Plan for using themes (SharePoint Server 2010)

SharePoint 2010

Applies to: SharePoint Server 2010, SharePoint Foundation 2010

Topic Last Modified: 2011-09-26

Themes provide a quick and easy way to apply colors and fonts to sites in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. When a theme is applied to a site, the color of most page elements — such as background images, text, and hyperlinks — changes. The fonts used for some page elements, such as titles, also change. Themes can be used with the standard SharePoint Server 2010 site templates, or with custom master pages, and then themes can be created that site owners can apply to their sites. For more information, see Themes overview (SharePoint Server 2010).

This article discusses how to plan for using themes across your SharePoint Server 2010 sites, and includes key steps in planning to use themes for your sites. This article does not describe how to create custom themes by using Microsoft Office 2010 applications, or how to upload and manage themes in a theme library. It also does not discuss how to plan for the overall branding of sites by using master pages or cascading style sheets. For more information, see Web Content Management and Branding.

Before reading this article, be sure to read the article Plan sites and site collections (SharePoint Server 2010).

In this article:

There are three primary decisions to make as you plan to use themes:

  • Decide whether to use themes.

  • If you are going to use themes, determine how many themes are needed.

  • Decide who will make the custom themes.

The remainder of this article will explain these decisions and describe additional planning considerations.

The first step to planning for using themes is to decide whether themes are the appropriate option for your scenario. Other options for customizing a site include using an alternate .css file and creating custom master pages. These options require the skills of either a designer or a developer to implement, and so they may not be appropriate for your scenario.

To decide whether to use themes, determine how much change to the existing look and feel is needed for your sites, and then choose the option that most closely fits what you want to do. You can use a combination of one or more of these options, depending on the customization that you want to do for your sites. The following table describes different levels of customization and recommends the option best suited for each level.


To Use this

Allow site owners to change colors and fonts


Make changes to other design elements such as font size and spacing

Cascading style sheets

Completely change the page structure and design

Master Pages

If you decide to use themes, continue reading the rest of this article.

After deciding to use themes, you must determine how many themes are needed for your sites. Consider whether the themes that are installed with SharePoint Server 2010 are sufficient for your purposes, or if you will have to create custom themes to be used across sites. If you will be creating custom themes, you must also determine how many themes will be needed and decide which sites will use which themes.

Use the site planning data worksheet to record which sites should use a theme, and to determine how many unique themes are needed.

If you will be using custom themes, you must determine who will be responsible for creating the *.thmx files. Because custom themes are created in an Office 2010 application such as PowerPoint, you do not need a graphic designer to make a theme; however, you may want to include a graphic designer during the planning phase to provide guidance on color values and font styles that will be used in the themes.

You must also decide who will be responsible for uploading the themes to the theme gallery. Will the person who creates the themes also be responsible for uploading the *.thmx files to the theme gallery, or will they save the theme files to a directory for a site collection administrator to upload? A user must have either administrator or designer privileges for the site collection that contains the theme gallery in order to upload *.thmx files to the gallery. For more information about themes in Office 2010 applications, see What is a theme? ( For information about how to create and upload themes to SharePoint Server 2010, see Working with SharePoint 2010 Themes (

Download a Microsoft Excel version of the Site planning data worksheet ( Use this worksheet to help record your decisions about themes.