Dynamic image placeholder in Next.js

A guide on how to create a dynamic image placeholder in Next.js

Sunday, November 14, 2021


How to create a dynamic image placeholder?


Check the full code here

Long version

Being able to see something on the screen immediately makes the app feel faster, either in a fast connection or a slow connection.

The GIF below shows what a user will see for an image loaded using a slow internet connection.

An image of a blog post

It gives the impression that something is wrong with our app.


We can use the built-in placeholder image in Next.js, but for some cases like cover images, we might need something that resembles the actual image.  

Check this blog for more info

An image of a blog post

Better but not enough. The placeholder did not load quickly enough to address the first issue. Also, The sudden change in colors makes it feel unnatural to the eye. However, we can create a custom placeholder for each image, but do we really need to?

In this blog post, I will show how to create a dynamic placeholder image in Next.js.

Here's the general steps on how to solve the issue

  1. Create placeholder metadata based on the image
  2. Create an SVG component from the placeholder metadata
  3. Create a container for the image and placeholder
  4. Unmount the placeholder image after the actual image is completed loading
  5. Putting all the components together
  6. End to end integration in a Next.js page

1. Create placeholder metadata based on the image

An easy way is to use plaiceholder

1234567891011import {getPlaiceholder} from 'plaiceholder' const placeholder = await getPlaiceholder(uri, { size: 64 }) // OR const placeholder = await getPlaiceholder(uri) // `size` decides how many blocks there will be// ranges from 4 to 64// default is 4

getPlaiceholder returns a promise of object with the following properties:

For our purposes, we only need the img and svg property.

2. Create the svg component

The way to create the SVG component will depend on how placeholder metadata is created. Here's a reference to plaiceholder's version.

To better visualize how to create the SVG component, here is a sample SVG metadata

An image of a blog post

2.a. Create the svg container

The first element in the SVG metadata is the svg element. The second element in the SVG metadata is the SVG properties.

12345678function BlurringImage({ svg }){ const Svg = svg[0] const svgProps = svg[1] return <Svg {...svgProps}> {/* TODO */} </Svg>}

2.b. Add the list of rects as svg children

The third element in the SVG metadata is the list of rects, which will be rendered as svg children.

12345678910111213function BlurringImage({ svg }){ // ... const rectangles = svg[2] return <Svg {...}> {rectangles.map((rect) => { const Rect = rect[0] const rectProps = rect[1] <Rect {...rectProps} key={`${rectProps.x}${rectProps.y}`} /> )}} </Svg>}

By doing step 2.a and 2.b, we can create a svg component that looks like this:

An image of a blog post

2.c. Blur the svg

The SVG can be blurred to remove the pixelated look.

12345678910111213function BlurringImage({ svg }){ // ... const svgProps = svg[1] return <Svg style={{ ...svgProps.style, filter: `blur(5px)`, }} > {...} </Svg>}

Applying step 2.c will make the svg looks like this:

An image of a blog post

NOTE: Make sure to apply an appropriate filter value

For svg metadata with fewer rects, the result might looks like this:

An image of a blog post

3. Create a container; then, add the SVG and image to display

The svg and Image can be optionally wrapped in a another component(for styling). Spread the img props in the next Image component.

NOTE: If you are using Next version 13+, import from next/legacy/image

123456789101112import Image from 'next/image' function BlurringImage({ img }){ // ... return <Container> <Svg {...}> <Image {...img} /> </Container> // Create the Container anyway you want}

4. Unmount the placeholder image after the actual image is completed loading

Since the image is already loaded, the placeholder component can be unmounted. Unmounting can be achieved using a useState and the Image's onLoadingComplete callback method.

123456789function BlurringImage({...}){ // ... const [hasPlaceholder, setHasPlaceholder] = useState(true) return <Container> {hasPlaceholder && <Svg {...} />} <Image {...} onLoad={() => setHasPlaceholder(false)} /> </Container>}

5. Putting all the components together

Here's the final Custom Image component with minor refactoring and default prop values:

1234567891011121314151617181920212223242526272829303132333435363738394041424344454647484950import React, {useState} from 'react'import styled from '@emotion/styled'import Image from 'next/image' export function BlurringImage({ svg: [Svg, svgProps, rectangles], img, alt, style, blurLevel = 5, height = undefined, width = undefined, ...props}) { const [hasPlaceholder, setHasPlaceholder] = useState(true) return ( <Container style={style}> {hasPlaceholder && ( <Svg {...svgProps} style={{ ...svgProps.style, filter: `blur(${blurLevel}px)`, }} > {rectangles.map(([Rect, rectProps]) => ( <Rect {...rectProps} key={`${rectProps.x}${rectProps.y}`} /> ))} </Svg> )} <Image {...img} {...props} height={height} width={width} alt={alt} onLoad={() => setHasPlaceholder(false)} /> </Container> )} const Container = styled.div` position: relative; overflow: hidden; height: 100%; width: 100%;`;

6. End to end integration in a NexJs page

Time to integrate our custom component in a NextJs application

12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031import {getPlaiceholder} from 'plaiceholder';import {BlurringImage} from '../components/BlurringImage'; export default function IndexPage({img, svg}) { return ( {/* <SomeHeaderComponent /> */} <BlurringImage img={img} svg={svg} layout="responsive" width={1200} height={800} /> )} // or getServerSideProps depending on your needsexport async function getStaticProps() { const uri = 'https://i.imgur.com/gf3TZMr.jpeg'; const {img, svg} = await getPlaiceholder(uri, { size: 64, }); return { props: { img, svg, }, }}

Here's the final result:

An image of a blog post

The web page seems to be loading faster even on a slow internet connection, and the transition of the image seems to be more natural.

Here's a local lighthouse score:

An image of a blog post


By adding a dynamic placeholder image, the users' experience will improve due to immediate feedback which gives the impression that the application is working faster. There's no need to stare at an empty screen while waiting for an image to load, especially on a slower network. Also, the transition seems to be more natural as the placeholder image is derived from the original image.