A great starting point

Project documentation is as diverse as the projects themselves and the Material theme is a good starting point for making it look great. However, as you write your documentation, you may reach a point where some small adjustments are necessary to preserve the desired style.

Adding assets

MkDocs provides several ways to interfere with themes. In order to make a few tweaks to an existing theme, you can just add your stylesheets and JavaScript files to the docs directory.

Additional stylesheets

If you want to tweak some colors or change the spacing of certain elements, you can do this in a separate stylesheet. The easiest way is by creating a new stylesheet file in your docs directory:

mkdir docs/stylesheets
touch docs/stylesheets/extra.css

Then, add the following line to your mkdocs.yml:

  - 'stylesheets/extra.css'

Spin up the development server with mkdocs serve and start typing your changes in your additional stylesheet file – you can see them instantly after saving, as the MkDocs development server implements live reloading.

Additional JavaScript

The same is true for additional JavaScript. If you want to integrate another syntax highlighter or add some custom logic to your theme, create a new JavaScript file in your docs directory:

mkdir docs/javascripts
touch docs/javascripts/extra.js

Then, add the following line to your mkdocs.yml:

  - 'javascripts/extra.js'

Further assistance can be found in the MkDocs documentation.

Extending the theme

If you want to alter the HTML source (e.g. add or remove some part), you can extend the theme. From version 0.16 on MkDocs implements theme extension, an easy way to override parts of a theme without forking and changing the main theme.

Setup and theme structure

Reference the Material theme as usual in your mkdocs.yml, and create a new folder for overrides, e.g. theme, which you reference using theme_dir:

theme: 'material'
theme_dir: 'theme'

Theme extension prerequisites

As the theme_dir variable is used for the theme extension process, the Material theme needs to be installed via pip and referenced with the theme parameter in your mkdocs.yml.

The structure in the theme directory must mirror the directory structure of the original theme, as any file in the theme directory will replace the file with the same name which is part of the original theme. Besides, further assets may also be put in the theme directory.

The directory layout of the Material theme is as follows:

├─ assets/
│  ├─ images/                          # Images and icons
│  ├─ javascripts/                     # JavaScript
│  └─ stylesheets/                     # Stylesheets
├─ partials/
│  ├─ disqus.html                      # Disqus integration
│  ├─ footer.html                      # Footer bar
│  ├─ header.html                      # Header bar
│  ├─ language.html                    # Localized labels
│  ├─ nav-item.html                    # Main navigation item
│  ├─ nav.html                         # Main navigation
│  ├─ search.html                      # Search box
│  ├─ social.html                      # Social links
│  ├─ source.html                      # Repository information
│  ├─ tabs-item.html                   # Tabs navigation item
│  ├─ tabs.html                        # Tabs navigation
│  ├─ toc-item.html                    # Table of contents item
│  └─ toc.html                         # Table of contents
├─ 404.html                            # 404 error page
├─ base.html                           # Base template
└─ main.html                           # Default page

Overriding partials

In order to override the footer, we can replace the footer.html partial with our own partial. To do this, create the file partials/footer.html in the theme directory. MkDocs will now use the new partial when rendering the theme. This can be done with any file.

Overriding template blocks

Besides overriding partials, one can also override so called template blocks, which are defined inside the Material theme and wrap specific features. To override a template block, create a main.html inside the theme directory and define the block, e.g.:

{% extends "base.html" %}

{% block htmltitle %}
  <title>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet</title>
{% endblock %}

The Material theme provides the following template blocks:

Block name Wrapped contents
analytics Wraps the Google Analytics integration
content Wraps the main content
disqus Wraps the disqus integration
extrahead Empty block to define additional meta tags
fonts Wraps the webfont definitions
footer Wraps the footer with navigation and copyright
header Wraps the fixed header bar
htmltitle Wraps the <title> tag
libs Wraps the JavaScript libraries, e.g. Modernizr
repo Wraps the repository link in the header bar
scripts Wraps the JavaScript application logic
source Wraps the linked source files
search_box Wraps the search form in the header bar
site_meta Wraps the meta tags in the document head
site_name Wraps the site name in the header bar
site_nav Wraps the site navigation and table of contents
social Wraps the social links in the footer
styles Wraps the stylesheets (also extra sources)

For more on this topic refer to the MkDocs documentation

Theme development

The Material theme is built on modern technologies like ES6, Webpack, Babel and SASS. If you want to make more fundamental changes, it may be necessary to make the adjustments directly in the source of the Material theme and recompile it. This is fairly easy.

Environment setup

In order to start development on the Material theme, a Node.js version of at least 5 is required, as well as the package manager yarn which is a better version of npm. First, clone the repository:

git clone

Next, all dependencies need to be installed, which is done with:

cd mkdocs-material
pip install -r requirements.txt
yarn install

Development mode

The Material theme uses a sophisticated asset pipeline using Gulp and Webpack which can be started with the following command:

yarn start

This will also start the MkDocs development server which will monitor changes on assets, templates and documentation. Point your browser to localhost:8000 and you should see this documentation in front of you.

For example, changing the color palette is as simple as changing the $md-color-primary and $md-color-accent variables in src/assets/stylesheets/_config.scss:

$md-color-primary: $clr-red-400;
$md-color-accent:  $clr-teal-a700;

Automatically generated files

Never make any changes in the material directory, as the contents of this directory are automatically generated from the src directory and will be overriden when the theme is built.

Build process

When you've finished making your changes, you can build the theme by invoking:

yarn run build

This triggers the production-level compilation and minification of all stylesheets and JavaScript sources. When the command exits, the final theme is located in the material directory. Add the theme_dir variable pointing to the aforementioned directory in your original mkdocs.yml.

Now you can run mkdocs build and you should see your documentation with your changes to the original Material theme.