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Project documentation is as diverse as the projects themselves and Material for MkDocs is a great starting point for making it look beautiful. However, as you write your documentation, you may reach a point where small adjustments are necessary to preserve your brand's style.

Adding assets

MkDocs provides several ways to customize a theme. In order to make a few small tweaks to Material for MkDocs, you can just add CSS and JavaScript files to the docs directory.

Additional CSS

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

├─ docs/
  └─ stylesheets/
     └─ extra.css
└─ mkdocs.yml

Then, add the following lines to mkdocs.yml:

  - stylesheets/extra.css

Additional JavaScript

If you want to integrate another syntax highlighter or add some custom logic to your theme, create a new JavaScript file in the docs directory:

├─ docs/
  └─ javascripts/
     └─ extra.js
└─ mkdocs.yml

Then, add the following lines to mkdocs.yml:

  - javascripts/extra.js
How to integrate with third-party JavaScript libraries

It is likely that you will want to run your JavaScript code only once the page has been fully loaded by the browser. This means installing a callback function subscribing to events on the document$ observable exported by Material for MkDocs. Using the document$ observable is particularly important if you are using instant loading since it will not result in a page refresh in the browser - but subscribers on the observable will be notified.

document$.subscribe(function() {
  console.log("Initialize third-party libraries here")

document$ is an RxJS Observable and you can call the subscribe() method any number of times to attach different functionality.

Extending the theme

If you want to alter the HTML source (e.g. add or remove some parts), you can extend the theme. MkDocs supports theme extension, an easy way to override parts of Material for MkDocs without forking from git. This ensures that you can update to the latest version more easily.

Setup and theme structure

Enable Material for MkDocs as usual in mkdocs.yml, and create a new folder for overrides which you then reference using the custom_dir setting:

  name: material
  custom_dir: overrides

Theme extension prerequisites

As the custom_dir setting is used for the theme extension process, Material for MkDocs needs to be installed via pip and referenced with the name setting in mkdocs.yml. It will not work when cloning from git.

The structure in the overrides directory must mirror the directory structure of the original theme, as any file in the overrides 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 overrides directory:

├─ .icons/                             # Bundled icon sets
├─ assets/
  ├─ images/                          # Images and icons
  ├─ javascripts/                     # JavaScript files
  └─ stylesheets/                     # Style sheets
├─ partials/
  ├─ integrations/                    # Third-party integrations
    ├─ analytics/                    # Analytics integrations
    └─ analytics.html                # Analytics setup
  ├─ languages/                       # Translation languages
  ├─ actions.html                     # Actions
  ├─ alternate.html                   # Site language selector
  ├─ comments.html                    # Comment system (empty by default)
  ├─ consent.html                     # Consent
  ├─ content.html                     # Page content
  ├─ copyright.html                   # Copyright and theme information
  ├─ feedback.html                    # Was this page helpful?
  ├─ footer.html                      # Footer bar
  ├─ header.html                      # Header bar
  ├─ icons.html                       # Custom icons
  ├─ language.html                    # Translation setup
  ├─ logo.html                        # Logo in header and sidebar
  ├─ nav.html                         # Main navigation
  ├─ nav-item.html                    # Main navigation item
  ├─ pagination.html                  # Pagination (used for blog)
  ├─ palette.html                     # Color palette toggle
  ├─ post.html                        # Blog post excerpt
  ├─ progress.html                    # Progress indicator
  ├─ search.html                      # Search interface
  ├─ social.html                      # Social links
  ├─ source.html                      # Repository information
  ├─ source-file.html                 # Source file information
  ├─ tabs.html                        # Tabs navigation
  ├─ tabs-item.html                   # Tabs navigation item
  ├─ tags.html                        # Tags
  ├─ toc.html                         # Table of contents
  ├─ toc-item.html                    # Table of contents item
  └─ top.html                         # Back-to-top button
├─ 404.html                            # 404 error page
├─ base.html                           # Base template
├─ blog.html                           # Blog index page
├─ blog-archive.html                   # Blog archive index page
├─ blog-category.html                  # Blog category index page
├─ blog-post.html                      # Blog post page
└─ main.html                           # Default page

Overriding partials

In order to override a partial, we can replace it with a file of the same name and location in the overrides directory. For example, to replace the original footer.html partial, create a new footer.html partial in the overrides directory:

├─ overrides/
  └─ partials/
     └─ footer.html
└─ mkdocs.yml

MkDocs will now use the new partial when rendering the theme. This can be done with any file.

