There's one big issue when displaying images inline like smileys is to position them at the right height.

Using vertical-align pre-sets

Usually what you do is try to use vertical-align and test all the possibilities. Then you are frustrated because you can't find the one that is pixel perfect the height you want!

middle , bottom , sub , text-bottom , baseline , text-top , super , top

Using position: relative

What I used to do was to find the nearest vertical-align and then use position: relative; top: -1px; to slightly adjust the vertical position. This works very well, it doesn't change the line-height and sets the image at the exact position you want!

Using vertical-align: number

Until I re-read the documentation for vertical-align ... It appears that we can specify a number instead of the pre-sets! You can just do vertical-align: -2px; and it works. It is relative to the baseline pre-set.

-4px , -3px , -2px , -1px , baseline , 1px , 2px , 3px , 4px
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