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Ashutosh Singh

Styling a React App with Material UI

Ashutosh Singh

  • Oct 30, 2020
  • 13 Min read
  • Oct 30, 2020
  • 13 Min read
Web Development
Client-side Frameworks
Front End Web Development


This guide will discuss the step-by-step process of creating and styling a React app with Material UI.

This app will use the character endpoint of the Final Space API, a free RESTful API that provides information about characters, episodes, and locations of the Final Space TV show.

This guide assumes you already know how to install and configure Material UI in a React app. You can read Installing and Using Material UI with React to get started.

Setting Up React App

You can use a Create React App template to quickly initialize a React project without doing any manual configurations.

In your project's root directory, run the following command.

1npx create-react-app react-material-ui-example
2cd react-material-ui-example

To install Material-UI, run the following command in your React project's root directory.

1npm install @material-ui/core

Add the following code to the <head> tag of your public/index.html file.

1<link rel="stylesheet" href=",400,500,700&display=swap" />

Delete App.css, index.css, logo.svg from the src directory.

Remove index.css import from the src/index.js file.

1// src/index.js
2import React from 'react';
3import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
4import App from './App';
7  <React.StrictMode>
8    <App />
9  </React.StrictMode>,
10  document.getElementById('root')

Modify your src/App.js file like this.

1// src/App.js
2import React, { useEffect, useState } from "react";
4function App() {
5  return <div></div>;
8export default App;

Start the development server by running the following command in the terminal.

1npm start

Navigate to http://localhost:3000; you will see a blank page since your app is currently empty.

Fetching Data from the API

First, you need to fetch data from the /character endpoint of the Final Space API. You can do this by using fetch() inside the useEffect() hook and storing the response data inside the state variable. You can also use axios to make API requests.

By providing an empty array as a second argument to useEffect(), you can ensure that the request is made only after the initial render.

1function App() {
2  const [data, setData] = useState([]);
3  useEffect(() => {
4    fetch("")
5      .then((res) => res.json())
6      .then((data) => setData(data));
7  }, []);
9  return <div></div>;
12export default App;

In the above code, you have limited the response from the endpoint by passing the /?limit=12 query in the URL.

Using a Container to Wrap a React App

Now, you will use the Container component to add some margins to the app.

Import Container from the Material-UI library.

1import Container from "@material-ui/core/Container";

Now, use it inside the App() function.

1return (
2  <div>
3    <Container> </Container>
4  </div>

You will not see any change on your app, but some margins have been added to it, which will be apparent after adding other components inside Container.

Adding Heading to React App

Your app needs a heading; for this, use the Typography component of the Material-UI library. Import this component in App.js file.

1import Typography from "@material-ui/core/Typography";

Now, use it inside the Container component.

2  <Typography color="textPrimary" gutterBottom variant="h2" align="center">
3    React Material UI Example
4  </Typography>

Here is how this will look.


These are the props that are used:

  • gutterBottom: Adds margin to the bottom of the component.
  • color="textPrimary": Specifies the color of the text. You can use textSeconadry, primary, etc. also.
  • align="center": Center aligns the component.
  • variant="h2": Applies the theme typography styles.

There are even more props that you can pass to style the Typography component. You can read about them here.

Creating Character Cards

Next, you need to decide which data to show in your app; this project will display name, image, and status of the character. You can check out the Character Schema and add additional data to the app.

You will import and use Card,CardMedia, and CardContent components to create cards for each character.

1import Card from "@material-ui/core/Card";
2import CardContent from "@material-ui/core/CardContent";
3import CardMedia from "@material-ui/core/CardMedia";

CardContent is used to show information, and CardMedia is used to display an image inside the Card component.

The source of the image goes in the image prop of the CardMedia component.

Use the .map() method on the data variable to create individual cards for characters. Add the following code after the <Typography> component.

2 => (
3    <Card
4      style={{
5        maxWidth: 345,
6        boxShadow: "0 5px 8px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.3)",
7        backgroundColor: "#fafafa",
8      }}
9    >
10      <CardMedia style={{ height: "300px" }} image={character.img_url} />
11    </Card>
12  ))

Here is how your app will look.


In the above code, you have used inline styling to style the Card and CardImage components; it works but makes your code look messy.

Luckily, Material-UI provides a solution for this: makeStyles. Using makeStyles, you can add CSS in JS without making your code look messy.

First, you need to import makeStyles in your app.

1import { makeStyles } from "@material-ui/core/styles";

Next, pass all the CSS you need in your app as an object to makeStyles and store it inside a variable, useStyles. This code comes before the App() function. You can create nested objects to style different components.

Here, card is for styling the Card component and media is for styling the CardImage component.

