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Difference Between Padding and Margin

In the field of design or print media, one would normally expect creativity to flow freely so that whatever is created can be beautifully illustrated and displayed.


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However, like all things, there are certain laws and rules that are to be followed, and some terms that one needs to know in order to get things going in the right manner.

Two of the most commonly used terms, and easily two of the most confusing terms are padding and margin. They both are used in designing interfaces and they both are used to create a gap. Then where do they differ?

Padding vs Margin

The difference between padding and margin is that padding is the space between the border and the contents of an element, while margin is the gap that is between the border and the outer elements.

Padding vs Margin

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonPaddingMargin
DefinitionPadding refers to space between the border and the elements.Margin refers to space between the outside part of the layout and the border.
AutomationPadding can not be auto.Margin can be set to auto.
Background ColorPadding is affected by any internal styling element.Margin is not affected by any internal styling element.
Numerical ValueThe values for padding can only be positive real numbers.Values for margins can be any integer.
LocationPadding deals with the internal aspect of the document.Margin deals with the external aspect of the document.

What is Padding?

Padding refers to the space between the border of a design, or a text, and the inner elements of that design or text. Padding is present on all the sides of the element, and that is why there are four types of padding that is handled while using the design interface.

They are left padding, right padding, top padding, and bottom padding. The exact names of these terms might change from interface to interface, but their main purpose remains the same.

In this case, it is important to note that these directions are denoted with respect to the user, and not the design element, or text. Had it been kept that way, then the top and bottom paddings would have remained the same, however, the ones in the sides would have reversed.

It is also important to note that padding has nothing to do with the thickness of the border of the document, or element and that the thickness of the border is a property of its own, having its own values, which can be altered.

Padding is always calculated when the total width of an item is to be determined. Hence, it is very important for the designer to keep this in mind.

This however is not important if the designer plans on working with images that have a transparent background, because in those cases, these images will just fit anywhere, thus making the padding irrelevant.

Padding is a part of the design, and its colors, designs, gradients can be manipulated as per the requirements of the user. Leaving the padding with a bland color, or just white, while the rest of the design is outstanding would bring down the appeal of the overall design. 

Since this really needs to be precise, hence paddings usually can not be set to auto and are manually adjusted by the designer, so as to fine-tune it to the custom requirements of the design.


What is Margin?

Margin is the space that is between the border of a document, design, or text to the external part of the design interface. Basically, it means the area starting from the outer portion of the border to anywhere the sheet goes to is the border.

However, if there is any second ‘external’ border, then the margin space becomes a padding region. However such cases are usually rare and are not in much use. Double margins are mostly used in intricate designs, to properly separate the working area from the outer part.

Since the margin covers four sides, there are four types of margins. They are the left margin, the right margin, the top margin, and the bottom margin. This is similar to the naming of the paddings, and the names can often change from interface to interface.

Also, these directions, just like padding, are user-centric. The way padding determines the size of a design by extending or compressing the internal area of the design, similarly, margins too determine the size of the internal element, especially when it’s related to typography.

If the value of the margin increases, then it means that the line length will decrease, and if the margin length decreases, this results in an increase in line length. Basically, they are inversely related.

Margins can be set to auto, and in that case, generally, the software determines how much margin gap should be left for the document so as to make it look neat and presentable.

Usually in the case of designs, once the design is exported, it would seem that the margin did not have much of a noticeable impact, at least as much as the paddings did.


Main Difference Between Padding and Margin

  1. The main difference between padding and margin is that padding refers to the inner space between the border and the element, while margin refers to the other space from the border to the end of the workspace.
  2. Padding can not be set to auto, while margin can.
  3. Inner styling effects affect padding, while they do not affect margins.
  4. Padding can only have real numbers as values, while margins can have any integer as a value.
  5. Padding deals with the internal aspect of a document, while margins deal with the external aspects.
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