Custom themes

A guide to creating and distributing custom themes.


If you are looking for third party themes, they are listed in the MkDocs community wiki. If you want to share a theme you create, you should list it on the Wiki.

When creating a new theme, you can either follow the steps in this guide to create one from scratch or you can download the mkdocs-basic-theme as a basic, yet complete, theme with all the boilerplate required. You can find this base theme on GitHub. It contains detailed comments in the code to describe the different features and their usage.

Creating a custom theme

The bare minimum required for a custom theme is a base.html Jinja2 template file. This should be placed in a directory which will be the theme_dir and it should be created next to the mkdocs.yml configuration file. Within mkdocs.yml, specify the theme_dir option and set it to the name of the directory containing base.html. For example, given this example project layout:


You would include the following setting to use the custom theme directory:

theme_dir: 'custom_theme'

If used in combination with the theme configuration value a custom theme can be used to replace only specific parts of a built-in theme. For example, with the above layout and if you set theme: mkdocs then the base.html file would replace that in the theme but otherwise it would remain the same. This is useful if you want to make small adjustments to an existing theme.

Basic theme

The simplest base.html file is the following:

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>{% if page_title %}{{ page_title }} - {% endif %}{{ site_name }}</title>
    {{ content }}

Article content from each page specified in mkdocs.yml is inserted using the {{ content }} tag. Stylesheets and scripts can be brought into this theme as with a normal HTML file. Navbars and tables of contents can also be generated and included automatically, through the nav and toc objects, respectively. If you wish to write your own theme, it is recommended to start with one of the built-in themes and modify it accordingly.

Template Variables

Each template in a theme is built with a template context. These are the variables that are available to themes. The context varies depending on the template that is being built. At the moment templates are either built with the global context or with a page specific context. The global context is used for HTML pages that don't represent an individual Markdown document, for example a 404.html page or search.html.

Global Context

The following variables in the context map directly the configuration options .

Variable Name Configuration name
site_name site_name
site_author site_author
favicon site_favicon
page_description site_description
repo_url repo_url
repo_name repo_name
site_url site_url
extra_css extra_css
extra_javascript extra_javascript
extra extra
include_nav include_nav
include_next_prev include_next_prev
copyright copyright
google_analytics google_analytics

The following variables provide information about the navigation and location.

The nav variable is used to create the navigation for the documentation. Following is a basic usage example which outputs the first and second level navigation as a nested list.

  {% for nav_item in nav %}
      {% if nav_item.children %}
          <li>{{ nav_item.title }}
              {% for nav_item in nav_item.children %}
                  <li class="{% if}current{%endif%}">
                      <a href="{{ nav_item.url }}">{{ nav_item.title }}</a>
              {% endfor %}
      {% else %}
          <li class="{% if}current{%endif%}">
              <a href="{{ nav_item.url }}">{{ nav_item.title }}</a>
      {% endif %}

  {% endfor %}


The base_url provides a relative path to the root of the MkDocs project. This makes it easy to include links to static assets in your theme. For example, if your theme includes a js folder, to include theme.js from that folder on all pages you would do this:

<script src="{{ base_url }}/js/theme.js"></script>


Provides a relative path to the documentation homepage.


Contains the current MkDocs version.


A Python datetime object that represents the date and time the documentation was built in UTC. This is useful for showing how recently the documentation was updated.

Page Context

The page context includes all of the above Global context and the following additional variables.


Contains the Title for the current page.


Contains the description for the current page on the homepage, it is blank on other pages.


The rendered Markdown as HTML, this is the contents of the documentation.


An object representing the Table of contents for a page. Displaying the table of contents as a simple list can be achieved like this.

{% for toc_item in toc %}
    <li><a href="{{ toc_item.url }}">{{ toc_item.title }}</a></li>
    {% for toc_item in toc_item.children %}
        <li><a href="{{ toc_item.url }}">{{ toc_item.title }}</a></li>
    {% endfor %}
{% endfor %}


A mapping of the metadata included at the top of the markdown page. In this example we define a source property above the page title.


# Page title


A template can access this metadata for the page with the meta.source variable. This could then be used to link to source files related to the documentation page.

