Basic gulp build for Sass

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Some designers might shy away from build tools when first starting out and I can understand the reasoning - task runners like gulp and grunt can seem daunting at first. So, I’ve decided to showcase my go-to setup for gulp and explain what the heck it does step-by-step.

Here is the final gulp.js file in all it’s glory:

var gulp = require('gulp');
var shell = require('gulp-shell');
var sass = require('gulp-sass');

/*
  Build and watch Jekyll (change this task to whatever you need)
*/
gulp.task('generate', shell.task('jekyll serve'));

/*
  Compile SCSS files to CSS
*/
gulp.task('styles', function () {
    return gulp.src('_includes/assets/sass/styles.scss')
        .pipe(sass({
            outputStyle: 'compressed'
        }).on('error', sass.logError))
        .pipe(gulp.dest('_includes/assets/css/'));
});

/*
  Compile the assets
*/
gulp.task('assets', gulp.parallel(
    'styles'
));

/*
  Build
*/
gulp.task('build', gulp.series(
    'assets',
    'generate'
));

Trust me, it’s not complicated at all.

Grabbing what we need

For our basic build file we are going to need only three modules: gulp, gulp-shell and gulp-sass.

var gulp = require('gulp');
var shell = require('gulp-shell');
var sass = require('gulp-sass');

gulp

This is the streaming build system, without it we can’t do anything else.

gulp-shell

A gulp command line interface for us to interact with our terminal.

gulp-sass

Required for gulp to compile Sass into vanilla CSS.

Bonus tasks

You can also toss in gulp-minify to clean-up any JavaScript you might be using, but for this example we're just going to keep things simple and focus on Sass only.

Maybe I'll write about my js build workflow in a future article.

Generating the build

Our first step is to create the default task that will generate our build. In this example we are making the assumption that we’re building a Jekyll website (but you can place any build command here):

gulp.task('generate', shell.task('jekyll serve'));

Don’t worry if this generate isn’t clear, we come back to that later.

Processing our pre-processor

We will name this next task styles since that’s what it outputs - our styling. We start by telling gulp where our main scss directory is:

/* Change this directory to match yours */
return gulp.src('_includes/assets/sass/styles.scss')

This next piece tells the plugin to compress our final compiled CSS, log any errors if there are issues with the build and then export it to our destination directory:

.pipe(sass({
    outputStyle: 'compressed'
}).on('error', sass.logError))

/* Change this to your destination directory */
.pipe(gulp.dest('_includes/assets/css/'));

Building our assets

This step isn’t 100% needed, but I like to include it for when more assets need to be added (minifying JavaScript, compressing images, etc)

/*
  Compile the assets
*/
gulp.task('assets', gulp.parallel(
    'styles'
));

Altogether now!

Now we add a task that runs all other tasks in our gulp file (in this case it will run both assets and generate)

/*
  Build
*/
gulp.task('build', gulp.series(
    'assets',
    'generate'
));

And that’s it - we’re done! A very basic gulp build for compiling Sass.