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Creating a new NodeBB Theme

NodeBB is built on Twitter Bootstrap, which makes theming incredibly simple.

Quick start

The easiest way to get started theming NodeBB is to fork the Quickstart Theme and adjust it for your customisations.

The quickstart theme is a child theme (see below) of NodeBB's default theme (Harmony), and thus inherits all of its styling and templates from its parent theme.

If you want to overwrite an existing template, copy it from the Harmony repository into your theme's /templates directory, taking care to follow the same directory structure. You may have to create this directory.

Then rebuild NodeBB's assets and your template should override Harmony's template of the same path.

e.g. If you want to modify topic.tpl, you would:

  1. Copy the contents of nodebb-theme-harmony/templates/topic.tpl
  2. Create nodebb-theme-mytheme/templates
  3. Create a new file nodebb-theme-mytheme/templates/topic.tpl with the contents of the original topic.tpl file
  4. Make your changes as necessary.
  5. ./nodebb build tpl && ./nodebb dev to rebuild and start NodeBB

Packaging for NodeBB

NodeBB expects any installed themes to be installed via npm. Each individual theme is an npm package, and users can install themes through the command line, ex.:

npm install nodebb-theme-modern-ui

The theme's folder must contain at least two files for it to be a valid theme:

  1. theme.json
  2. theme.scss

theme.scss is where your theme's styles will reside. NodeBB expects SCSS to be present in this file, and will precompile it down to CSS on-demand. For more information regarding SCSS, take a look at the project homepage.

Note: A suggested organization for theme.scss is to @import multiple smaller files instead of placing all of the styles in the main theme.scss file.


The theme configuration file is a simple JSON string containing all appropriate meta data regarding the theme. Please take note of the following properties:

  • id: A unique id for a theme (e.g. "my-theme")
  • name: A user-friendly name for the theme (e.g. "My Theme")
  • description: A one/two line description about the theme (e.g. "This is the theme I made for my personal NodeBB")
  • screenshot: A filename (in the same folder) that is a preview image (ideally, 370x250, or an aspect ratio of 1.48:1)
  • url: A fully qualified URL linking back to the theme's homepage/project
  • templates: (Optional) A system path (relative to your plugin's root directory) to the folder containing template files. If not specified, NodeBB will search for the "templates" directory, and then simply fall back to using vanilla's template files.
  • baseTheme: (Optional) If undefined, will use nodebb-theme-persona (our current base theme) as a default for missing template files. See the Child Themes section for more details.

Child Themes


If your theme is based off of another theme, simply modify your LESS files to point to the other theme as a base, ex for topics.less:

As topic.less from the theme nodebb-theme-vanilla was imported, those styles are automatically incorporated into your theme.


You do not need to redefine all templates for your theme. If the template file does not exist in your current theme, NodeBB will inherit templates from the baseTheme that you have defined in your theme.json (or if undefined, it will inherit from nodebb-theme-persona's templates).

If your theme is dependent on a theme that is not nodebb-theme-vanilla, you should set the baseTheme configuration in your theme.json to the appropriate theme.

For more information, please see the detailed article on the templating system