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Create an SVG sprite sheet

It’s bad practice to embed SVGs within your JavaScript bundle, since it increases the bundle size and therefore download and parsing time.

Jacob Groß has a good post on all the alternatives and their tradeoffs, but the TL;DR is that the best way in most cases is to create SVG sprite sheets and include them in the HTML.

SVG sprite sheets look something like the following:

<svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg">
    <symbol id="icon1">
      <!-- the content of the SVG goes in here -->
    <symbol id="icon2">
      <!-- the content of the SVG goes in here -->

The contents of each individual SVG goes inside a <symbol> tag identified by a unique ID. That <symbol> tag is also where attributes on the individual SVG’s <svg> tag (like viewBox, etc) should go. Those all go within a <defs> tag.

To use a particular symbol from the sprite sheet, there’s the <use> tag. It’s used like this:

<svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg">
  <use href="/path/to/spritesheet.svg#icon1" />

To actually maintain the sprite sheet, there’s a tool called (appropriately enough) svg-sprite. A command to take a directory of SVGs and combine them into a single sprite sheet might look like this:

svg-sprite --symbol \
  --symbol-dest src \
  --symbol-sprite icons.svg \

Here’s what it does:

  • --symbol enables symbol mode
  • --symbol-dest src sets the output directory to src
  • --symbol-sprite icons.svg sets the output filename to icons.svg
  • icons/*.svg uses all files within the directory icons ending in .svg as input

The id on each <symbol> tag will be the name of the input file (minus the extension).