Last Updated: March 02, 2016
· blackfalcon

Set up Node.js, Grunt and Node-Sass from scratch

See the Github Repo

For latest updates to this tutorial, please see the Github Repo.

Run the following steps inside a clean directory

Not sure if you are in the same boat as I, but I could not find any good resource out there that pulled this all together. So here is a step-by-step tutorial for creating a Node.js app from scratch, adding in Grunt and then Node-Sass. Yeah, try and find good docs on Node-Sass alone :(

Hope this is of help!

Create your Node.js project

  • npm init - create a clean node project
  • NOTE: be sure to add "private": true, to the package.json so that your project is not globally distributed as a npm app

Install Express

  • npm install --save express - install the Express package and save to your package.json file

Install Grunt

  • npm install --save-dev grunt - install the Grunt package and save to your package.json file

Set up skeleton project framework

  • mkdir public - at the root of the project, crate a new 'public' directory
  • mkdir public/stylesheets - create stylesheets directory within the public directory

Get the app started

  • touch app.js - create the core application .js file
  • add the following

    // set variables for environment
    var express = require('express');
    var app = express();
    var path = require('path');
    // Set server port
    console.log('server is running');

Install template language

  • npm install --save ejs - to install ejs -- or --
  • npm install --save jade - to install jade
  • mkdir views - create views directory for template views
  • touch views/something.ejs - create any view file -- or --
  • touch views/something.jade - create any view file

Update the app.js file

  • add the following above setting the server port

    // views as directory for all template files
    app.set('views', path.join(__dirname, 'views'));
    app.set('view engine', 'jade'); // use either jade or ejs       // instruct express to server up static assets

Adding routes, make a home page

  • NOTE: ALL routes need to come BEFORE app.listen(4000);
  • update app.js to reflect template being used per the route
  • mkdir views where all view templates will live
  • touch views/index.jade - create base index file
  • Open app.js and crate root route that points to that template file

    // set routes
    app.get('/', function(req, res) {
  • Just before the </body> in your template file, be sure to add in the script for LiveReload

    <script src="//localhost:35729/livereload.js"></scrip>

Install Grunt-Sass

  • npm install --save-dev grunt-sass - install grunt-sass

Add Sass to the project

  • mkdir sass - create Sass directory in the root of the project

Create Gruntfile

  • touch gruntfile.js - create a new Gruntfile in the root of your project, add the following code to the empty file

    module.exports = function(grunt) {
      grunt.initConfig ({
        sass: {
          dist: {
            files: {
              'public/stylesheets/style.css' : 'sass/style.scss'
      grunt.registerTask('default', ['sass']);

Install Grunt Watch

  • npm install grunt-contrib-watch --save-dev - install Grunt watcher and save as a Dev resource
  • Add the following to the Gruntfile within the grunt.initConfig
  • Add the livereload: true option so that LiveReload will work on your project

    watch: {
      source: {
        files: ['sass/**/*.scss'],
        tasks: ['sass'],
        options: {
          livereload: true, // needed to run LiveReload

Our desired file structure

|- node_modules/
|- public/
|--- stylesheets/
|- sass/
|- views/

Get things running

Now that you have a bare bones project set up, we need to get things running. Typically I will be running three terminal windows/tabs for this.

  • user terminal for file navigation
  • run Node server $ node app.js
  • run grunt server $ grunt watch

Now you should be able to navigate to http://localhost:4000/ and see your project running.

Install a Sass framework

For this project I choose to use Thoughtbot's Bourbon library.

While this library is a Ruby Gem, this does not place a Ruby dependency on your project. The Gem installs a version of the Sass mixin library directly into your project.

Before installing the library, update your file structure to contain a lib/ directory within your sass/ directory.

|- node_modules/
|- public/
|--- stylesheets/
|- sass/
|--- lib/
|- views/

Let's install Bourbon.

  • $ gem install bourbon or sudo gem install bourbon (if you are not running RVM)
  • $ cd sass/lib change directories to the new Sass lib directory
  • bourbon install to install the library
  • Open the style.scss file and add @import "lib/bourbon/bourbon";

Install UI foundational framework

Within the sass/ directory, we need to install a foundational directory framework to start constructing our site. I recommend the following:

|- _buttons.scss
|- _config.scss
|- _forms.scss
|- _modules.scss
|- _reset.scss
|- _typography.scss
|- _vendors.scss
|- application.scss
|- buttons/
|- colors/
|- forms/
|- layouts/
|- lib/
|- modules/
|- ui_patterns/
|- vendors/

In our application.scss file, we need to import a few files to get this started.

The reset I have included in this project is a modified version of Eric Meyer's reset plus some ideas from the HTML5 reset project. Additionally I have updated this reset to be more Sass driven using variables.

Next add the individual Sass files that will make up the base, module, vendor and layout portions of the project

This will complete the initial set up of the bare bones project. From here you will be able to customize the Sass to fit the design of your project.

6 Responses
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I got lost going from "Install Template Language" to "ADDING ROUTES". I didn't have an app.js file nor any static html templates. Am I doing something wrong (trying to follow the guide from top-down).

over 1 year ago ·

WOAH! You are right. I totally glossed over that part. Updated to remove unnecessary steps with static files and got right into using template language.

over 1 year ago ·

This is awesome! Totally the workflow I've been needing for 95% of my projects.

I think you may have created the views folder twice, though. Also, I'm getting a grunt error that says there is no task "watch". Could you show the final out put of the gruntfile.js? Thanks!

over 1 year ago ·

NOTE: This tutorial has taken a life of it's own and updating the text is far more work then I have time for. So, for future reference and updates, look to


over 1 year ago ·

where can i get those css files? i'm a beginner sorry :)

over 1 year ago ·