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Theme Development Documentation


This documentation provides a comprehensive guide to theme development in Magento 2. It covers the essential concepts, techniques, and best practices required to create custom themes for Magento 2 stores.

Please note that this documentation assumes a familiarity with programming concepts, particularly PHP and Magento 2. If you are new to Magento 2 or programming, it is recommended to familiarize yourself with these topics before proceeding further.

Theme Anatomy

Before diving into theme development, it is essential to understand the structure and components of a Magento 2 theme. A theme consists of the following main elements:

  1. Theme Files: These include layout XML files, template files (.phtml), CSS files, JavaScript files, and other assets.
  2. Theme Configuration: Magento 2 uses XML configuration files to define theme-specific settings, such as logo, colors, and fonts.
  3. Theme Inheritance: Themes can inherit from other themes, allowing for customization and extension of existing themes.
  4. Theme Layouts: Layout XML files control the structure and composition of pages in a Magento 2 store.
  5. Theme Templates: Template files define the HTML structure and content of various components in a theme.
  6. Theme CSS and JavaScript: CSS and JavaScript files control the appearance and behavior of a theme.
  7. Theme Deployment: Themes need to be deployed to make them available to a Magento 2 store.

Creating a Custom Theme

To create a custom theme in Magento 2, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new directory for your theme under app/design/frontend/{Vendor}/{theme}. For example, if your theme is called "MyTheme" and your vendor is "Acme", the path would be app/design/frontend/Acme/MyTheme.
  2. Create a theme.xml file within your theme's directory. This file defines the theme's name, parent theme, and other configuration options. Here's an example:
<theme xmlns:xsi=""
  1. Create a registration.php file in your theme's directory. This file registers your theme and makes it available to Magento 2. Here's an example:
use \Magento\Framework\Component\ComponentRegistrar;
  1. To load the new theme, run the command bin/magento setup:upgrade.

Your custom theme is now ready to be customized and extended as per your requirements.

Define a Preview Image (Optional)

You can specify a preview image for your theme using the following XML configuration in your theme.xml:

<theme xmlns:xsi=""

Ensure that the specified image file exists in your theme directory. If it doesn't, running bin/magento setup:upgrade will produce an error:

File "app/design/frontend/Acme/MyTheme/media/preview.jpg" does not exist.

Theme Inheritance

Magento 2 supports theme inheritance, allowing you to extend and customize existing themes. This reduces duplication and makes it easier to maintain themes. To inherit from a parent theme, specify it in the theme.xml file of your custom theme using the <parent> tag. Here's an example:


By inheriting from a parent theme, you can override specific files, add new files, and modify theme settings to achieve the desired customization.

Theme Layouts

Layouts in Magento 2 define the structure and composition of pages. A layout is defined using XML files located in the app/design/frontend/{Vendor}/{theme}/Magento_Theme/layout directory. Each layout file controls a specific page or block within a page. For example, the default.xml file controls the structure of the entire store, while the cms_index_index.xml file controls the homepage layout.

Layout files consist of blocks, containers, and references, which define the structure of a page. Blocks represent individual components, such as header, footer, and sidebar, while containers act as placeholders for blocks. References are used to specify the location of blocks within containers.

Here's an example of a simple layout XML file that adds a block to the homepage:

<page xmlns:xsi="" layout="1column"
<referenceContainer name="content">
<block class="Magento\Framework\View\Element\Template" name="custom.block"

This example adds a block named "custom.block" to the "content" container. The block uses the template file custom_template.phtml from the Magento_Theme module.

You can create and customize layout XML files within your theme to control the structure of various pages in your Magento 2 store.

Theme Templates

Template files in Magento 2 define the HTML structure and content of various components within a theme. The template files have the extension .phtml and are located in the app/design/frontend/{Vendor}/{theme}/Magento_Theme/templates directory.

To customize a particular component, you can override its template file in your custom theme. For example, to override the header template, create a file called header.phtml within your theme's template directory and modify it as per your requirements.

You can also use template files to display dynamic data or perform complex logic by using PHP code. However, it is recommended to keep the logic to a minimum and separate it from the presentation using blocks, which we will discuss in the next section.

Theme CSS and JavaScript

CSS and JavaScript files control the appearance and behavior of a theme. In Magento 2, these files are located in the app/design/frontend/{Vendor}/{theme}/web directory.

To add custom CSS or JavaScript to your theme, create a directory structure within the web directory that mirrors the file structure you want to override. For example, to override the default CSS file of a theme, create a file called styles.css within the css directory of your custom theme.

You can also add new CSS or JavaScript files and reference them in your layout XML files. This allows for greater flexibility in customizing and extending the behavior of your theme.

Overriding Core Theme Files

Magento 2 allows you to override core theme files without modifying the original files. By placing a file with the same name and location in your custom theme, Magento 2 will prioritize the file from your custom theme over the core file.

For example, to override the default header template (header.phtml), create a file with the same name and location in your custom theme: app/design/frontend/{Vendor}/{theme}/Magento_Theme/templates/html/header.phtml. Any modifications made to this file will be reflected in your store, without touching the original core file.

This approach ensures that your customizations remain separate from the core codebase, making it easier to upgrade Magento 2 in the future.

Theme Configuration

Magento 2 allows you to configure various theme settings, such as logo, colors, fonts, etc., using theme configuration files. These files are located in the app/design/frontend/{Vendor}/{theme}/etc directory.

To configure your theme, create a file called view.xml within your theme's etc directory. This file defines various settings, such as image sizes, color swatches, and other visual aspects of your theme. Here's an example:

<view xmlns:xsi=""
<images module="Magento_Catalog">
<image id="category_page_grid" type="small_image">

This example defines the dimensions for the category page grid image. You can customize this file to configure various aspects of your theme as per your requirements.

Theme Deployment

Once you have developed and customized your theme, it needs to be deployed to make it available to your Magento 2 store. Magento 2 provides a set of commands to deploy themes and other assets.

To deploy your theme, run the following command from your Magento 2 root directory:

bin/magento setup:static-content:deploy

This command generates static files for all enabled themes, including your custom theme, and places them in the appropriate directories to be served by the web server.

After the deployment, your custom theme will be available for selection in the Magento 2 admin panel under Content > Design > Configuration.


This documentation has covered the fundamental concepts and techniques required for theme development in Magento 2. By understanding the theme anatomy, creating custom themes, leveraging theme inheritance, working with layouts, templates, CSS, JavaScript, and overriding core theme files, you can create visually appealing and customized themes for your Magento 2 store.

Remember to adhere to best practices, maintain separation between custom and core code, and regularly test your themes to ensure compatibility and performance. With these skills and knowledge, you are well-equipped to build stunning and engaging themes in Magento 2.