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CSS styled emails without the hassle.

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CSS styled emails without the hassle.

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This gem is a drop in solution for styling HTML emails with CSS without having to do the hard work yourself.

Styling emails is not just a matter of linking to a stylesheet. Most clients, especially web clients, ignore linked stylesheets or

 tags in the HTML.
The workaround is to write all the CSS rules in the 
attribute of each tag inside your email. This is a rather tedious and hard to maintain approach.

Premailer to the rescue! The great premailer gem applies all CSS rules to each matching HTML element by adding them to the

attribute. This allows you to keep HTML and CSS in separate files, just as you're used to from web development, thus keeping your sanity.

This gem is an adapter for premailer to work with actionmailer out of the box. Actionmailer is the email framework used in Rails, which also works outside of Rails. Although premailer-rails has certain Rails specific features, it also works in the absence of Rails making it compatible with other frameworks such as sinatra.

How It Works

premailer-rails works with actionmailer by registering a delivery hook. This causes all emails that are delivered to be processed by premailer-rails. This means that by simply including premailer-rails in your

you'll get styled emails without having to set anything up.

Whenever premailer-rails processes an email, it collects the URLs of all linked stylesheets (

). Then, for each of these
URLs, it tries to get the content through a couple of strategies. As long as
a strategy does not return anything, the next one is used. The strategies
available are:

  • :filesystem
    : If there's a file inside
    with the same path as in the URL, it is read from disk. E.g. if the URL is
    the contents of the file located at
    gets returned if it exists.
  • :asset_pipeline
    : If Rails is available and the asset pipeline is enabled, the file is retrieved through the asset pipeline. E.g. if the URL is
    , the file
    is requested from the asset pipeline. That is, the fingerprint and the prefix (in this case
    is the prefix) are stripped before requesting it from the asset pipeline.
  • :network
    : As a last resort, the URL is simply requested and the response body is used. This is useful when the assets are not bundled in the application and only available on a CDN. On Heroku e.g. you can add assets to your
    causing your assets to not be available to the app (and thus resulting in a smaller app) and deploy the assets to a CDN such as S3/CloudFront.

You can configure which strategies you want to use as well as specify their order. Refer to the Configuration section for more on this.

Note that the retrieved CSS is cached when the gem is running with Rails in production.


Simply add the gem to your

gem 'premailer-rails'

premailer-rails and premailer require a gem that is used to parse the email's HTML. For a list of supported gems and how to select which one to use, please refer to the Adapter section of premailer. Note that there is no hard dependency from either gem so you should add one yourself. Also note that this gem is only tested with nokogiri.


Premailer itself accepts a number of options. In order for premailer-rails to pass these options on to the underlying premailer instance, specify them as follows (in Rails you could do that in an initializer such as

Premailer::Rails.config.merge!(preserve_styles: true, remove_ids: true)

For a list of options, refer to the premailer documentation. The default configs are:

  input_encoding: 'UTF-8',
  generate_text_part: true,
  strategies: [:filesystem, :asset_pipeline, :network]

If you don't want to automatically generate a text part from the html part, set the config

to false.

Note that the options

are used internally by premailer-rails and thus will be overridden.

If you're using this gem outside of Rails, you'll need to call

manually in order for it to work. This is done ideally in some kind of initializer, depending on the framework you're using.

premailer-rails reads all stylesheet

 tags, inlines the linked CSS
and removes the tags. If you wish to ignore a certain tag, e.g. one that links to
external fonts such as Google Fonts, you can add a 


premailer-rails processes all outgoing emails by default. If you wish to skip premailer for a certain email, simply set the

class UserMailer < ActionMailer::Base
  def welcome_email(user)
    mail to:,
         subject: 'Welcome to My Awesome Site',
         skip_premailer: true

Note that the mere presence of this header causes premailer to be skipped, i.e., even setting

skip_premailer: false
will cause premailer to be skipped. The reason for that is that the
is a simple header and the value is transformed into a string, causing
to become truthy.

Emails are only processed upon delivery, i.e. when calling

on the email, or when previewing them in rails. If you wish to manually trigger the inlining, you can do so by calling the hook:
mail = SomeMailer.some_message(args)

This will modify the email in place, useful e.g. in tests.

Small Print


Philipe Fatio (@fphilipe)


premailer-rails is released under the MIT license. See the license file.

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