Overriding blocks recommended

Besides overriding partials, it's also possible to override (and extend) template blocks, which are defined inside the templates and wrap specific features. In order to set up block overrides, create a main.html file inside the overrides directory:

├─ overrides/
  └─ main.html
└─ mkdocs.yml

Then, e.g. to override the site title, add the following lines to main.html:

{% extends "base.html" %}

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

If you intend to add something to a block rather than to replace it altogether with new content, use {{ super() }} inside the block to include the original block content. This is particularly useful when adding third-party scripts to your docs, e.g.

{% extends "base.html" %}

{% block scripts %}
  <!-- Add scripts that need to run before here -->
  {{ super() }}
  <!-- Add scripts that need to run afterwards here -->
{% endblock %}

The following template blocks are provided by the theme:

Block name Purpose
analytics Wraps the Google Analytics integration
announce Wraps the announcement bar
config Wraps the JavaScript application config
container Wraps the main content container
content Wraps the main content
extrahead Empty block to add custom meta tags
fonts Wraps the font definitions
footer Wraps the footer with navigation and copyright
header Wraps the fixed header bar
hero Wraps the hero teaser (if available)
htmltitle Wraps the <title> tag
libs Wraps the JavaScript libraries (header)
outdated Wraps the version warning
scripts Wraps the JavaScript application (footer)
site_meta Wraps the meta tags in the document head
site_nav Wraps the site navigation and table of contents
styles Wraps the style sheets (also extra sources)
tabs Wraps the tabs navigation (if available)

Theme development

Material for MkDocs is built on top of TypeScript, RxJS and SASS, and uses a lean, custom build process to put everything together.1 If you want to make more fundamental changes, it may be necessary to make the adjustments directly in the source of the theme and recompile it.

Environment setup

First, clone the repository for the edition you want to work on. If you want to clone the Insiders repository, you need to become a sponsor first to gain access.

git clone
cd mkdocs-material

You will need to have a GitHub access token as described in the Insiders documentation and make it available in the $GH_TOKEN variable.

git clone https://${GH_TOKEN} # (1)!
  1. If you are using SSH keys for authenticating with GitHub, you can clone Insiders with this command:

    git clone

Next, create a new Python virtual environment and activate it:

python -m venv venv
source venv/bin/activate

Ensure pip always runs in a virtual environment

If you set the environment variable PIP_REQUIRE_VIRTUALENV to true, pip will refuse to install anything outside a virtual environment. Forgetting to activate a venv can be very annoying as it will install all sorts of things outside virtual environments over time, possibly leading to further errors. So, you may want to add this to your .bashrc or .zshrc and re-start your shell:


Then, install all Python dependencies:

pip install -e ".[recommended]"
pip install nodeenv
pip install -e ".[recommended, imaging]"
pip install nodeenv

In addition, you will need to install the cairo and pngquant libraries in your system, as described in the image processing requirements guide.

Finally, install the Node.js LTS version into the Python virtual environment and install all Node.js dependencies:

nodeenv -p -n lts
npm install

Development mode

Start the watcher with:

npm start

Then, in a second terminal window, start the MkDocs live preview server with:

mkdocs serve --watch-theme

Point your browser to localhost:8000 and you should see this very documentation in front of you.

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 overwritten when the theme is built.

Building the theme

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

npm run build # (1)!
  1. While this command will build all theme files, it will skip the overrides used in Material for MkDocs' own documentation which are not distributed with the theme. If you forked the theme and want to build the overrides as well, e.g. before submitting a PR with changes, use:

    npm run build:all

    This will take longer, as now the icon search index, schema files, as well as additional style sheet and JavaScript files are built.

This triggers the production-level compilation and minification of all style sheets and JavaScript files. After the command exits, the compiled files are located in the material directory. When running mkdocs build, you should now see your changes to the original theme.

  1. Prior to 7.0.0 the build was based on Webpack, resulting in occasional broken builds due to incompatibilities with loaders and plugins. Therefore, we decided to swap Webpack for a leaner solution which is now based on RxJS as the application itself. This allowed for the pruning of more than 500 dependencies (~30% less).