Sophie Au

Software Developer, Web Designer, Tea Enthusiast

Adding WebP Support to your Gatsby Project

21 February 2020

WebP is a (relatively) new image format that (in most cases) allows you to ship smaller image files without a quality loss. Also, Lighthouse really likes them and gives you bonus points for using them. Which let's be honest is the main reason I set all this up.

Now, in your Gatsby project there are generally speaking two ways you can import images:

  1. In your React code using a require or import statement. For these cases, Gatsby can take care of (most of) the heavy lifting for you
  2. In your css, e.g. for background images. In this case the process is a bit more manual and cumbersome. It's not impossible though.

Case 1: Using webp in your js Files

Gatsby provides the gatsby-image package that allows you to auto-generate webp and even traced svg versions of your images. Note that it's not a drop-in replacement for the <img /> html element though. It has some tricky styling issues as a result of its magic that can be hard to get right.

For an in-depth explanation of the package, check out the gatsby-image docs. Here you'll just see a short example of the general syntax.

import { graphql, useStaticQuery } from 'gatsby';
import Img from 'gatsby-image';
import React from 'react';

const query = graphql`
  query {
   file(relativePath: { eq: "img/sample_image.jpg" }) {
      childImageSharp {
        fixed {

const ImageExample = () => (
  <Img fixed={useStaticQuery(query).file.childImageSharp.fixed} alt={name} />

Case 2: Using WebP in your CSS

If you want to use webP images outside of the Gatsby ecosystem the setup is a bit more involved. You need to first create webp-versions of all images and then conditionally show the webp images on your site.

1) Converting your images to WebP

Google's Developer Page offers a precompiled tool that lets you convert e.g. png to webp files with this simple command:

cwebp -q [QUALITY E.G. 90]  input.png -o output.webp

Just make sure to not delete the non-webp versions of the files. You need them for browsers that don't support webp (e.g. Safari and good old IE).

2) Detect webp compatibility

Now that you have two versions of each image you need to check the browser for webp compaitibility. To do that, you need to add a script to the <head> section of your page like so:

  <script>'!function(e){"use strict";function s(s){if(s){var t=e.documentElement;t.classList?t.classList.add("webp"):t.className+=" webp",window.sessionStorage.setItem("webpSupport",!0)}}!function(e){if(window.sessionStorage&&window.sessionStorage.getItem("webpSupport"))s(!0);else{var t=new Image;t.onload=t.onerror=function(){e(2===t.height)},t.src="data:image/webp;base64,UklGRi4AAABXRUJQVlA4TCEAAAAvAUAAEB8wAiMwAgSSNtse/cXjxyCCmrYNWPwmHRH9jwMA"}}(s)}(document);'</script>

This script is a modified, lighter version of the one written by Raoul Kramer. The way it works is that it adds a webp class to the very root element (<html>) of your document.

Now that you have this extra class, you can use it in your css to conditionally use webp or the fallback image:

#about {
  background: repeat url(../../data/img/bg_pattern.png);

.webp #about {
  background: repeat url(../../data/img/bg_pattern.webp);

Note that if JavaScript is turned off and/or the script fails to run, it falls back to non-webp support.