Accoutrement 4.0.4

QuickStart: Tokens

Accoutrement tokens provide a custom syntax, using Sass Maps to define “tokens” of various types:

$sizes: (
  'root': 16px,
  'gutter': 1em,

Tokens provide design abstractions, that can be easily reused across a product or design system. There are several reasons for this approach:

  • Sass Maps provide a format that is readable by both humans & machines
  • All related values are stored in a single variable, with explicit relationships intact
  • We can build automation tools around meaningful token-groups, from font-imports to generated style guides
  • Unlike YAML, JSON, and other object languages, Sass is a style language that understands the values involved, and provides specific tools for maintaining those values

Note: We no longer use token maps internally at OddBird, since Sass “modules” now provide a way to group & namespace normal Sass variables in a meaningful way, and access module variables as a map. By relying on core Sass features, we avoid any confusion around the custom token syntax.

Since 4.0.0:

  • BREAKING: The $functions map no longer accepts alias references or any other aspects of the token syntax
  • BREAKING: Ratios are no longer first-class adjustments (like functions) in the token syntax
  • BREAKING: tokens.$handle-missing-keys defaults to null, and no longer supports the legacy silent option.
  • BREAKING: get-token() is renamed get(), and only accepts bare token names (no # prefix), including the outer->inner nested token syntax.
  • NEW: The new compile() function provides direct access to parse & resolve an arbitrary token value (including aliases with # prefix), rather than calling a specific token by name.
  • NEW: All the built-in Sass module functions are registered by default, as <module-name>.<function-name>
  • NEW: has-token() function checks a map to see if the given token is defined, and supports the outer->inner nested token syntax.


If you’ve already imported accoutrement you are ready to go. If you want to import the tokens alone:

  @use '<path-to>/accoutrement/sass/tokens';

Token Maps

Using the map syntax, we can create named tokens for any related values:

$colors: (
  'brand': rgb(13, 127, 165),
  'text': black,

We can also create alias tokens and explicit relationships, using a #token hashtag syntax:

$colors: (
  'brand': rgb(13, 127, 165),
  'accent': '#brand',
  'text': '#accent' ('shade': 75%),

Those relationships will be calculated at compile-time, using the token.get() function (or shortcut functions provided by plugins):

html {
  color: token.get($colors, 'text');

See Token Maps documentation for more detail.

Tokens » CSS Variables

CSS Variables provide a DOM-aware alternative to the pre-processed Sass variables we use to store tokens. Rather than using one or the other, we recommend defining tokens in Sass (where relationships can be stored in an abstract format), and then generating CSS Variables as-necessary.

See CSS Variables documentation for more detail.


$colors: (
  '_brand': hsl(120, 50%, 50%),
  'text': '#_brand' ('shade': 50%),
  'border': '#text',
html {
  // generate CSS Variables based on the map above…
  @include tools.tokens--($colors);
  // access CSS Variables with smart fallbacks…
  border-color: tools.var-token($colors, 'border');
  color: tools.var-token($colors, 'text');
css compiled
html {
  --text: #206020;
  --border: var(--text, #206020);
  border-color: var(--border, #206020);
  color: var(--text, #206020);

Utility Functions

We provide a set of built-in list and string helpers – in addition to the functions defined in each module.

You can also use the Sass core functions (with appropriate module prefixing), or register your own functions – giving them any alias you like.

  // Create a map of captured functions
  $functions: (
    'my-function': meta.get-function('my-function'),
    'rgba': meta.get-function('rgba'),
  // Or add functions & aliases using the provided mixin:
  @include token.register('my-function', 'alias');

Once a function has been registered with Accoutrement, it is available to call by name or alias in all token adjustment maps:

  @include token.register('rgba', 'fade');
  $colors: (
    'brand': hsl(120, 50%, 50%),
    'background': '#brand' ('fade': 50%),