{% for filename in meta.source %}
  <a class="github" href="{{ filename }}">
    <span class="label label-info">{{ filename }}</span>
{% endfor %}


The full, canonical URL to the current page. This includes the site_url from the configuration.


The page object for the current page. The page path and url properties can be displayed like this.

<h1>{{ current_page.title }}</h1>
<p> This page is at {{ current_page.url }}</p>


The page object for the previous page. The usage is the same as for current_page.


The page object for the next page.The usage is the same as for current_page.

Extra Context

Additional variables can be passed to the template with the extra configuration option. This is a set of key value pairs that can make custom templates far more flexible.

For example, this could be used to include the project version of all pages and a list of links related to the project. This can be achieved with the following extra configuration:

    version: 0.13.0

And then displayed with this HTML in the custom theme.

{{ config.extra.version }}

{% if config.extra.links %}
  {% for link in config.extra.links %}
      <li>{{ link }}</li>
  {% endfor %}
{% endif %}

Search and themes

As of MkDocs 0.13 client side search support has been added to MkDocs with Lunr.js.

Search can either be added to every page in the theme or to a dedicated template which must be named search.html. The search template will be build with the same name and can be viewable with mkdocs serve at http://localhost:8000/search.html. An example of the two different approaches can be seen by comparing the mkdocs and readthedocs themes.

The following HTML needs to be added to the theme so the JavaScript is loaded for Lunr.js.

<script>var base_url = '{{ base_url }}';</script>
<script data-main="{{ base_url }}/mkdocs/js/search.js" src="{{ base_url }}/mkdocs/js/require.js"></script>


The above JavaScript will download the search index, for larger documentation projects this can be a heavy operation. In those cases, it is suggested that you either use the search.html approach to only include search on one page or load the JavaScript on an event like a form submit.

This loads the JavaScript and sets a global variable base_url which allows the JavaScript to make the links relative to the current page. The above JavaScript, with the following HTML in a search.html template will add a full search implementation to your theme.

<h1 id="search">Search Results</h1>

<form action="search.html">
  <input name="q" id="mkdocs-search-query" type="text" >

<div id="mkdocs-search-results">
  Sorry, page not found.

This works by looking for the specific ID's used in the above HTML. The input for the user to type the search query must have the ID mkdocs-search-query and mkdocs-search-results is the directory where the results will be placed.

Packaging Themes

MkDocs makes use of Python packaging to distribute themes. This comes with a few requirements.

To see an example of a package containing one theme, see the MkDocs Bootstrap theme and to see a package that contains many themes, see the MkDocs Bootswatch theme.

Package Layout

The following layout is recommended for themes. Two files at the top level directory called amd Then a directory with the name of your theme and containing a base.html file and a

|-- theme_name
|   |-- base.html
|   |--

The file should contain the following contents but with theme_name updated and any extra file extensions added to the include.

recursive-include theme_name *.ico *.js *.css *.png *.html *.eot *.svg *.ttf *.woff
recursive-exclude * __pycache__
recursive-exclude * *.py[co]

The should include the following text with the modifications described below.

from setuptools import setup, find_packages

VERSION = '0.0.1'

        'mkdocs.themes': [
            'themename = theme_name',

Fill in the URL, license, description, author and author email address.

The name should follow the convention mkdocs-themename (like mkdocs- bootstrap and mkdocs-bootswatch), starting with MkDocs, using hyphens to separate words and including the name of your theme.

Most of the rest of the file can be left unedited. The last section we need to change is the entry_points. This is how MkDocs finds the theme(s) you are including in the package. The name on the left is the one that users will use in their mkdocs.yml and the one on the right is the directory containing your theme files.

The directory you created at the start of this section with the base.html file should contain all of the other theme files. The minimum requirement is that it includes a base.html for the theme. It must also include a file which should be empty, this file tells Python that the directory is a package.

Distributing Themes

With the above changes, your theme should now be ready to install. This can be done with pip, using pip install . if you are still in the same directory as the

Most Python packages, including MkDocs, are distributed on PyPI. To do this, you should run the following command.

python register

If you don't have an account setup, you should be prompted to create one.

For a much more detailed guide, see the official Python packaging documentation for Packaging and Distributing Projects.