Stopping Gmail image popup

Sending emails with images in is very common, I’d guess that the vast majority of HTML emails have an <img> inside them somewhere.

When these emailed are opened in Gmail, it will often display a download arrow when hovered and open the image in a lightbox when clicked.

Personally I don’t see this as a problem and in some cases is a nice feature, I tend to leave this as is.

However if you want to stop it there are a few ways around this.

When chatting to Jay on twitter the other day, about how they used the faux absolute position technique in the Email Weekly newsletter. I realised that a simplified version of this technique could also be used to solve this Gmail issue.

The Code

<div style="max-height:0;max-width:600px;">
  <div style="max-width:600px;padding-bottom:50%;opacity:0"></div>
<img src="" alt="kitten" style="max-width:100%;">


Here I’m setting the max-height to create the faux absolute position effect. And setting max-width to match the width of the image we’re covering.


Inside that div I’m again setting the max-width to match that of the image. instead of adding height I’m using padding-bottom. Doing it this way means the height adjusts responsively for smaller viewports.

To get the padding value the formula is width / height * 100. And because Gmail supports calc you could even code this as padding-bottom:calc(100% * 300 / 600);, calc works particularly well when your calculation ends up with a recurring decimal 33.33333333333333% .

opacity:0 is used here to increase the z-index so that our overlay sits on top of the image and not behind it.

Bug fixing

If you are having issues with this, there are a couple of quick things to try.

To make sure this is covering the image at all times, try increasing the opacity opacity:0.5; and adding a background colour background:red;. Now you should see a red overlay, exactly covering the image.

If you need the cover to be centre aligned try adding margin:0 auto; to the outer div. Or for right aligned add margin-left:auto;


I feel like there may be some accessibility concerns with stopping a mouse user being able to click on an image. I’m not sure what that might be yet, but if you know of anything, please let me know.

It’s worth noting that keyboard and screen reader users are still able to trigger the pop up.