1const useStyles = makeStyles({
2  card: {
3    maxWidth: 345,
4    boxShadow: "0 5px 8px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.3)",
5    backgroundColor: "#fafafa",
6  },
7  media: {
8    height: 300,
9  },
12function App() {
13  ...
15export default App;

To use this inside App() function, initialize a variable before the return statement.

1const classes = useStyles();

And that's it. You can now pass this classes and the nested object inside it as the className to style the component.

2 => (
3    <Card className={classes.card}>
4      <CardMedia className={} image={character.img_url} />
5    </Card>
6  ))

Navigate to http://localhost:3000; you will notice that your app looks just the same as before.

Adding Name and Status to Card

The next step is to add the name and status of the character using the CardContent and Typography component.

Add the following code inside the Card component.

1<Card className={classes.card}>
2  <CardMedia className={} image={character.img_url} />
3  <CardContent>
4    <Typography color="primary" variant="h5">
5      {}
6    </Typography>
7    <Typography color="textSecondary" variant="subtitle2">
8      {character.status}
9    </Typography>
10  </CardContent>

Here is how this will look.


As you can see, here you have used the Typography component three times, and all of them look entirely different. So the output can change significantly based on what values are passed to a component's prop.

Using Grid Component

This column of cards doesn't look right. To fix this, you will use the Grid component to change the app's layout.

First, import the Grid component in your App.jsfile.

1import Grid from "@material-ui/core/Grid";

Next, wrap all the cards inside a Grid component. You can use two types of layout with Grid, i.e., item and container. Here you will use the container layout.

1<Grid container spacing={3}>
2  { => (
3    <Card className={classes.card}>
4      <CardMedia className={} image={character.img_url} />
5      <CardContent>
6        <Typography color="primary" variant="h5">
7          {}
8        </Typography>
9        <Typography color="textSecondary" variant="subtitle2">
10          {character.status}
11        </Typography>
12      </CardContent>
13    </Card>
14  ))}

Next, wrap each individual card inside the Grid component with the item layout.

2 => (
3    <Grid item xs={12} sm={4} key={}>
4      <Card className={classes.card}>
5        <CardMedia className={} image={character.img_url} />
6        <CardContent>
7          <Typography color="primary" variant="h5">
8            {}
9          </Typography>
10          <Typography color="textSecondary" variant="subtitle2">
11            {character.status}
12          </Typography>
13        </CardContent>
14      </Card>
15    </Grid>
16  ));

When mapping over an array in React, you need to pass a key prop to distinguish each child element. Here, the id of the character is passed to the key prop.

In the above code, xs and sm grid breakpoints are set as 12 and 4, respectively. If you are not familiar with grid breakpoints, you can read more about them here.

Here is how your app will look.


Complete Code

Here is the complete code for this app.

1import React, { useEffect, useState } from "react";
2import Container from "@material-ui/core/Container";
3import Card from "@material-ui/core/Card";
4import Typography from "@material-ui/core/Typography";
5import CardContent from "@material-ui/core/CardContent";
6import CardMedia from "@material-ui/core/CardMedia";
7import { makeStyles } from "@material-ui/core/styles";
8import Grid from "@material-ui/core/Grid";
10const useStyles = makeStyles({
11  card: {
12    maxWidth: 345,
13    boxShadow: "0 5px 8px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.3)",
14    backgroundColor: "#fafafa",
15  },
16  media: {
17    height: 300,
18  },
21function App() {
23  const [data, setData] = useState([]);
25  useEffect(() => {
26    fetch("")
27      .then((res) => res.json())
28      .then((data) => setData(data));
29  }, []);
31  const classes = useStyles();
33  return (
34    <div>
35      <Container>
36        <Typography
37          color="textPrimary"
38          gutterBottom
39          variant="h2"
40          align="center"
41        >
42          React Material UI Example{" "}
43        </Typography>
44        <Grid container spacing={3}>
45          { => (
46            <Grid item xs={12} sm={4} key={}>
47              <Card className={classes.card}>
48                <CardMedia
49                  className={}
50                  image={character.img_url}
51                />
52                <CardContent>
53                  <Typography color="primary" variant="h5">
54                    {}
55                  </Typography>
56                  <Typography color="textSecondary" variant="subtitle2">
57                    {character.status}
58                  </Typography>
59                </CardContent>
60              </Card>
61            </Grid>
62          ))}
63        </Grid>
64      </Container>
65    </div>
66  );
69export default App;

You can explore this React app here.


This guide demonstrated the step-by-step process of creating and styling a React app with Material UI. You should try to customize this app further with different Material UI components and layouts.

Here are some additional resources that can be helpful.

Happy coding!