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Reflow and Repaint

How the browser renders the document?

  1. Receives the data (bytes) from the server.
  2. Parses and converts into tokens (<, TagName, Attribute, AttributeValue, >).
  3. Turns tokens into nodes.
  4. Turns nodes into the DOM tree.
  5. Builds CSSOM tree from the css rules.
  6. CSSOM and DOM trees are combined into a Render Tree.
    • Computes which elements are visible and their computed styles.
    • Starting from the root of the dom tree.
    • Not visible elements like (meta, script, link) and display: none are omitted from the render tree.
    • For each visible node, find the appropriate matching CSSOM rules and apply them.


Occurs when changes affect the visibility. For example, opacity, color(the alpha channel), background-color, visibility.

Reflow (Layout)

  • Occurs when the changes affect the layout.
  • Triggers: width, position, float, change DOM, scrolling.
  • Recalculate of positions and sizes.
  • Has a bigger impact, changing a single element can affect all children, ancestors, and siblings or the whole document.

Minimizing Repaints and Reflows

  • Batch DOM changes
  • Don't ask for computed styles repeatedly, cache them into variable.
  • Use ID-Based Selectors.