-6">
      <label class="block text-gray-700 text-sm font-bold mb-2" for="password">
        class="shadow appearance-none border border-red-500 rounded w-full py-2 px-3 text-gray-700 mb-3 leading-tight focus:outline-none focus:shadow-outline"
      <p class="text-red-500 text-xs italic">Please choose a password.</p>
    <div class="flex items-center justify-between">
        class="bg-blue-500 hover:bg-blue-700 text-white font-bold py-2 px-4 rounded focus:outline-none focus:shadow-outline"
        Sign In
        class="inline-block align-baseline font-bold text-sm text-blue-500 hover:text-blue-800"
        Forgot Password?
  <p class="text-center text-gray-500 text-xs">
    &copy;2020 Acme Corp. All rights reserved.

If you’ve done everything right so far, running your index.html in your browser should produce an image like below. A login form using Tailwind. That’s it!

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